Because there are so many things happening in this hobby, I created this extra page to cover some of the "Other Stuff". I have some cool etched glasses I had made for me, I also had some custom tap handles made and there is always something to talk about when it comes to brewing whether it's a new variety of hops, using olive oil to aerate your wort or saving your yeast can you can use it again.
I had these handles made for me by a guy named Mark Supik. Check out his site and you will see the stock and custom tap handles that he makes. They do very nice work and they will fasten your custom artwork on the handles and make the artwork look like it's been printed directly on the wood. For these tap handles, I put a different label on each side so this is 2 white handles, 2 black handles with a different label on each side for a total of 8 beers. Very cool...
Okay, so I had these custom handles made for me which cover a total of 8 beers. But I wasn't about to keep having these handles made for all of my beers... it's too expensive. So as I was wandering aimlessly through my local mega-hardware store, a lightbulb appeared above my head. Originally, the lightbulb said, You're not handy enough to make your own tap handles. But then I started envisioning a design that even I could put together.
I picked up some decorative trim pieces that had some sort of leafy design. I immediately concluded that the manufacturer had hop leaves in mind when they made them. I took the trim (which was flat on one side and slightly bowed-out on the other), cut 2 pieces to size and then put them back-to-back to make the "stem" of the handle. I realized that the piece may not be thick enough to accept the large tap handle insert that would have to be inserted into it so I found an additional piece of flat trim to put between the two pieces of decorative trim. I took these 3 pieces (all cut to 3" lengths) and glued them together and allowed them to dry. I also had some planks of poplar that I planned to use as the "face" of the handle. This piece would fasten to the stem and it would also accept my label. To make the face a little thicker than the stem, I had to cut 2 pieces of the poplar (the same size) and glue them together. Then I drilled a hole in the bottom of the face and the top of the stem so I could insert a wooden dowel so the handle wouldn't flex when it was pulled by one of my drunken pirate friends. I put some glue into those 2 holes and inserted the dowel and then assembled the handle.
The tricky part is drilling out the hole in the bottom of the stem to accept the handle adapter. This piece of hardware is available at your standard hardware store and the size of it is 3/8" - 16. It has a slotted end so you can turn it. I also concluded that it took a 15/64" drill bit to create the hole for the adapter. The hole must be straight and since the pieces were glued together, the hole also needs to be the proper size. If you attempt to drive the adapter into the wood with the hole too small, the 3-piece stem assembly may split apart. I drilled the hole straight and then ran the bit on an angle to remove a bit more of the wood to make driving the adapter easier. It takes some practice, but eventually I was able to get the adapter in straight. I took the handle down to my taps and they spun like a top. Also, when I was at my hardware store, I went to the kitchen hardware section and picked up a few things that I could use as a "finial" on the top of the handle. I drilled a small hole in the top of the handle and glued the threaded piece into the wood. Then I printed my labels out on glossy photo paper so they would stand out. I primed and painted the handles (white, black, a hammered bronze and a copper color) and then used 3M Super "77" spray mount adhesive to fasten the label to the tap handle. How about that? DIY tap handles!
This custom glass was done by Al Schneider who runs esigns4u.com. He will also use your custom artwork and etch it onto many different styles of glasses. The picture on the left looks like the logo is enameled on, but it's etched. It's a very cool addition to a home bar, especially for a homebrewer. Al's email address is HERE.
Here's another one he did for our group. We went in on a case of pilsner glasses and each person in the group covered the number of glasses they wanted and then submitted their artwork to Al. I had 2 made like this and another 2 made with a slightly different logo (below). The quality of the work is top notch and Al gets the glasses out very quickly and well-packed.
