There is no recipe with this weeks vlog, well sorta. Basically the only thing you need is a chicken (or any kind of poultry will do) and the stuffing of your choice. I used a boxed stuffing for this for simplicities sake. If you do it the way I did, the most time consuming portion will be making the stock that is used for the veloute (fancy French word for poultry sauce). Be warned, deboning a bird can get a little graphic, just sayin. So without any more of my slowing up the works here we go to video…
Hop Head Farms has been busy not only getting ready for this coming growing season but also with expansion. Back in February we took a look at the hop field expansion. This expansion will be taking their growing space from 15 acres to 30 acres.
Their next big project is the buildout on their German designed oast house. An oast house is a building with the primary purpose of drying hops. Their equipment made the trip from Germany recently and they have been spending the past couple days unloading it all from the back of semis.
While they are busy unloading they are filling up their hop picker house. The oast house is still under construction. The heavy rains we have been having in South West Michigan have slowed construction a bit. This doesn’t dampen the spirits of the Steinmans though. Jeff mentioned that they should have the oast finished by mid may, more than enough time to prepare for next seasons harvest.
Time for a pint…
While reading the Rodenbach section in the book The Great Beers of Belgium Michael Jackson mentions a relation of beer to Saint George. Saint George is the patron saint of England but also much more than that. The myth protrays him as the slayer of the dragon. This is a story that many of us grew up with; stead fast knight saving the damsel. A plot that many stories find as their base.
Saint George became a hero of the Christian faith during the time of the Roman Empire. He was a Christian soldier in the Roman army, who eventually led a rebellion against Roman persecution of Christians. As is normal myths and legends tie together with reality in new and interesting ways.
Many of the knights who followed the Crusades took the mantel of St George. In the Christian faith the Dragon makes reference to the devil. Just as Saint George fought against persecution from the Romans, the Crusaders were charged with freeing the Holy Land from the Devils who were encroaching.
I know what you are thinking right now “Great history and stuff, but what does this have to do with beer?” Religion and myth aside, we should look for ties to fermented beverages. The Romans were wine drinkers, viewing beer as a foul, a drink of barbarians. As the Roman empire expanded through Europe grapes were planted, creating quite a few of the great wine regions we know today. Is it possible that St George encouraged the drinking of beer as part of the rebellion against the Romans? That seems a bit far fetched and out there, but at the same time if you look at protests of today it is not uncommon to boycott products from a company or items that represent a culture.
On the other side of the coin we find beers and breweries that embrace the word dragon. I have to wonder with these if they in some way are poking fun at the Temperance movement and Prohibition. The Temperance movement made claims of devil whiskey and alcohol being evil. Are we now thumbing our nose at these claims?
Today, we find quite a number of beers and breweries with names that pay homage to George and the Dragon. Whether or not these exist because of the myths and legends is up to the individual breweries.
I think its time for a pint
Every once in a while I get to do something cool. This month I was invited to the Imperial Beverage trade show that was held in the early part of April. Now I know you are thinking, “what exactly is a tradeshow for a beverage distributor?” I wondered the same thing.
In my mind I was picturing a rally of sorts with different speaking engagements. I dreaded having to go to assorted meetings to learn how to better distribute beers or brand placement, you know all the stuff that no one really wants to go to anyway. Instead I was greated with almost a mini beer fest, with wine thrown in. The atmosphere was much more relaxed. And thankfully you didn’t have to worry about the random drunk getting in the way (or the super long lines for a prized beer).
The show had two dates, April 8th in Traverse City, Michigan and April 9th in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Grand Rapids is only
about an hour from my house (as opposed to the 5-6 hour drive to TC) so that was where we headed. They had set up in Noto’s conference center. This was an added bonus since we had never been to Noto’s before.
The atmosphere at an event like this is great for spending time with the brewery reps (sometimes you get lucky and talk to the brewer as well). Without the crowds you find at fests, you are better able to monopolize a few minutes of their time. To my advantage I was able to catch up with a few reps I haven’t seen in a while. I was also able to meet a few I hadn’t met
before. Which goes along with finding some beers that I had not yet had a chance to sample otherwise.
