My mind wandered a little today. I can’t say how I ended up here but it was an interesting trip to say the least.
Flikr Creative Commons: Courtesy emerson12 (Gnome at Home)
Businesses have their mascots. It is something they identify with to the outside world. Breweries are at their heart businesses. They are prone to having a mascot all their own. One that comes to mind for me is the La Chouffe Gnome. If you have seen it you know exactly what I am talking about. It is a pint sized bearded gnome with a red pointy hat. It very much resembles a garden gnome.
Well, it is story time. But have no fear the story has nothing to do with a pint sized gnome or anything of that sort. Instead, we return a few years ago to the time when I was working at Arcadia Brewing in Battle Creek, Michigan.
The mascot I am thinking of is something that the public never really saw. It was a crew mascot more than anything else. It was a two foot tall doll dressed to look like a Scottish Golfer, It even had a kilt. The thing reminded me of a Scottish Chucky doll.
The Battle Creek brewery for Arcadia (the new one in Kalamazoo is still under construction at the time of this writing) is a two level building. The upper floor is devoted to grain storage and other brewery storage as well as offices and the dish room for the kitchen. Of course the walk in cooler and a small prep area for the kitchen were upstairs as well.
Working in the kitchen meant quite a few late nights, quite often after a brutal dinner rush. Cooks tend to have a warped sense of humor. This leads into practical jokes and other such nonsense. This doll became a recurring theme.
There were three different stairwells to the upper floor, with quite a few places to hide the doll. Late at night when you are alone walking up a semi dark stairwell, this doll is pretty spooky. Of course when you have someone willing to spend a few minutes to tape a chef’s knife to the hand of the doll and hide it in a good spot, the spookiness can happen at any time.
Do you have any practical joke stories or similar from your working life?
Time for a pint…
Roasting is a great way to bring more pronounced flavors to the foods you love. When you do something as simple as roasting tomatoes, you will add in new layers of flavor and turn something that was good into something great.
The only thing this really costs you is time. When you have tomatoes you have pretty much all you really need to take them to the next level.
I don’t have a recipe for this one other than to say, tomatoes, kosher salt or sea salt, and olive oil. Core and quarter the tomatoes then salt and oil them. Roast them at 400 for about an hour or so and you can use them as you would otherwise.
For instance, you could chop them and use them to make a margherita pizza. All you need is dough, tomatoes, garlic oil, shredded parm and chiffonade basil.
Time for a pint…
I did it. I bottled the evil beast. I ended up with 9.5 champagne bottles of sake. Not my best haul but not too bad. As I write this I have a glass beside me and I am enjoying the fruits of my labor.
The simple verdict, I like it. Now let’s get a bit more in depth (but not too much). The appearance is hazier than I would like. I am not sure if this is a problem with sake in general (doubtful though I could be wrong) or if I should have let it rest for a bit longer before I bottled. Granted the bottle I am drinking from is the half bottle. This one probably picked up the layer of sediment that transferred with the sake the other day.
The flavor itself is an interesting mix of bright lemons with a alcohol warmth following it up. You could call it the brightness of a summer day followed by the sun torching your back. It isn’t so sour that it has pucker power but the sourness is definitely there.
It is dry but with a bit of substance to it. When I think of something to compare it to I think of meads. Meads tend to be a bit lighter than wine. I get the same feeling from this sake. It is one to watch out for, you can drink it like water. But water with a kick.
I would have liked to bottle this in wine bottles and cork them. But fearing the wild yeasts and what they could still do, I opted for the champagne bottles. They handle the stress of strong carbonation much better. Not that I am afraid of bottles exploding, it is just better to be safe than sorry in cases like this.
Now that my work here is done, I think I will skip the pint tonight and opt for another glass of sake…
It has been a while. I should have done this I don’t know how long ago. I could give excuses and reasons and all sorts of other things that don’t really matter. But ya know, life happens sometimes.
I transferred the sake to the bottling bucket recently. I haven’t bottled it yet. I had hit it with some sulphites to kill off the wild yeasts and such and I wanted to give them a chance to do their work. I will be bottling within the next couple days.
