Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Lamb on the spit, beer on my mind

For my latest D.C. Foodies piece, I broke in my new rotisserie with a leg of lamb. I also baked my first cobbler on the grill (However, I have no idea what it tastes like as it ran out before I got to it.). But as great as the meal was and as well as the rotisserie performed, it's that vat of beer fermenting at Shenandoah Brewing that I'm most excited about.
Three days and counting.
Saturday is going to be a big beer day. At noon, Tim and I will be bottling five cases of hoppy brown ale and carting them back to my basement. Then I'll change into something a bit more dandy and head off to Savor, the Brewers Association's big to do in D.C. Peter Falk and I went to the inaugural event last year and reportedly had one hell of a time.
In the meantime, I scratched the beer itch with a six pack of Duck-Rabbit's Imperial Russian Stout. Holy crap, it's a big, rich, black beer. It's good though. Duck-Rabbit is the latest North Carolina beer to show up in the D.C. area, behind Highland Brewing Company and Carolina Beer Company. Hopefully, the other Tar Heel breweries will follow suit.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Grilling chops, breaking in the new grill

For this latest grilling post on D.C. Foodies, the missus and I tracked down our new local farmer's market. It may well have been the smallest market I've seen, tucked between a couple store fronts along H Street in D.C. rapidly gentrifying -- but not there yet -- Atlas District. With five vendors and 10 customers on a Saturday morning, I was stunned to learn the market has been around five years.
I should note that last weekend was the first market of the season and not all the vendors were in attendance. And the vendors who did show up brought some quality products, including David Ober, a West Virginia farmer who had every cut of pork the pig has to offer.
So we picked up some smoked chops, fresh vegetables and handmade booze-laden sorbet (mojito, strawberry tequila, Meyer lemon vodka, ect.).
Afterward, we swung by Schneider's of Capitol Hill to pick up beer to go with lunch. Despite my reservations, I grabbed Brooklyn Brewery's new Local 2. I was hesitant to try the Local 2 because of the honey and orange peel the Belgian-style ale is brewed with. I realize that it's possible to produce good beer with fruit in it, but in my experience few brewers do little more than muck up their product. Brooklyn didn't.
Cooking and shooting the post also gave me a chance to break in the new charcoal grill. It's an upgrade from my old Weber, which not only gives me a larger cooking surface, but also has a firebox that converts the grill into a smoker. The grill worked like a charm, and I should have time to get the smoker rolling next month.
Two weeks until the beer is ready.

Monday, May 4, 2009

I brew beer

Yeah I do.
At long last, I've gotten around to brewing. Thanks to a new house and the space that comes with it, I have room to brew. However, my first batch wasn't done in the house. I did it at Shenandoah Brewing in Alexandria, Va.
The idea was to get a batch under my belt before heading to the brewery supply store. That way, hopefully, I'll have a better idea of what I need and what I don't. Now that the first batch is behind me, is that the case? Probably not due to the professional equipment I used at Shenandoah, but I do have first-hand knowledge of the process.

For the inaugural brew, I followed Shenandoah's recipe for Hoppy Brown Ale. Brown ales are pretty straightforward beers, so I thought it would be a good place to begin. The beer used typical brewer's yeast, dark malted barley and two types of hops: Chinook and East Kent Golding.

Once the brewing is done, Shenandoah holds onto the vat of beer until it's ready to bottle. In my case, that's May 30. My buddy Tim, who pitched in on the brewing, will make a return appearance to help me bottle five cases of beer. That works out to 120 beers. That works out to a lot of beer.

As you might expect with a 2,000 year old process, brewing beer is fairly simple. The trick is in the combination of hops, malt, yeast and water. Each of these ingredients has many, many varieties, which can be combined in various ways and amounts. Throw in the fact that yeast is a living organism that sometimes does what it wants, and you have the potential for quite a few outcomes, i.e. beers.
Anyway, for as nice as Shenandoah's facility is, this batch will probably be the only one I'll brew there. The next step is to move the brewing from the brewery to my basement.