Thursday, March 24, 2016

#IHP2016 Brewday Reminder

How time flies....seems like only yesterday that those who voted in the International Homebrew Project poll decided to make a stab at creating a new beer style, the American Mild Ale. Thus the time for brewing our beers is almost upon us, with May just 5 weeks away.

I am planning on brewing my beer next weekend, and have already written about my planned recipe in a previous post.

There were 23 people who wanted to brew an American Mild, if you are one of them, add details of your beer and brewing schedule to the comments below so I can get a sense of who is doing what.

Monday, March 21, 2016

For Marketers

I am not sure if fellow bloggers have been suffering from the same rash I have of late, but I wanted to check nonetheless. Said rash usually starts with the words 'I found your blog.....', following by some indiscriminate praise about the awesomeness of one's blog, and then an offer to provide content for said blog. I may have taken a short term view to the rash, and simply applied the topical cream of the delete button in my gmail account, but the damned thing just keeps on coming back, so I figured I'd try to address the problem in a more heads on manner.

If you're not one of my regular readers, but rather some content marketing wonk, or someone offering affiliate marketing opportunities, do me a favour and look thoroughly over the right rail. There are are three elements that could be described as 'ads', one for American Mild Month, one for the Pocket Pub Guide to Prague, which are my own damned projects anyway, and one for Prague Beer Garden, which has been there for ages and was a reciprocal thing for a new site just getting off the ground a few years back, no money or benefits ever changed hands. Otherwise, Fuggled is an advertising free zone, always has been, always will be. I don't do this to try and make money, I am not interested in living off the proceeds of advertising. Also, there are only two types of people whose words will ever get on the pages of this blog, me and people I ask to write a guest post.

So.... please, please, please don't bother emailing me asking if you can provide content for Fuggled, or if I am interested in having your advertising on the site. You can not, and I am not. End of story, Full stop. Simple. Also, if I don't respond to your first email, I am highly unlikely to reply to your second, or third, so stop wasting your time on sending them.

In other news, I enjoyed plenty of good beer this weekend, highlight being my homebrew stout - it's a cracker, so here's a picture!

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Beer Brine Bacon

It's fair to say that I enjoy making stuff. By 'making stuff' I don't mean building things, mechanical prowess, and being an all round jack of all trades. While I can knock together a few bits of wood to make a firewood stand, or use logs scavenged off our land to make a garden fence, I am not the kind of person who wants to have a fully functioning workshop in his garage. When I say that enjoy making stuff, I mean that I enjoy making stuff to eat and drink.

I am sure you know that I brew my own beer, but I also make bread, love baking (I do a mean almond shortbread), making chutneys and jams is a great way to kill an autumn afternoon, and recently I have started making my own bacon.

My early stabs are the curing arts were very simple, face bacon using a pig cheek, and belly bacon dry cured in little more than salt, sugar, and some spices. I get my pork bellies from our local Whole Foods, and it works out that a pound of meat, some salt, and a little time results in a bacon that puts the mass produced stuff to shame, and costs pretty much the same. Mrs V and I now refuse to buy bacon at all, which reminds me that we are running low so I should sort it out and make some more.


Being a Brit though I grew up on bacon being 'back bacon', that is taken from the loin with a bit of the belly still attached. Sure we had streaky bacon, but I always preferred a rasher of back. Confident in my curing chops (pun intended), I decided to try and source the relevant cut of meat to make a wet cured back bacon. Serendipity intervened one Saturday morning when I noticed a loin roast at Trader Joe's that bore an uncanny resemblance to what I was looking for. A little short on the belly bit, but sometimes you just have to take what you can get. My first back bacon experiment went well, and tasted great griddled in a cast iron pan.

Wet curing uses a brine of salt and water, and what is beer other than water with malt, hops, and yeast? So I thought to myself that I would make beer brined back bacon. The genesis of this idea was reading about a cure for hams used in Suffolk in England, which uses a dark beer for the liquid. While there is plenty of crossover between making ham and bacon, I wanted to research the idea of Suffolk cure bacon rather than ham, thus I came across this post on Adventures With The Pig.

Taking that post as a jumping off point, I settled on the following cure:
  • 2 tbsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp black peppercorns
  • 1 tsp celery seed
  • 1 tsp coriander seed
  • 2 tbsp molasses
  • 5.5oz Starr Hill Dark Starr Stout
  • 2 bay leaves
I ground up the peppercorns, coriander seed, and bay leaves in my pestle and mortar, mixed in with the salt. Having squared off the piece of meat, thus giving myself a very fine pork chop for my tea, I put said pork in a large Ziploc bag, chucked in the cure mix and rubbed it thoroughly into the pork. With that done, I poured the molasses onto the meat, and through the bag so as not to sticky up my hands, rubbed that into the meat as well. Finally I poured in the stout, sealed the bag - pushing out enough air so that the liquid covered the meat, and let it sit in the fridge for 7 days, turning each morning just to ensure an equal cure. After a week, it came out of the back and looked like this:


Having patted it dry, the now cured bacon went back in the fridge for another 7 days to dry out before slicing and freezing for future use. One thing I have learnt is that I either need a better knife for slicing the bacon or I need to invest in a meat slicer. Naturally I had a couple of slices to make sure it wasn't terrible, and indeed it was far from!