You know those times when you shouldn’t say anything but you just can’t help yourself? My wife mentioned recently that she really wanted some biscotti to go with her coffee. I, of course, say “Oh ya, I can make biscotti.” So guess what we are making today…
3 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup oil
3 large eggs
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 cup sugar
Cream the oil, eggs, and sugar till it lightens. Add baking powder to flour and combine (sifting gives the best combine). Add flour/baking powder mix to the wet ingredients and mix till it forms a dough. Divide the dough in half and roll out to the length of your pan. Flatten the log to about 1/2 inch. Cook the first “cookie” for roughly 25 minutes at 375.
Allow to cool to a point where you can handle them. On a bias cut the individual cookies (about a half inch thick). Cook these for 7-10 minutes at 375. Allow to cool, then decorate as you wish or just enjoy.
1 tablespoon anise extract can be added to the wet ingredients. 1/2 cup almond slices can be added to the dry ingredients. You can also add nuts to the chocolate when you decorate at the end.
We made two different batches for this. The first used the anise extract and almonds. The second had no additions. The cookies turn out great either way.
Time for a pint…
In 1976 John Hindman and Charlie Konett were merely college friends. But it was then
that they decided to also become business partners. The original Bilbo’s pizza came from this
Little did they know they would build a business that would not only last over 35 years
but also be a haven for their family and other families as well. From the beginning they have
included both of their wives and children in their team and branched out to bring others into their
working family as well.
In 1998 they added a new dimension to their lineup. This was the year that they began
brewing. They started with Wizards Wheat (their most popular brew) and Red Dragon Ale,
recipes that they brew still today.
The restaurant was built on a theme to reflect John and Charlie’s love of fantasy; in
keeping with that most of the names for their beers have revolved around something from
Middle Earth and fantasy elements.
In 2002 Jackson Allen took over the brewery. He was already part of the family having
worked there for a few years prior to this. Though he didn’t have formal training when he started
he has learned quite a bit since that time, continuously working to improve and update the beers
offered at the pub. Just within the past year he has brought in a black IPA and a pumpkin ale,
while maintaining their rotating line up.
Their brewhouse is a single unit, housing a kettle and hot liquor tank, a mere 3 barrel
system. But don’t let the size of the brewhouse fool you. The ability of the brewer is what
determines the quality of the finished beer. While I was there I had a pint of the honey blonde
and sampled the Wizard Wheat, Dragon Red Ale and the Thunderbird. Each one was well worth
the trip. But at the time I was partial to the honey blonde. I was informed by Jackson that this
beer has become one of their most versatile. He has used it as the base for a number of the
specialty spiced ales he has been brewing lately.
When you make it into Kalamazoo to check out the growing beer scene, make a point to
stop into Bilbo’s. Just like Hobbiton, it is off the beaten track, but welcoming and the beer is
As I mentioned last week, we will be exploring session beers this month. To start the exploration we will look at a couple classic session beer styles. Both of these come from classic beer styles. These beers are the English Style Bitters and the Mild ale.
When looking at these beers it is almost a difference between night and day. The mild may be an older style as it is based on the brown ale. Before technique for pale malt became possible, most beers were based with darker malts.
Bitters has its origin with IPA and the invention of pale malt. Pale malt made it possible to make lighter colored beers creating the pale ale. From this the IPA was first created in Burton. The biggest difference between the IPA and the bitters came from how it was served. The bitters styles tended to be served on draft or cask while IPAs were mostly bottled. Through the years these distinctions have blurred at times.
Mild ale: Malt forward beer with flavors of chocolate, caramel, nutty or roast. There should be little to no hop aroma or flavor. The hops tend to be more for balance. For the most part they tend to have an alcohol content between 3.1 and 3.8%.
Sadly, these beers are not as prevalent as they might once have been.