So now we go with a few observations. First among them, I wasn’t looking to make traditional sake. I was more concerned with seeing how the process worked. The final product has a nice tartness to it. It has been a while since I have had traditional sake so I am not sure how common that is. But I like how this turned out. Shortly I will go into a bit more detail when I do an official tasting of it. Maybe I’ll even have some pictures.
Next, I fermented this at a lower temperature than what might be traditional. It should ferment from 50 to 60 degrees. I fermented at about 40 degrees. It went along smoothly but it was slower than it could have been. For as long as I have had the sake in secondary, if I was at the higher temperature it would most likely have been much more sour than I wanted. At the same time I might have ended up with rice wine vinegar instead of sake as well.
And now the final observation (for now) It helps to have a good filter set up for when you go from primary to secondary. I ended up with 2 gallons of sake. I think I would have had 3 if I had been able to filter better than I did. The rice porridge that is made in the primary fermentation is thick but still liquid. You need an incredibly fine strainer and maybe even filter bags to push through it all.
Granted you are looking at filtering out at least 10 pounds of rice (pre cooking). That is quite a bit of porridge when you get to the end of fermentation.
When you get down to it, the process overall isn’t that bad. But it is slow. This is something you will be investing a good bit of time in order to do it well. I can’t say I did it well. There were a few times where frustration was enough for me to want to call it quits. But that can happen in most anything.
So hopefully in a few days I will have a few bottles sealed and on the shelf. At that point I will be ready to do some sampling. Or maybe I will let them sit around and gather a bit of dust before I play with them again.
Time for a pint…
Here we go with something a little different. Pretzel chicken was something that we made in one of the restaurants I used to work in. This is great bar food without being the normal everyday chicken strips.
If you have a little spicy mustard these are amazing. Though you could dip them in BBQ if you really want to.
The ingredients and method are pretty straight forward (ya these are so simple you would be surprised you didn’t think of it yourself).
1 to 1.5lb Chicken strip meat
pretzels (roughly half a bag for this much chicken)
Grind the pretzels till crumbs and powder.
Press each strip into the pretzels, flattening out the meat.
Shallow fry each side till golden or cook in a deep fryer at 400 degrees till golden. Finish in the oven for about 5 to 10 minutes at 400 degrees.
Time for a pint…
Progress like this is a beautiful thing. This was a hot day. Not unexpected in Michigan during the summer, But still it was toasty. To see the building crew pushing through to get this build out finished, you gotta admire the dedication. The oast build out at Hop Head Farms in Hickory Corners is moving along. They expect the new oast to be up and running around the middle of August.
The amount of work that has taken place over the past couple months is huge. At one point engineers from Germany had come out to oversee the build out. The design is tied together well. In one continuous stream hops will be able to go from the field to the picker directly into the oast. The oast house is traditionally where hops are dried for storage to eventually find there way to the brewers who make the beers we drink tasty.
It was shortly after I left on this visit that the roof was hoisted by crane and placed on the tower in the center of the buildings. Yep, this is that kind of construction project. They have all sorts of toys to play with to get these buildings finished.
I spent a few minutes wandering the hop fields. The original fifteen acres (planted last year) are thriving this year. While walking through I had the prevailing thought of being lost in a hedge maze.
While wandering through the bines, I was directed over to the centennial rows. The centenniels are showing some of the best growth. The size of the hop flowers are amazing.
Lost in the field there was a few minutes of some of the crazy Michigan weather. At first I thought maybe I was getting hit with splash from the irrigation system (they use a drip system). Turned out even in the scorching heat of the sun, it was raining. Sun and rain were there to feed and care for the growing hops. What more could you ask for?
Time for a pint…
Truck with special prizes inside
This week I lucked out on my visit to Gonzo’s. I made it there on a delivery day and managed to get a couple shots of some equipment being unloaded. This in and of itself doesn’t seem like much. It can be hard to measure the changes that are happening when they are only incremental changes.
