Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Porter Reduction Sauce w/Steak and Bleu Cheese

Bam! I found this recipe whilst trolling on the link to the right ya dummy! Or right here.


Yesterday I bottled my first porter (Jamil's Robust Vanilla Porter) and now I want to talk about porters. I'm job-free, slightly full, and have nothing but time on my hands, so hang on. This will be my first real beer post so let's see where it takes us. (I wanna link to beer sites. You'll have to enter your age every time. Its better than linking to Wikipedia, so bear with). The history offered below is not meant to be authoritative and will be peppered with my original comments and thoughts. So don't try to cite me or anything.

I think the first porter I ever had was Boulevard's Bully! Porter. The first memorable porter I had was Founder's Porter. I was in Chicago at Garret Ripley's (RIP), which was a block from our hotel room. The bartender talked me into it because the label said something like "a dark and sexy brew". When I had it it overwhelmed me. Very roasty, strong bitterness, and black as the damn night. I powered through it. It was quite a change considering the beer I had before that was my beloved Hoegaarden...ON DRAFT! After that we had a 3 block walk to an L stop, where I then had one of the most painful sittings, then 4 block hoof to the train station while having to piss worse than I ever had before (but not since, maybe that story later). Moral of the story: Give yourself plenty of time before your train leaves to drink...AND PEE.

One year later and many porters later and I have finally developed a taste for it. It should be noted that just because you don't like a beer (or style) immediately, give it some time, try other beers and other styles and then come back to it. I'm still waiting on coming back to American Barlywines... Quick! A history of porter:

Garrett Oliver, in The Brewmaster's Table tells us that back in the 1700s, Brits liked to blend their beers. They still do. One of the most popular blends was then formulated into one "entire" beer called...Entire. Pretty soon, the men, called Porters, who worked haulin' shit around for traveling folks on trains took to the beer and drank the hell out of it. Soon enough, the beer became known as "porter beer". Quickly it became really super popular. Like popular enough that brewers had to build giant wooden vats that would hold over 800,000 US gallons of porter. That's huge! Imagine if one of those things broke! I wonder what would happen...maybe something like The Great Beer Flood of 1814 where eight people died. It was even the drink of choice for Grace Poole while she did a shitty job of watching over Bertha Rochester (Mr. Rochester's dark, sexy, insane-Whoops!-of-a-wife) in the attic in Jane Eyre. According to Ray Daniels in Designing Great Beers, this beer would have been "...highly roasted, smoky, somewhat acidic (from Brettanomyces-more on that in later posts), and well bittered". So honestly, not that different from today's American Porters it sounds like, except it would have been a lot lighter in flavor and color, having more of a ruby hint than straight up black. In 1817, after formulations changed, English Porters would take on its now familiar dark brown.

It was also the first widely and heavily manufactured beer. It spread to Ireland, where Arthur Guinness soon devoted the operation to porter. Eventually this beer descended into the famous Guinness Stout. In the States, Washington and Jefferson had huge Porter-Boners. Jefferson actually sold some of his home-brewed porter and Washington just basically loved it. But, with the rise of Pilsener beer (and other golden lagers from Bohemia and Bavaria), porter began to fall out of favor. Then, in America, Prohibition and the resulting chaos afterwards, more or less, brought the end to everything interesting involving beer. The history of beer after Prohibition was repealed on December 5th, 1933 is actually quite interesting, devious, and certainly shitty. Another post for another day!

Since the 1970's the beer scene has been experiencing a slow-building craft movement. Porter was definitely rescued in America (along with an ass-load of other styles). Companies like the now famous Anchor Brewing and Sierra Nevada introduced excellent American-style Porters. *Anything with the moniker "American" pretty much means they are bigger-more alcoholic-, hoppier, and possibly more "flavorful" than the style which they are referencing* Now, just about every company has a porter. Most likely they appear in the fall or winter as a special seasonal release. And really, that's how I approach them. When it gets cold, I feel like something roasty, big, and a little alcoholic-warming.

But! There are different kinds of porters out there. Basically, they are broken down into three different styles: English/Brown, Robust, and Baltic. As Jamil Zainasheff and John Palmer note in Brewing Classic Styles, they all have some roasty aspect regarding flavor. This roastiness will be less than a stout (usually) but more than an a brown ale.

English/Brown Porter-The step between English Brown Ale and Robust Porter. There are light caramel and toasty malt flavors, in addition to chocolate flavors. There is also a subdued hop character. Go out and find some St. Peters, Fullers, or Samuel Smith examples of porter. These beers are very smooth with very nice balance. If you are not a hop-head, but still want some roasty flavors, go with these.

Robust Porter-These are slightly beefed up porters. Usually, this is the porter you will find offered from American companies. The color will be a bit darker, usually black with brown or ruby highlights. The roast character will be stronger, even lending help in the bitterness department. The addition of black patent malt is most likely the culprit here. The flavor might steer away from caramel and toffee focus to more coffee and dark chocolate, but the caramel should still be there in the background-which is one way to differentiate this style of beer from Stout. Good American examples I've had are Anchor, Sierra Nevada, Odell, and Flying Dog.

Baltic Porter-This is kicked up one more notch: bigger, richer, sweeter, and more alcoholic than the others. However, it does not have the roastiness and hoppiness of the robust porters. It will also have some hints of those flavors you can find in bad-ass Belgian Dark beers; raisin, plum, dark cherry, and even sherry or port flavors. Awesome! But, good luck finding this style. Some companies, like Left Handed and Great Divide make a smoked version, while the only straight up baltic porter I've had is from Baltika. You may have seen this Russian company's stuff before because they have distinct, horrible for beer, clear bottles. The Great Divide Smoked Baltic Porter is bad ass however, with a great, complex and smooth flavor, with light smoke. The Left-Handed is for those that want more meat in their beer. Try it and tell me I'm wrong! Its big, thick, and meaty...just like my...