Bitters: Generally pale to copper or bronze in color. Flavors can include fruit (apricot is common), or caramel with little hop aroma. Bitterness is more prevalent with floral and/or citrus and resin components of hops taking a strong lead. These beers tend to have a drier finish. They are most often dry hopped in cask as well as having a creamier mouthfeel when served on cask. Crystal malts are often used to increase the body as well as add flavor. These beers tend to finish out between 3.1 and 4% alcohol.
Many different beer styles can be adapted into the session range of beers. But these two styles of beer are naturally session styles. They are the front runners that other styles emulate.
Time for a pint…
There are two things that March brings us that mark the coming of Spring. The first of course is March Madness, the games leading up to the end of college basketball season. The other is the release of Oberon. Though there is quite a bit of hoopla associated with March Madness, it is possible that the fans are not nearly as ravenous as the fans of Bell’s Brewery’s biggest hit beer.
Oberon day is the official release day for the beer, celebrated around the state of Michigan at many of the fine establishments that carry the beer through the spring and summer season. Most fans are happy to wait for the day, to have their first sip. But there are some, raving fans if you will, who are willing to wait till midnight to get their first taste, before everyone else.
On Sunday March 24th at 7pm, Shakespeare’s Pub in Kalamazoo started the party for the midnight release. The bottom floor of Shakespeare’s is where they hold their venues. They have soundstage and a fully functioning bar for special events. The bar on Sunday was stocked with Bell’s beers on tap.
As you might find for special releases elsewhere, this was an event it paid to arrive early. For those who showed up between 7 and 9pm there was no cover and a free buffet. It was a great opportunity to sneak in dinner and a few pints before the entertainment started.
The entertainment for the evening consisted of three acts. The first was a local dance group, Urban Repertoire . This led into the smooth sounds of the band Indigo Sun . The final band of the evening was Dōpapod out of Chicago. These alone would have made the night great. But in the end those gathered were there for a reason.
At midnight the King of Oberon was granted his crown. This was done democratically of course, by raffle. The King had the illustrious privilege of the first pint of Oberon. After this with pint and scepter in hand the king issued proclamations (or at least tossed out some great Bell’s shwag to the crowd).
This month’s session is hosted by Bryan Roth from This is Why I’m Drunk. The topic is Finding Beer Balance.
“Is beer your vice? Is beer your reward? Does beer really have to be either? Do you find lifestyle balance through work, hobbies, family or maybe even “Dry Days” like David Bascombe? There are a variety of ways to find balance.”
As much as I talk about beer, and as much beer/ other assorted boozes I have in my cellar at any given time, you would think my life would be a little off kilter. But something most people don’t realize, when you are surrounded by something all the time you are less inclined to abuse it. Let me pontificate for a moment.
This is an observation, granted I feel strongly about it it, but still merely my observation based on what I have seen. We as a people tend to hoard what we deny ourselves. We desire that which we can not have. Look at what happened to the country during prohibition. There have been those who fight tooth and nail to take away the things they feel our evil and corrupting out youth. But I ask you, what happens when you tell a child no? They work even harder to get what they are not supposed to have.
Binge drinking is essentially the same thing as binge eating. Your body craves and desires what you have told it it can not have. The response to this is to hoard it and consume as much as possible.
Holidays like St. Patrick’s day and New Years are referred to as amateur holidays. These are the days most people have finally given themselves permission to drink. These are also days with the highest level of drunken offenses. The people who accept and allow the simple healthy pleasures of drink into their life on a regular basis tend to avoid the “amateurs” on these days.
Now back to finding balance. Yes, I have quite a bit of beer and such available. But it is a part of my life. I have no need to hoard it and over consume because I know I will see it again whenever I choose to see it.
Are there occasions where I drink a little more than I should? Sure, but more often than not it is when I am with a friend or two and we are enjoying the conversation. The beer is there to be enjoyed, instead of for the sole purpose of getting drunk.
Maybe that is the key to balance, when it becomes a seasoning to your life instead of the main course. Instead of denying pleasure out of fear we embrace it as an important part of our lives, maybe then we will be free of the chains we tether onto ourselves.
Time for a pint…