Glycol chiller about to be offloaded
Where ever you can find some room will be great.
This delivery only had one item, the glycol chiller. Even with one item, the deliveries are pretty big when you consider you need a forklift to get it off the truck. Now that the chiller has arrived it is time to start setting up its final home.
Most of the brew house is now at the brewery. Aside from the malt conveyor most of what is still needed are minor odds and ends. It is coming time to put the giant jigsaw puzzle together.
The taproom is coming together
Getting close to finishing touches on the walls.
The bar is leaps and bounds further along that what it was only a few short weeks ago. And they have now started to paint. The walls and ceiling are on their way to their final colors. At the time of my visit the painter was busy painting one of the walls its final color.
We spent a few minutes talking about the final look of the bar this time. Gonzo mentioned that the bar will be finished with barn wood. This wood will be coming in from five different Michigan farms. Though none of it will match it will give the finished bar character and style that you won’t find in other bars.
Time for a pint…
Getting the look together before it is finished
Be warned, if you are on a low carb diet, these are not for you. But ya know, sometimes you just have to do it anyway.
Dumplings of any kind are a beautiful thing. The concept lives across so many different cultures in a multitude of forms. The pierogi is a fantastic version of the dumpling. This particular pierogi is simple in its design but so much more than the sum of its parts. At its heart it is nothing but simple ingredients; potatoes, onions, flour, milk, eggs, and butter. It is how you bring these ingredients together that makes it so much more.
1 onion diced
8 potatoes (I made enough potatoes to have extra)
3 cups flour
1 cup milk
salt and pepper to taste
peel and boil the potatoes. While the potatoes are working peel and dice the onion, sauté till caramelized. When potatoes are done mash with butter and milk to desired consistency. Mix in onions.
For the dough:
In a bowl mix eggs and milk then add flour and make into a dough. It will be stick and soft (do not knead). Pour out onto a floured surface and roll out to about 1/16 inch thickness (cut dough in half to make rolling easier). Using a biscuit cutter, cut out the dumpling shells. If you have a ravioli cutter this works great for forming and filling the dumplings.
Place a spoonful of potato mixture into the dumpling rounds. Wet along half the edge. Fold and seal. Set them aside under a towl till ready for the next step.
Bring a pot full of salted water to a boil. Once boiling add a few dumplings at a time and allow them to cook. When they come to the surface allow them to cook a few minutes more. They can then go into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process or they can go directly to a heated pan with melted butter.
Sear the dumplings on each side till golden. Serve with sour cream or the sauce of your choice (we love sour cream with these).
Time for a pint.
I had hoped to make it to Gonzo’s Bigg Dogg Brewery (one of the new breweries in Kalamazoo, Michigan) on Thursday in order to catch shots of their new equipment coming in, but life sometimes gets in our way. This time it wasn’t me. It turned out that the equipment was delivered on Wednesday instead. Surprises like that are great because you get the chance to get something done earlier than you planned. But then it is earlier than you planned so that has its own drawbacks.
Brew Kettle and Hot Liquor Tank
As it turned out, they are none the worse for wear. They are waiting on one more truck still to bring in the last few items. One of the items they are still waiting on is the rest of their malt conveyor. As it is right now, their formerly wide open brew space is filling up fast.
Fermentation Tanks (and the Hot liquor tank again)
serving Tanks (This room is still under construction)
The open space between the serving tank room and fermentation room will be sealed off to protect the space from the elements.
Gonzo, hard at work figuring it all out.
Time for a pint…
Boatyard Brewing in Kalamazoo, Michigan is up and running. You would think this means it is time to celebrate. Instead they are working as fast as possible to get their building ready for their larger brew tanks.
Their 15 barrel system is still about 5 weeks away from being delivered so they are still working on their half barrel system. This keeps them busy but not nearly as busy as getting the building ready to bring in the larger system with all its accompanying tanks.
They have been busy knocking down walls and setting up new ones to redefine the space. The building has come a long way in a short time.
Time for a pint…