One should keep an eye out for flavored porters. I've had great experiences with vanilla porters. Especially THIS ONE. If you find it on draft during its winter-seasonal-time, get it! Get two! Find some rice krispy treats and get another one! The finishing vanilla flavor is so smooth and so inviting. All of a sudden, you can easily look down to find an empty glass. This was the impetus for me to brew a vanilla porter. Normally, I want to try to make the normal style, before the vanilla, but this time I couldn't resist.

Break (I know this is getting long. Read on...or don't)

My Brew Day:

This was my 5th All-Grain batch, meaning I take the raw grains (crushed), throw them in a big ass pot with a shit load of water at a certain temperature (153F) for a certain time (60 minutes). That, called wort, is then boiled with hops (I used 1.65 oz of East Kent Goldings). To get a vanilla flavor, Jamil recommended a two-step process-Use a vanilla bean in the last 5 minutes of the boil, then liquid vanilla-imitation or extract-at the bottling. Did you know ONE vanilla bean costs $10.50 at a Price Cutter?! Sucks. Recently, I found them at Dillions for $2.99...go figure!
My RVPorter Souldjas
I was brewing with my buddy Brett, meaning, that he sat there and drank while I brewed and stewed over my process. This being my 5th batch, I still have some things to work out. However! I hit all my numbers. There are me. I ended up with 1.072 OG reading, which is .001 more than what the recipe called for-not that big of a deal. I chilled and transferred and added my sweet-baby-starter-wort I made for my yeast. I'm nice to them like that. Its like stretching before the big game, or giving yourself the "how's your father" before you get down with your special someone/something. Then it was off to the fermentation chamber, aka the loud-ass-fridge in our bathroom, for 8 days. Then I had beer! On bottling day I decided to add some Vanilla Extract, witch is twice as strong as imitation vanilla mind you. I didn't know how much to add so I winged it and through in 1 1/2 tbs. Flavor results will be coming later. But, the taste out of the fermenter revealed a nicely roasted beer, which was in the aromatics more than flavor, some chocolate notes, a little caramel, some coffee, and some softer malt flavors. I'm so excited!

Finally. If you are like me at all, then drinking makes you hungry and forgetful. I eat. Then drink. Then I forgot I ate already, then eat again. So you got your porter, but what do you eat it with? It is a silly notion that wine is the only beverage that goes with food. As G.Olly (my nick name for him) will tell you, there are two big ways you can approach pairing. Complimentary and contrasting. First of all, if you have a baltic porter, try it with some ice cream and chocolate syrup. If you have an English Porter and a fat wallet, try it with some sea scallops if you can cook them. Chances are, in America, there will not be a restaurant that serves a porter AND scallops. But fear not! They are easy to cook. Or turf it up and try steak with porter. Match up that smokey grill char with the smokey, roasty flavors in porter. Basically, anything grilled will work well, but it might serve you best doing this in winter. Summer just calls for a different beer for some reason (although Jamaica and Ireland may disagree). Again if you have a fat wallet, or a talented huntsmen, GOlly suggests Venison Sausage. In The Gourmet's Guide to Cooking with Beer, Alison Boteler suggests many things, including pears and mushrooms. I tried a roasted red pepper, caramelized onion & fresh thyme stuffed portabello mushroom cap, but was not satisfied. My suggestion-a burger with smokey cheese of any sort with mac and cheese that has caramelized onions, bacon, and thyme added to it. Just try that shit!

OK! There we go. A whole mess o' Porter info! Give me some comments ya'll.

Currently Reading-Designing Great Beers by Ray Daniels
Currently Listening-A Wilhelm Scream "Career Suicide" and Van Morrison "Still on Top"

Monday, January 24, 2011

Testify! But not like you think...

So there are a large amount of craft beer blogs blossoming out on the interwebs, especially since the craft industry is currently booming. Its awesome. But what is strange is that although it seems widespread, the retail craft beer market makes not even 10% of the whole beer market. Granted I am focused into the niche... However, what I have learned is that the small percentage of people who are into craft beer are really into craft beer. They are the vocal few and I want to join them. I've only been drinking beer for three years or so, but have been deep into beer for two of them. Interestingly enough, I found that my ability to understand different beer flavors grew as my understanding of new and different foods grew. 

What has really attracted me to this world is not just new and exciting flavors that I experience with each craft or home brew, but the people who are behind and excited about these brews. I find their enthusiasm to be contagious. I feel that the craft beer scene provides the one thing that scenes (music, movie, etc) pretty much never provide: an authentic sense of community. Beer people are out doing things and are so willing to share. The art and music scenes seem so exclusive, not to mention, extremely negative. I've found the craft beer community to be quite the opposite (granted there are some assholes in every bunch). I've met great people after only a couple of years in the "scene". Reciprocity comes to mind. So many people I've met have been so forthcoming with info to help you with whatever your goal is: brewing, tasting, experiencing, history etc. 

Without belaboring this too much, let me state what this blog will attempt: I want to share whatever I am doing, experiencing, learning, tasting, reading, traveling, whatever craft beer related with anyone who wants to listen or who is at a different point in the learning curve. I want to talk about it all. I want to share pics and stories, get a little crazy, swear as much as I want and do it as nicely as possible. Aaaaand hopefully the posts will be much more coherent and succinct as I get back in writing shape. I'll also be sharing at the end of every post what I'm reading, listening, watching, or drinking just because I wanna! Amen...or whatever!

Currently Watching: No Reservations
Currently Reading: Farmhouse Ales by Phil Markowski