Monday, July 30, 2012

Beer Research: Russian River Consecration Vertical

Last weekend, one of the better beer bars in San Diego, (that's saying a lot, we are spoiled here) Toronado San Diego hosted a vertical tasting of all the Russian River Consecration batches ever made. Even Batch 0, which was never released. All the beers were served on draft and poured in wine glasses. (How cool would it have been to see how they compare to the bottle versions?)

After trying to decide where to start with the tasting, I just got too impatient and started with #10 or Batch 9. There were some definite trends that I noticed and could taste some differences:

Batch 0 - 2: Much bolder malt character with more deep crystal malt notes and dark fruit flavors. Great malt complexity with the wine notes more noticeable. Oak was more of a background flavor. Currants blended well. And medium to high sourness - good blend of acetic and lactic acid. These were my favorite 3 with Batch 1 being the best. Actually, it was almost unanimous among us drinkers.

Batch 3 - 4: The malt back bone was not as noticeable and the other flavors were more prominent. These batches also seemed to have a bigger Brett character and leaned more toward acetic acid in the sourness.

Batch 5 - 6: Very similar to Batch 3&4, but without as much acetic and the Oak flavor was starting to become more dominant.

Batch 7 - 9: These 3 batches were very much a like and it seems like the flavors were all sharpened. Meaning it was easy to pick out the Oak, the Currants, the Malt. I'm wondering if this is from a change in process (like filtering) or just age (lack of Brett character). I also noticed these were much more Oak forward than previous batches. My second favorite of the groupings.

I may try to send an email to Vinnie at Russian River and see if there has been process changes or if the differences I noticed were more due to age. Overall, a truly epic experience (and I finally got to meet Chris over at Lewy Brewing). Thank you Toronado SD.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Homebrew Tasting: Brett C Saison

I really wanted to drink some Saison especially with the 20 gals I just brewed, but none of it is ready yet. I started looking through my beers and realized I hadn't tried my Brett C Saison from last year in quite a while. Plus I had never posted any official tasting notes.

If you look back on the Brewing Post, I mentioned, "hydrometer sample was pretty funky already. To be honest it didn't taste very good. It was a big mix of barnyard and a touch of dried fruit. I was expecting the beer to still have a good amount of fruit flavors". I did try a carbonated version shortly after and still wasn't pleased with the beer. I got an over-the-top phenolic character and very little fruit notes. Actually the phenolic was so strong that it created a bitter astringent aftertaste. This taste really doesn't work with the dry, refreshing Saison style. I know that it is not the fault of the wort because the other batches that used the same wort turned out great.

I did not aerate the wort very much when I pitch the Brett. And it was kept in the mid 70s during fermentation. I didn't use a starter, but added 1 fresh vial into 1 gal of wort. If I every brew this style of beer again, I will make a large starter and aerate well.

Below are my homebrew tasting notes about this beer after it has been aging for about a year. As you can see, the beer really hasn't changed much from my initial assessment. I have a few more bottles that I'll taste in at least 6 more months.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Camp Cooking: Pit Cooking Pork (Cochinita Pibil)

I recently went Mamping (Man camping, duh) with 2 of my good buddies up into the local mountains. It really isn't the best time of the year to go camping, the water is mostly dried up, the plants are dead and it's pretty hot, but we wanted to get out of the city. We did find a small campground out in the Cuyamaca Mountains that had plenty of shade, higher elevation (cooler temps) and within an hour drive of downtown San Diego called Cibbet's Flats. The main purpose of the trip was to have some fun, drink some beers and eat some good camp food.

Speaking of camp food, I have wanted to try pit cooking for a while now. The basic idea is you dig a hole, make a fire, wrap your meat and bury it for a while. It is the primitive way of slow cooking. So basically you can do any dish that you would normally slow cook. Think Crock-pot meals except I would advise against anything stew-like unless you have a dutch oven. To me slow cooking means pork. Pork is great because it is highly fatty, which breaks down over time into moist flavors.

After looking through a bunch of online recipes I decided on Cochinita Pibil. I'm still not quite sure if it is Mayan or Yucatecan, more than likely both.

Here are a list of the best recipes I found:
- Simply Recipes
- Dad Cooks Dinner

The Basics and you can scale howeer you need:

  • 3 lbs pork chopped in chunks (get the cheapest, fattiest stuff you can = more flavor)
  • Marinade - Blend until smooth(ish)
    • 1 medium onion, peeled and sliced
    • 2 bell peppers - pick your favorite colors
    • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
    • ~4 oz of achiote paste
    • 1 orange (sour or Seville preferred, I just used under ripe Valencia Oranges)
    • 2 cloves garlic
    • oregano -  If fresh, a small bunch, dried 1/4 tsp.
    • 2 bay leaves

Marinate for 24 hours in ziploc bags.

Wrap in Foil (Traditionally banana leaves, but these were harder to find than I thought) - don't be shy with the foil - this is the only thing preventing dirt in your food. I used the weave technique and had good success. And then I added a second layer over the whole package.

Dig a hole or use a fire pit. Then line the pit with rocks (these retain your heat).

Start a fire - A decent sized fire with some charcoal added helps. We cooked our bacon-wrapped veggie burgers over the coils for Friday night's dinner. Side note: Bacon wrapped veggie burgers are legit, you can wait till the bacon is cooked without risking the burger getting overcooked. Top with caramelized onions and Sweet Baby Ray's BBQ sauce.

Once you are done with you fire for the night. And done drinking (we got to taste a bunch of homebrews), then put the foil packs right on the coils.

Bury the "goods" with dirt to trap in all the heat.

Open the foil carefully and get ready for beautifully cooked pork.

Serve on corn or flour tortillas with eggs, potatoes and hot carrots for breakfast. And then for lunch or dinner, serve on bolillos to make great tortas.

Yum. Ideas for next pit cooking session include: Carnitas, Chile Verde, Beer BBQ Pulled Pork
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