Thursday, October 22, 2009

I made beer!!!

As a product of a drunken conversation during a fantastic beer tasting hosted at my apartment in August, John Baker, homebrewer extraordinaire and me, decent chef who's always up for an overambitious task, decided to create our own homebrew. John has all the equipment so we spent a day buying ingredients and making it happen. My idea was to come up with a chocolatey beer that would also have a big spice kick since spicey chocolate is very popular these days. This idea was all the more intriguing because I don't think there is any precedent for doing this. This was also a reason to be nervous because let me tell you, making beer is not easy. So, if this beer turned out like crap because I wanted to infuse it with roasted cacao nibs, vanilla bean, and chiles, then we would not only be out 75 bucks, but would have also wasted a lot of time.

Here's an abbreviated version of how it goes down:

1. Pour the malt mix into hot water. This becomes the "mash."

2. Stir the mash.
3. Let the mash sit covered for a while.

4. Take the liquid from the mash and siphon it into a huge pot (or in this case hollowed out keg). Boil it for a while.

5. Create the super secret chile mixture. I took three different kinds of chiles and toasted them, then crushed the toasted chiles into a powder. I roasted cacao beans and crushed them up into a fine mixture as well.

6. During the last 15 minutes of the boil, add some hops but be sure to smell their hoppy wonderfulness before you dump them in (see below). The chile/chocolate mixture from step 5 goes in at this time too.

7. Once the liquid has cooled from the boil, then you pour the yeast in. As John describes it, the yeast are having a massive party and they're pooping out alcohol and CO2. This goes on for a couple weeks and is known as "primary fermentation." During this time, we added some vanilla bean and some whole chiles.

8. Bottle that shit. Leave it sit for a couple more weeks. Yes, at this point, it has been a month since that first day of inspired beer creation.

9. After much anticipation, drink and hopefully enjoy.

In our case, we had a pretty big scare. John called me saying that we "had to talk about the beer." Uh oh. We talk and John explains that the night before, he tried the beer for the first time, then got violently ill about two hours later, which lasted through the night. After a moment of panic, I calmed myself and did some research. My research determined that there is no way one can get sick from a few sips of spoiled beer. In addition, you would know if it was bad immediately by the taste.

I decided to roll the dice and try this beer for myself. I can now report, after consuming four of these precious beverages, that I did not get ill in any way. In fact, the beer is delicious. The aroma of chocolate and spices is fantastic and the taste backs it up. It's got big cocoa and coffee flavors and hints of caramely sweetness with a spicy kick at the end. As it turns out, some bad chicken caesar salad was the culprit of John's malady. So, a deep sigh of relief because all that work going for naught would have been devastating.

Song of the Day:

Stereophonics (covering Rolling Stones) - Gimme Shelter

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