Sunday, February 21, 2010

Metallic Taste in Your Beer?

Late last fall we brewed up an AG batch of porter, and let it age until the dog-days of winter here in Chicago, which is basically the month of February. We knew a good porter would be especially good that time of year.

So after fermenting, we moved it into a carboy, and placed it in a dark room and forgot about it. We kegged and carbed her up a couple weeks back, and while it has a nice malt and hop base, there was this other flavor in there I had a hard time putting my finger on. After bringing it to one of my homebrewer gatherings, some buddies helped me identify it as "metallic" - after finally having the word I needed, I totally agreed.

It's not terrible, still a decent beer. But the question remains - what happened to cause this????

After asking fellow homebrewers in the area, and posting to the Chicago Beer Society list and AHA's Tech Talk, I got very little response - what I did get was people asking me to keep them posted if I found the answer! Generally it seems like a flavor that mysteriously appears from time to time. Anyways, here are some of the answers I collected:
  1. It's something that happens with the yeast, particularly English Ale strains. (I used Wyeast 1968 for this, it was a second batch for the yeast, originally having used it for a stout that turned out fine.)
  2. It's the water, and/or how the water reacts to certain dark malts. 
  3. If you've had any new pipes or plumbing installed, or if the city has installed any new piping in your area.
  4. If you scrub your brewpot with a metal scouring pad or other abrasive-type scrub pad.
  5. One guy said, "The only time I used Phoenix hops I had a metallic taste in an ESB that some judges picked up on in a competition."
  6. Getting a new keg, and not cleaning it prior to use.
I think our problem here is either a result of new water lines being installed in front of our place (doubtful, but the city did do some sewage line work in front of our place around the time we brewed this - not sure if they did anything to the regular water lines), and/or we used to scrub our brewpot with an SOS pad (which we don't do anymore - just either soak in PBW/Oxyclean overnight, or clean it out with lots of hot water, and a soft sponge with mild dish detergent). There was one particular time where in an effort to help, someone scrubbed the be-jesus out of the pot in an effort to get it totally clean. [Sorry! - Meg] My best guess is that's the culprit.

So anyways, what I've taken to doing is wiping down the brewpot with a clean, wet towel before adding anything to it on brew day. We've brewed several batches since this porter with no metallic issues. In my research I've even read that great homebrewers like Jamil Z. have had this flavor pop-up with no explanation.

So don't know if this helped anyone or not - if you have any further insights, please post a comment! Cheers.

Update July 21, 2010: After a day brewing at Goose Island, I saw they use steel scrubbies. So the problem may not have been with the scrubbie, but the chemical in the S.O.S pad (?).

Monday, February 15, 2010

Barbecue Brisket

I am a kitchen item collector. In fact, I have so many gadgets/utensils/pans/appliances/etc. that I've run out of storage in both of my kitchens. One of the things that hasn't made its way into my collection is a slow cooker. (Mostly because I have nowhere to store it.) So when I got one for Christmas, I decided I had to justify having one by putting it to use often.

Since the end of December I have used it at least once a week. Last week 's recipe was a Cooking Light creation of Barbecue Brisket. Although I did have to get up half an hour early in the morning to prep this, I really appreciated having dinner ready when I got home at the end of the day.

As with most of the recipes I find with beer, it calls for a light lager. I used an IPA I had stashed in the back of the fridge, and I really couldn't find any flavor of the beer in the final product. Thus use whatever beer you've got on hand. Also, I served up our sandwiches on slices of the Almost No-Knead Beer Bread with a slathering of horseradish spread. Great for a snowy winter day - enjoy!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Almost No-Knead Beer Bread

Oh my phobia of baking with's illogical. The thought of waiting for something to rise, then kneading it is pretty horrible to me. But I love bread, so I thought I would give it a chance. Thanks to beer buddies Colleen & Stephen, I've overcome my bread yeast phobia! They passed on this gem of a recipe with the note that it's "idiot proof." Not only is it idiot proof, it's delicious! In the past week I've made 2 loaves, which have paired perfectly with soups and gravy, or it's great just as toast. Get baking and carb up, people!

