Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Brew Better Beer is Out!

Brew Better Beer! It's here! It's real! It's happening! Go on and get yourself a copy, then brew yourself some awesome beer! Exclamation points for all!

But wait, there's more!

Over on The Kitchn, we're running our first Beer School - 20 days, 20 lessons, 7 assignments to teach you to brew your first batch of beer. We'll walk you through everything from shopping for equipment to brewing your first batch to bottling it up. It's all free, and you can sign up at any time. Head on over to The Kitchn and check it out:

Upcoming Brewing Events:

5/9 - Fremont Whole Foods: Beer Education Table from 12 to 2pm (3111 Mowry Ave Fremont CA 94538)

5/30 - Alameda Whole Foods: Kombucha Education Table from 11 to 2 (777 The Alameda, San Jose CA 95126)

6/6 - Omnivore Books: Brew Better Beer from 3 to 4pm (3885a Cesar Chavez St San Francisco CA 94131)

Happy brewing, everyone!

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Say Hello to Brew Better Beer!

Please allow me to introduce Brew Better Beer! We're a little over a month away from the May 5th release date, and I could be more excited to get this out to your hands and kitchens. I really have to give a huge high five to the folks over at Ten Speed, who (once again) did an incredible job of taking my raw manuscript and making it look so dang good. Some preview pages of the book are below — take a look!

If you'd like to preorder your very own copy, you can do so through these links — I also encourage you to go to your local independent bookstores and give them your business.

I also have some upcoming events in the Bay Area! Mark your calendars!

4/4 - Kombucha Demo at the Freemont Whole Foods

4/22 - Where Food, Publishing, and Technology Connect at the Oshman Family JCC in Palo Alto: A panel discussion with Cheryl Sternman Rule of 5 Second Rule and Michelle Tam of Nom Nom Paleo, and moderated by Dianne Jacob of Will Write For Food

5/9 - Beer Knowledge Demo at the Freemont Whole Foods: Come sample some beers and learn about the different styles!

5/30 - Beer Brewing Table at the Alemeda Whole Foods: The beer doctor is in! Stop by the table to talk homebrewing, sample some homebrews, and take a look at the equipment and ingredients needed for homebrewing.

6/6 - Brew Better Beer at Omnivore Books: I'll be talking with Celia Sack about homebrewing, writing Brew Better Beer, and a love for beer. Samples will be provided.

More events to come! Stay tuned!

A full step-by-step visual guide to beer brewing is at the start of the book - plus lots of written details for those of us who like words!
Every chapter starts with a "Very Good" beer - a basic recipe to build from, tweak, and riff

Yes! There are sour beers! Also, whole chapters on gluten-free beers, session beers, and lagers

One of my favs from the book. It tastes like boozy Girl Scout Cookies.
And between every chapter of recipes, there are essays that go into more of the nitty gritty details of brewing or provide some fun ideas for other things to try

Friday, November 7, 2014

Beer Tasting Notes: Lagunitas, Deschutes, Sam Adams and More

Born Yesterday Pale Ale from Lagunitas Brewing Company

I'm really laughing at myself right now. I've been racking my brain, trying to think of a good place to record my beer tasting notes — someplace handy so I can quickly access them when at the store and also where I can easily share them with fellow beer lovers. The app Untappd is decent, but I get annoyed by the character limit (I'm a wordy gal) and I find it difficult to find specific beers when I can't remember much about them beyond "that one beer? I had at that bar in San Francisco? Two months ago?"

After trying this and that and feeling frustrated with everything, I finally remembered that I have this blog here, a.k.a. the perfect spot to record notes, post pictures, and share my favorite beers with the world at large. Fancy! Also, yes, I'm a bit dense sometimes and I forget that blogs aren't just for talking about Big Important Things, but also for sharing small day-to-day things.

So let's try this: an occasional post of tasting notes on what I've been drinking and loving lately. Nothing fancy. Nothing too glamorous. Just some notes, clean and simple, and maybe a pretty picture or two. Sound fun? Let's go!