For those of you who have Perlick or Ventmatic faucets that have a larger opening (12mm, etc), these new 8mm spouts are for you. Have you ever poured from your larger-opening spouts and gotten a hollow pour? It resembles a bubble coming out of your faucet that makes for an incredibly foamy glass of beer. The 8mm spouts were on the market for a few years but then disappeared. These new 8mm spouts are now available and not only that... they're improved. Some people commented on the fact that the "old" 8mm spout had a "dribble" when you closed the faucet. The dribble may come out directly after closing the faucet or possibly 15 minutes later... resulting in a overflowing drip-tray after a night of tapping beers. This new design has a tapered opening that creates more weight at the end of the spout, allowing for the beer remaining in the spout to drain as soon as the faucet is turned off. This makes for a very smooth draft beer experience. These spouts will fit on any Perlick or Ventmatic faucet (order the one for your model). These spouts are produced by a small American company and the owner happens to be a homebrewer and all-around good guy. Give these spouts a test-drive by clicking HERE.
My wife and I went to Vermont for a biking trip in October 2007. We flew into Burlington and hung out there for a few days before going to Bridgewater Corners (home of Long Trail Brewing) for a stay at an inn that was built in 1860. While in Burlington, we stopped in at Magic Hat, American Flatbread (unbelievable pizza), Three Needs and Vermont Pub & Brewery where Greg Noonan (brewer, author, all-around great guy) just so happened to be sitting having dinner. My wife and I sat at the bar and I asked the bartender if Greg Noonan was around. He said, "Do you know what he looks like?" and I said, "Yes" and he said, "Then you could probably pick him out". I told him that I was a brewer and a few minutes later the bartender came over to me and said, "He's just finishing his dinner, but I told him you were here and he'll be over shortly". I know that my wife thought I was like a Trekkie who was about to meet Leonard Nimoy's makeup artist or something, but what can I say? I was a little nervous. So he comes over and shakes our hands and gets us a few beers from the taps. He continued to talk with us for about an hour about everything from his books to beer to kids and his brewery. He even asked me to sample a beer that his brewer made that Greg thought was no good. He handed me a glass and I took a sip. He said, "Can you taste that? I think my head brewer messed up my colony of this yeast and now I have to order more of it from Ayinger." I said, "It's nice to know that happens to professinal brewers too." It was a great experience and another reminder that our homebrewing "heroes" are pretty approachable. I have also had Ray Daniels return my emails and help me troubleshoot some things and I have also emailed back & forth with Greg Noonan and John Palmer with questions and clarifications on things. After a while, Greg and I walked over to his giant fermenters for a picture... Thanks Greg and CHEERS to you!
Whether you're a new brewer or have been brewing for years, forums and brewing bulletin boards can be a homebrewer's best friend. You will almost always find someone who has gone through something that you are currently experiencing and homebrewers are notoriously generous with their brewing knowledge and experience. When I first started in 1999, I either did not think of looking for brewing forums or it's possible that they didn't even exist yet. When I had a brewing question or problem, I typically called one of the suppliers I ordered from like Midwest, Austin, Karp's Homebrewing or Williams. The people at all of these places have always been very helpful, but the forums put you in touch with many people who are homebrewers and who are willing to help.
There is a local board for Chicago & Milwaukee Area Brewers that has slightly less traffic than many of the bigger boards, but we have a wide variety of brewers and some very knowledgable people who always seem to have the right answer. It's also a good group of people who often get together in person for beer gatherings, baseball games, music events or barbeques and getting together with the local brewers enhances the forum experience too. For a larger forum, I also visit the BrewBoard. There are far more people here including some from Canana, the UK, Austrialia, South America and more. I compare this forum to a grocery store on Thanksgiving morning... there are A LOT of people on this board and you could possibly have your question answered in 1 minute and have 10 responses in a half-hour. With that heavy traffic, you may encounter some brewers who are either argumentative, inexperienced or simply not helpful. Some brewers who have 10-20 batches under their belt may assume that they are experts at everything and carry a cowboy attitude towards answering your question... incorrectly. It's always good to know who is answering your question. The best contributors read your post carefully and answer your question fully or ask more questions to help clarify the original question. If you get a short, rude answer from someone, this is probably someone to stay away from. I would guess that 99% of the people you run into online are helpful and experienced or will come right out and say that they know this, but not that.
On Tap: Memory Lapse Pale Ale & Cabana Lager
In Bottles: Cabana Lager, Spiced Pumpkin Ale, Strawberry Blonde, Home Run Red Lager, Ansbach Bavarian Lager, Cobblestone Kolsch, Aviator's English Ale, Thirsty Buffalo Pale English Ale, Hacienda Mexican Vienna Lager & Long Ball American Bock
In Kegs & ready to go: Therese's Weisn Oktoberfest Lager
In Secondary: Cobblestone Kölsch, Cabana Lager
In Primary: Bases Loaded Blonde Ale, Brauhaus Original Helles
Up Next: Memory Lapse Pale Ale, Bases Loaded Blonde, Otto's Altbier
Most websites give you recipes for things you don't even want to make. Take Pelican Ass in Rainbow Zinfindel Yogurt Sauce, for instance. Here, you get recipes for things you actually want to make... and eat along with your delicious homebrew.
I have a homebrewing book called 50 Great Homebrewing Tips that I don't hear homebrewers ever mention. There are some good tips, but the only reason I break it out anymore is for the recipe for Bavarian Bier pretzels in the back of the book. These pretzels come out very good, but you really have to eat them within a few hours of making them or they turn to rock. Don't even think of saving them until the next day... not gonna happen. I have made them 5 or 6 times and they are always a hit. I made them for a summer party at our neighbor's house a few years ago. I came inside, set the basket of pretzels on the island in the kitchen and then went out to the backyard to say HI to the hosts. When I came back, the basket was empty! Honestly, it couldn't have been more than 10 minutes. Make sure you secure a couple for yourself before you set them out. Also, I was talking with a few people who recommend dropping each one in boiling water for 30 seconds before baking them. I haven't tried this, but it's supposed to give the pretzels that dark brown color and softer texture.
Bavarian Bier Pretzels™
¤ 1 cup warm water (105° to 115°)
¤ 1/2 cup homebrew (hoppy ale works well)
¤ one package dry baker's yeast
¤ 1/2 teaspoon sugar
¤ 4½ cups flour
¤ 1 egg beaten
¤ coarse kosher salt
Pour water into large mixing bowl. Sprinkle yeast and suagr over surface & stir until dissolved. Let stand for a few minutes. Add the secret ingredient... homebrew.
Put three cups of flour in a large bowl. Add some of the yeast/homebrew mixture. Alternate the flour and water until you have dough which can be formed into a ball.
Turn onto a lightly floured board and knead until smooth & elastic for about 10 minutes.
Place dough in a greased bowl, turning to grease the top. Cover with a towel and let rise in a warm place (70° - 80°), free from drafts until the size doubles (about an hour).
Punch the dough down and divide into 16 equal portions, about 2 oz each. Form pretzels by rolling out by hand until the dough is about 1/2" in diameter and 14-16 inches long. Make a figure 8 with the dough with ends open. Pull each end of the dough up & over where it crosses (I always have to remember how to do this just right) Then push down where the ends of the dough rest on the pretzel, overlapping the ends by about 1/4".
Place pretzels about 2" apart on greased, foil-lined baking sheets. Brush lightly with beaten egg and sprinkle with coarse kosher salt. Bake at 475° in preheated oven for 12-14 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from baking sheets & cool on wire racks. Makes 12-18 large pretzels. If you must store them, use paper bags, not plastic. Serve with hot, sweet, honey or regular mustard (or whatever).