My next wet cure bacon plan is to replace the stout with Schlenkerla Märzen so that I can get some smoky character in the finished product while I learn how to manage my smoker. I think I can safely say that another step toward my 100% homemade fried breakfast has been taken!

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Darkness Rising?

I have mentioned many times before that living in Virginia means that the lagerboy within me has plenty of good locally brewed options for satisfying the urge for clean, crisp beers. Whether it's Three Notch'd Of.By.For Pilsner (a beer that challenges all of my prejudices about what a pilsner is and I love all the same), South Street My Personal Helles, or Port City's simply divine Downright Pilsner, I never have to look too hard for a great pale lager.


Over the last year or so there seems to be a general popping up of dark lagers in the area, and I am wondering if this is part of a broader trend or whether it is serving a very localised taste. For as long as I have lived in Virginia, Devils Backbone have produced a schwarzbier, called Schwartzbier, which has found a regular place in my fridge. They also brewed Morana, a Czech style tmavé based on the magisterial Kout na Šumavě 14° tmavé, as well as Barclay's London dark Lager from a historic recipe for an English dark lager. From what Jason would tell me, dark lagers would also sell very well.


Recently I have noticed more dark lagers cropping up in the repertoires of local breweries. Last year South Street brought out Back to Bavaria, a Munich Dunkel that I drank almost exclusively for a couple of months and mentioned honorably in my review of 2015 - if Mitch at South Street is reading this, please bring it back, I loved it.

Speaking of Dunkels, just last weekend Mrs V and I met up with some friends for dinner at Blue Mountain and behold they too had one on tap, Blauerburg Dunkel, and I enjoyed several pints of it whilst half wishing it had been available at Edelweiss for Valentines Day. I am sure there is some level of crossover between the Back to Bavaria and Blauerburg given that the owners of Blue Mountain also own South Street, either way both were lovely beers.

This got me to thinking, is central Virginia something of an oasis for the dark lager arts, as it is in many ways for me with regards to pale lagers? Is it possible that after years of IPA domination, people are re-discovering the delights of lagers like dunkel, schwarzbier, and tmavé?

I for one certainly hope so.

UPDATE

I just got a message from Jason at Devils Backbone, and Morana is being brewed again this Friday. Keep your eyes peeled for a notice for when it will be released.

Friday, March 4, 2016

#TheSession - Head East Young Man

The subject for this iteration of The Session, the 109th of its ilk, is being hosted by Mark Lindner over at By the Barrel and the theme is 'porter'.

Forgive me if I am being cynical, but I imagine that many a post on this topic will find its way to London, to tales of three threads, entire butt, and industrial romances involving the working men of that great entrepôt. I want to leave London behind though, I also want to disregard Dublin and its history of porter brewing, and head to lands where beers morph from the original into something distinctly native, and are then re-exported to the wider world.

Naturally, being an intelligent reader, you immediately knew that the lands of which I refer were in the east rather than across the Atlantic. Sure, not as far to the east as India, but east to the Baltic Sea, on to Russia, the once key market for many a British brewer to send strong warm fermented dark beers, and the court of Catherine the Great (hence the name 'Russian Imperial Stout' - not made in Russia, but for the Russian imperial court).

During the reign of Catherine the Great, the great cities of the Hanseatic League were still major trading ports on the route from Britain to Russia, cities evocative in mercantile history like Hamburg, Lübeck, Stettin, and Danzig. As the strong dark beer made its way from the ports of England to Russia, I imagine the ships' captains stopped into various cities along the way. Perhaps as they plied their trade along the Baltic coast they sold some of their stock of beer, and a taste for strong dark beer took hold. It is not so great a stretch of the imagination to think that enterprising brewers in these cities created their own version for local sale, using ingredients and methods local to them, and thus out of the strong stout porters sent to Russia was born Baltic Porter.

Generally speaking the local ingredients and methods were heavily influenced by the lager brewing traditions of Central Europe, and so on the southern side of the Baltic, their porter was cold fermented and lagered, while those made on the northern side, in Sweden, maintained the warm fermentation approach. Eventually Baltic Porter became associated mainly with cities in modern day Poland, though examples of the 'style' (for want of a better word) can be found throughout central and eastern Europe. Clearly I am about to argue from silence, but I imagine the Českobudějovický Porter advertised below had more in common with Gdańsk than London.


The history of porter is in many ways the forerunner of the pale lager revolution of the mid 19th to mid 20th century kicked off by Josef Groll and his Pilsner, and is a powerful reminder of the power of trade to shape societies far from the original source of the product being traded. So in drinking porter look beyond London and head east young man.