Smoking Wood from The Bruery

The Beer: Born Yesterday Pale Ale from Lagunitas Brewing Company
Date Tasted: 11/1/14
Brewery Notes: Lagunitas harvested fresh hops from Yakima Valley, dumped them un-kilned (so all the oils were preserved) in a batch of their regular pale ale. They also then bottled and delivered the beer within 24 hours for an optimally fresh experience. A feat to be sure!
Major Takeaway: Yes! So good! Find it now, love it asap!
Appearance: Clear light gold and very bubbly, nice cap of creamy soft foam
Aroma: SUPER aromatic — you can practically see it hanging over the glass like a cloud. Sweet hops, hop flower, citrus, marijuana (hee!), lemon candy, citrus zest, peach?, fresh fruit, tart
Taste: Light malts — biscuity/cracker-like. Rounded hop flavor present throughout. Good amount of straight-up hopitude — perfume, head-on bitterness, citrus pith — that also lingers on into the finish. Looooove how the aroma and the flavors come together as you sip.

The Beer: Hop Trip Pale Ale from Deschutes Brewery
Date Tasted: 10/30/14
Brewery Notes: Another fresh-hopped beer to celebrate the fall hop harvest!
Major Takeaway: Nicely bracing, very easy to drink
Appearance: Sunset orange and very clear with a long-lasting cap of off-white foam
Aroma: Fruity hops, sweet peach and lemon, a hit of fresh hop flower aroma (especially as it warms), heady and appealing
Taste: Super nice. Lots of hop flavor, but not aggressively bitter. Citrus pith bitterness hits mid-tongue and then lingers on into the finish. Lots of juicy orange and lemon flavors.

The Beer: Fat Jack Double Pumpkin Ale from Sam Adams
Date Tasted: 10/22/14
Brewery Notes: Special fall release with 28 pounds of pumpkin per barrel
Major Takeaway: A good one if you like pumpkin spice flavors and malty brews
Appearance: Clear russet with a fizzy cap of off-white foam
Aroma: Toasty malty, like wet leaves on a fall day (in the best possible way!)
Taste: Warm baking spices — very well-balanced and not too aggressive. Surprisingly full-bodied, almost syrupy, but just shy of cloying. Super smooth. Nutty, soft caramels, bread and winter baked goods. To be honest, I don't really taste "pumpkin" per se, but that's fine with me. Still a tasty brew on a chilly fall day.

The Beer: Smoking Wood from The Bruery
Date Tasted: 10/4/14
Brewery Notes: Imperial porter brewed with beachwood and cherrwood smoked malts, and aged in rye whiskey barrels.
Major Takeaway: Perfect after-dinner beer, especially for Thanksgiving
Appearance: Opaque brown/black, dark foam (almost purple!)
Aroma: Black strap molasses, tobacco/cigar, old leather, wet firewood, peat, burnt sugar
Taste: Less heavy than expected, which makes it very drinkable. Slick and so so so smooth. Like velvet. Tastes of burnt caramel, melted brown sugar, dried plums and figs, some nice oakiness and vanilla from the barrel-aging (maybe a tad too much for my taste? A bit tannic and drying). Alcohol warms the throat. The smokiness lingers in the aftertaste, otherwise the beer finishes very clean. Reminds me of dark fruit cake.

The Beer: Peach Porch Lounger (Lips of Faith Series) from New Belgium Brewing Company
Date Tasted: Beer was bottled September 2012; tasted 9/5/14
Major Takeaway: Perfectly tasty, but I was hoping for more funky Brett character
Appearance: Very clear, very warm gold color, super foamy head that settles down into a sticky film
Aroma: Funky, boozy, a bit sherry. Fruity, but not necessarily peach
Taste: I first tasted this right after it was bottled and wrote about it on The Kitchn — I liked it then, but was a little underwhelmed and hoped that some aging would develop its character. I meant to taste it after a year, but then forgot about it (as happens...) and just got around to tasting it now! This 2-year-old bottle has aged well. It's nicely crisp with a more rounded fruitiness than I remember in the younger beer. Lots of soft peach and stone fruit flavors. There's some barnyard funk from the Brett yeast, but I expected more after 2 years of aging. As it is, it's still a very pleasant, easy-drinking beer, perfect for splitting with a friend over a late lunch.

Peach Porch Lounger (Lips of Faith Series) from New Belgium Brewing Company

Problems With Homemade Ginger Ale or Orange Cream Soda? Let's Talk!

Image: Paige Green for Ten Speed Press/True Brews
Have you tried making the ginger ale or the orange cream soda from True Brews and are puzzled about why it won't fully carbonate? You're not alone! I've received a few emails over the past several months with questions about this, and after puzzling over it myself, I finally figured it out: it's not you, it's your water.