My family and I head down to the Atlanta area once a year or so and visit my sisters. I was at my sister Patty's house last year when she whipped out some salsa and chips. Then she explains how there used to be this great restaurant-style salsa that was available but now she can't find it anywhere so she set out to make her own homemade salsa. If you already have a kick-ass gourmet recipe for salsa, you may not appreciate this, but I like the idea and it makes some great, fresh salsa. She starts off with a can of crushed tomatoes and another can of crushed tomatoes with green chilis. If you don't know, the canned tomato area of the grocery store has a boatload of canned tomato products that will make your head spin. They have tomatoes with garlic, onion, fire-roasted tomatoes, etc. There are also a number of spicy varieties with green chilis, chipotles, etc. Using 1 can of tomatoes that are not spicy along with another can with green chilis or chipotles will make a "medium" salsa. If you want it mild, just use 2 cans with no chilis. If you want more spice, use 2 cans with chilis, chipotles, etc. Then add fresh cilantro (I'd guess about ½ cup or so) and the juice of a lime or lemon. Put all of that in a blender and hit it. It's best to leave it in the fridge for a few hours for the flavors to blend. I have played with this (and I had it out on the bar for English Bitter Day) and came up with the following recipe... but the best part is that the possibilities are endless because of the assortment of products out there. Also, my sister liked it 'chunky' so she just pulsed the blender a few times and that was it. I prefer it a little 'finer' so I blended the bejesus out of it and it's awesome!
Two 14½ oz. cans of Fire-Roasted Diced Tomatoes with garlic, drained
About 2-3 tbsp chopped onion
1 chopped chipotle pepper
1 clove of fresh-pressed garlic
approx. ½ cup of fresh cilantro
juice of one lime
Put everything in a blender, give it a zip and then into a container with a lid and into the fridge. Serve them with your favorite tortilla chips (I like El Ranchero in the green bag... made in Chicago! Also, Donkey Chips in the red bag... made in the Chicago burbs) and then take all of it out to the backyard on a warm, sunny afternoon and sit under an umbrella with a big glass of Cabana Lager! Cheers.
Here's an easy recipe for a great, satisfying tortilla soup that is authentic & very easily modified to suit your tastebuds. This is a chicken broth-based soup that uses onion, garlic, your favorite salsa and anything else you can think of. I usually make this soup once or twice a year during the winter and the best part is that the kids want no part of it! More for me and my wife!
1- medium onion (I use Vidalia or other sweet onion)
2- cloves of garlic
1 - 48-oz can of chicken broth
1- 16-oz jar of your favorite salsa (I like Frontera Grill Roasted Tomato)
1- Cubanelli pepper
soft corn tortillas
Dice the onion and garlic and place in a large pot with corn oil. Saute until tender & transparent. Put onion & garlic in a blender and make a slurry out of it. If it's too thick, put a small amount of the chicken broth in there to loosen it up. Put the onion/garlic slurry back into the original pot along with all of the chicken broth, the salsa, chopped cilantro (to taste).
Cut the Cubanelli pepper lengthwise & remove the seeds. Cut into pieces and saute in corn oil until browned. Add the Cubanelli pepper to the large pot with the other ingredients. Bring the pot to a boil and simmer for 30 minutes.
Take some soft corn tortillas and cut into strips with scissors. In a pan, heat some corn oil on the stove and place the soft corn strips into the pan and heat until golden & crispy. Remove them from the pan & place on a paper towels and sprinkle with salt.
Serve the soup in a bowl and drop crispy corn tortilla strips on top & enjoy!
The beauty is that you can do anything you want here. Replace the salsa with a spicier version, add grilled fish or shrimp, put sliced avocado into the bowl along with shredded cheese, black beans, corn, etc. The Cubanelli pepper is not hot. But you could replace it with Jalapeno or Chipotle peppers or any other pepper you like. We had some leftover grilled fish one time and I dropped pieces of that in there. Very nice. I have also just bought shrimp and put them into a container in the fridge. When I prepare the soup, I just put some shrimp into a soup bowl and pour the hot soup on top and add the tortilla strips. Don't leave the shrimp in the leftover soup in the fridge... they get funny. Also, you may be able to find the tortillas in small strips at the store, but making them at home is better and it will make your house smell like a Mexican restaurant. I'll let you pair the right beer with the soup. Cheers!
This is from the Hass avacado website and you'll sometimes see this stuff advertised here on my site. I saw an ad for it and thought it looked pretty good. I made a batch of it and declared it delicioso! Then I made a bigger batch of it and brought it over to a local homebrewer's house for his beer gathering. It disappeared quickly. Serve it with good tortilla chips (again, El Ranchero in the green bag...) and of course, some good homebrew. Like a homebrew itself, this recipe can be modified any way you like. Don't like the jalapeños? Leave 'em out. Want to put corn in it? Fine. Want to mash up the avacadoes? Good. This thing goes together pretty quickly and it's best after it has sat in the fridge for a couple of hours to chill and for all of these flavors to get together and make an awesome dip. The avacado will want to turn brown and get funky after awhile so plan to eat it quickly. The lime juice is supposed to slow that process down but you'll still want to eat it within a day or two. Check it out...
Okay, so I like good barbeque, but I gotta be honest... having lived in Chicago all of my life, I'm probably not the best person to define "good barbeque". It's not that we don't have good BBQ around here, but in Chicago, a skirmish isn't going to break out over the best processes, cuts of meat and whether to sauce or not sauce. I am calling this section of the site "Real Smoked Pork Ribs" because A) I love ribs and 2) up to this point I used to boil ribs in beer and then put them on the grill. I was chastised relentlessly about this (by people from Texas!) and decided to look further into making ribs in a more authentic way. I read an article that got me thinking that this was easier than I thought and I went with it. I tried this in June of 2009 and I am actually making these ribs again as I type this. The only real tricky part is finding the 3+ hours it will take to make the ribs. As you read this, remember that I am far from a grill expert. I have a standard Weber kettle that uses charcoal and I have been "grilling" for 20 years or so... but I'm not a "rib expert" by any means. But the first time I tried this recipe & process, everyone in my family agreed that these were some unbelievably good ribs.
What you need
A grill or smoker, some charcoal, some good pork ribs, some hickory and/or applewood chips and about 3 hours. You'll also need your favorite sauce for the end of the process. Mix together some salt, pepper, brown sugar, paprika and garlic powder. I usually end up making 1½ slabs (the 3 half-slabs in the pic) so I use 1 tbsp of each of the spices. If you're making 3 slabs, use 2 tbsp of each and keep bumping it up based on how many ribs you're making. Rub the spice mixture into the ribs an hour or 2 before you begin cooking. You'll also want to soak your wood chips for at least an hour before you start to cook.
Get about 30 pieces of charcoal hot and then separate into 2 piles on opposite sides of your grill for indirect heating. Take your wood chips and sprinkle over the coals to create smoke. Keep your grill between 225° and 250° by playing with the vents on the lid and bottom of your grill. You can stack the slabs (as shown) but rotate them every 20 minutes or so. As the heat begins to lower, add more charcoal to the grill and continue to add more wood chips. Keep the lid on the grill the entire time and assume that the ribs will sit on the grill this way for a good 3 hours. The fat layer on the top of the ribs will begin to soften and work its way down into the meat tenderizing the ribs further.
When the ribs have been on the grill for about 3 hours, take your long fork and stick it into the thickest part of your ribs. If the fork comes out easily, the ribs are done. If it takes a little more effort, they need to go longer. You can now take your sauce and brush a thin layer over the top of the ribs and sear them closer to the heat in the grill. You can leave them in the same direction or flip them... the grill is not hot enough to burn them at this point. After 5 to 10 minutes of this, take the ribs off the grill and allow to rest for another 10 minutes. Now you're ready to eat. I usually serve these ribs with very little fanfare... some yellow rice, maybe some buttered pasta, some garlic bread and a spinach salad. Some cold beer would work well here too. Don't forget the napkins! Cheers.