Cooks Illustrated Almost No-Knead Bread (Adapted from the recipe originally published in the January 2008 issue of Cooks Illustrated)

3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (15 ounces), plus additional for dusting work surface
1/4 teaspoon instant or rapid-rise yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons table salt
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons water (7 ounces), at room temperature
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons mild-flavored lager (3 ounces) (Use whatever beer's in your fridge. I used an IPA and a Pale Ale and they both tasted great.)
1 tablespoon white vinegar

Whisk flour, yeast, and salt in large bowl. Add water, beer, and vinegar. Using rubber spatula, fold mixture, scraping up dry flour from bottom of bowl until shaggy ball forms. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 8 to 18 hours.

Lay 12- by 18-inch sheet of parchment paper inside 10-inch skillet and spray with nonstick cooking spray. Transfer dough to lightly floured work surface and knead 10 to 15 times. Shape dough into ball by pulling edges into middle. Transfer dough, seam-side down, to parchment-lined skillet and spray surface of dough with nonstick cooking spray. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until dough has doubled in size and does not readily spring back when poked with finger, about 2 hours.

About 30 minutes before baking, adjust oven rack to lowest position, place 6- to 8-quart heavy-bottomed Dutch oven (with lid) on rack, and heat oven to 500 degrees. Lightly flour top of dough and, using razor blade or sharp knife, make one 6-inch-long, 1/2-inch-deep slit along top of dough. Carefully remove pot from oven and remove lid. Pick up dough by lifting parchment overhang and lower into pot (let any excess parchment hang over pot edge). Cover pot and place in oven. Reduce oven temperature to 425 degrees and bake covered for 30 minutes.* Remove lid and continue to bake until loaf is deep brown and instant-read thermometer inserted into center registers 210 degrees, 20 to 30 minutes longer. Carefully remove bread from pot; transfer to wire rack and cool to room temperature, about 2 hours.

* My first loaf got a little charred on both the bottom and top of the loaf - see photo. For the second round, I kept the lid on longer and put a couple extra layers of parchment under the dough. You'll just need to get to know your oven to figure out what works best for you.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Pork Chops with Beer & Bacon Gravy

During our Wisconsin weekend in the fall, Matt and I picked up a pound of thick-cut, double-smoked bacon from Bavaria Sausage. Now, this ain't no normal bacon! I've been dreaming of what to do with it for months, as you just don't use this for anything. Surprisingly, inspiration came to me of all places but the treadmill.

Let me state this off the bat: I'm typically not a Rachael Ray fan. In fact, she drives me bonkers most of the time. (Seriously, she has a tab on her website called "Yum-O!" Can you feel my eyeroll through the computer?)

However, I've learned that I enjoy watching her 30 Minute Meals show, sans sound and closed captioning, while on the treadmill. The harder I run, the more I can justify eating the things she makes - like Pork Chops with Beer & Bacon Gravy. As soon as I saw her grab a beer from the fridge and pour it on the bacon & onions, I knew this was going to be the first use for the 'Sconsin bacon. Needless to say, it was delicious. Recipe can be found here.

(Yeah, the photo looks a little gross, but the camera ran out of batteries before I could get a snapshot of the plated entree.)

I made a few alterations to the recipe, but I think it would be pretty hard to mess up.
  1. The recipe calls for German beer, but I used one of our Dry Hopped Irish Stouts. This gravy does retain some of the beer flavor, so use something you like.
  2. I used homemade turkey stock in place of the chicken stock.
  3. Doubled the bacon! (Can't have enough bacon.)
  4. Cooked the gravy for about twice as long it calls for.*
*Matt's the gravy maker in our house, since I lack the patience to reduce anything to its proper thickness. So props to Matt for doubling the cooking time.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Goose Island Green Line Pale Ale

Thanks to our beer buddy, Colleen, we were able to attend the premier tapping of Goose Island's newest brew, Green Line Pale Ale, at Uncommon Ground Devon last night. The Green Line is a new "eco-friendly" beer as part of Goose's green initiative. So what makes a beer "green"? First of all, it's only kegged, which greatly reduces the waste factor. Second, it's only served in Chicago, which cuts down on the energy used for transportation and refrigeration. Also, the tap handles are made from trees killed in the suburbs by emerald ash borers.

As for the beer itself, head brewer Greg Hall described it as "a love child between 312 Urban Wheat and an IPA." For all you all-grain brewers out there, I found it very interesting that they only use one malt in the recipe (Briess Pale Ale malt). Overall, it's a lightly hopped, extremely quaffable session beer. (I easily drank 4 in an hour!) You'll definitely want to have one of these on a hot summer day. So be friendly to the environment - drink a Green Line.