The chlorine in tap water can make life difficult for yeast and can interfere with fermentation. Most sodas are made with a large percentage of fruit juice, so the chlorine in the added tap water is rarely an issue. The ginger ale and the orange cream soda aren't so lucky — since they're made with mostly water, chlorine can become an annoyance. (If you've made either of these sodas and didn't have a problem, that's likely because your tap water is low in chlorine. This is the case with my own tap water and why I didn't catch the problem in testing — my sincere apologies on that!)

The solution is to use filtered water in these brews or dechlorinate your water before beginning (see page 14 in True Brews for info on dechlorinating water).

Thanks to everyone who emailed me about this and brought the issue to my attention! I'll be adding a note about using filtered or dechlorinated water for these two recipes in the next printing of True Brews. Happy brewing!

Saturday, August 30, 2014

San Diego Beer Bloggers Conference, Ahoy!

Stone Enjoy By IPA from Stone Brewing Co., enjoyed at Stone Brewing Co.'s Liberty Station Bistro

Last weekend was the 5th Annual Beer Bloggers Conference, held down in San Diego. Which sounds all official and shiny, but is really a not-so-secret excuse to get together with some awesome peeps and nerd out on beer for a weekend. And nerd out we did! Some highlights in the form of pictures and words:

Friday night, we took over the tap room at the Karl Strauss brewery. If you're into cornhole, you can play a game surrounded by aging barrels of Karl Strauss specialty brews and a view of the brewery. Up there, my pal Justin Williams from Dogfish Head and Ryan Arnold from Sierra Nevada duke it out, head to head. Awesome fun times. Thanks, Karl Strauss and co!

Saturday was the day for panel discussions and workshops and Very Serious Blogger Talk. Don't worry, we still managed to have a good time: 

Yes, this shot is the hotel conference room. Yes, we shared. That's the thing about a conference with a bunch of other beer-obsessed folks: beer is a given. Always. Bring your own sippy cup.

Lunch on Saturday was over at the San Diego Yard House, where they have over a hundred taps to choose from. Egads. Also, a little insider's secret: the Yard House's house beers at the San Diego location are actually contract brewed by Uinta Brewing and are not to be passed over. 

Dinner at Stone Brewing Co.'s Liberty Station Bistro was the highlight of the whole weekend. That place (and by "place," I more truly mean "campus") is amazing. Gardens, bocce ball courts, several dining rooms, and taps around every corner. It's enough to make your head 'splode. If you're ever in San Diego, please make sure a stop here is on your agenda. (And P.S. it's within walking distance of the San Diego airport, so next time you get stranded during a layover, make sure it's here.)

A version of Stone Brewing Co.'s Cali-Belgique, aged with sour cherries and marionberries. Wuddup.

Stone tapped a few special kegs for us and basically let us have the run of the place. Good times were had by all. Thanks, Stone!

And back at the hotel, we commenced with perhaps my most favorite part of the Beer Bloggers Conference: the off-the-record room parties. Shhh... 

Phenomenal beer. Ignore the cylon eyeball.
Believe it or not, I actually survived the weekend mostly vertical! What a fun time. It's a conference, there's tons of beer, but really, for me, this event is a chance to get together with a group of people who I truly love and admire, and share good beers. A few shout-outs to some of my favorite peeps:
Hopefully I haven't forgotten anyone. Please scold me if I have.

And last but not least, a few beer highlights from the weekend:

Krieky Bones from Firestone Walker Brewing Company: This is a sour beer at the top of its game. Tart cherries, sour pucker without tearing your tongue apart, easy drinking. 

Stone Enjoy By IPA from Stone Brewing Co.: This was my first time trying this beer, if you can believe it. It just shows how phenomenal fresh IPAs can really be. I will be seeking this one out more often, count on it.

Sour in the Rye (with Pineapple & Coconut) from The Bruery: Dear lord, I could use some time alone with this beer. It's another sour that hits all the right notes, plus a layer of pina colada goodness.

Black Tuesday from The Bruery: An imperial stout with a 19% ABV that goes down as smooth as chocolate. Yeah. This one will get you vertically-challenged in no time.

Devil's Kriek from Double Mountain Brewery: Another kriek that was hard to stop drinking. Sensing a theme? Yeah, the sours are the new IPA. Resistance is futile.

Hunahpu's Imperial Stout from Cigar City Brewing: Raisins and cherries and dark chocolate. So much goodness in one bottle.

There were more (so many more), but these were definitely the stand-outs of the weekend. I already can't wait for next year. Until then, nerd out with your pinkies out, y'all: