Evaluating the non-alcohol side of home-brew

Once upon a time it was thought that non-alcoholic historical beverages were not as ambitious brewing entries as their fermented counterparts. As additional research continues to emerge in this arena, we are learning that not only is this not true but the depth and versality of such drinks are near endless. Non-alcoholic beverages include those that are fermented items that have an alcohol content lower than .05% ( such as natural sodas, small beers, and root beers), shrubs, teas, coffees, and syrups.

Adding to the complexity of their creations, there are a whole slew of challenges that non-fermenting brewers must conquer such as shelf life and preservation. These elements and how the brewer overcome them should not be discounted.

Currently in the Middle Kingdom, non-alcoholic beverages fit into the Specialty Beverages Category with the hope that one day there are enough interest to dictate their own category. As with all beverage/brewing items they must fulfill some generic requirements including:

  • Listing herbs and spices with their Latin botanical names.
  • Complying with the Prohibited and Restricted Herbs List.
  • Copy of the recipe used including quantities and methods used.
  • Supplying materials to assist the judge to better evaluate the beverage (appropriate glasses, white tablecloth, candles, a palate cleanser such as lemon slices or unsalted crackers, water, and bottle with openers).

When judging a non-alcoholic brew I always recommend first reading the documentation to make sure the brewer has included:

  • WHO would have drunk the beverage
  • WHAT time frame does this beverage come from
  • WHEN would they be drinking the beverage ( holidays, time of the day, with meals, ext.)
  • HOW would they drink the item ( mixed, straight, in what type of glass).

Then I look to see if they have

  • Sources ( primary, secondary, ext)
  • Listed methods
  • Reasons WHY they chose the methods they chose.

When it comes to methods in brewing, there is a distinct decision between deciding to use sanitary practices and period elements. If the brewer has chosen more modern methods such as modern sanitation agents and cooking procedures, do they list or discuss their knowledge of the historical equivalents? If so, and they can easily justify their choices (and knowledge of medieval equivalent), then they should not be docked points in the method category UNLESS their choice would change the final product. Always remember the end goal of everything we do in the medieval brewing recreation world is to produce beverages that look, feel, or taste authentic to the intended time period or culture AND create items that people want to drink.

After you look at the methods and materials section, you can start to look at the overall scope and ambition of the project. To score this section, look at if they used pre-prepared or processed ingredients ( lower points) as compared to raw ingredients ( higher points). How many times they tried out various recipes or taste tested the items in the process ( the more variations they tried, the higher the points), as well as how many steps the recipe calls for, ext.

Once through the documentation it is time to be rewarded by trying the beverage.  Always start by looking at the beverage in the bottle. Hold it up to the light ( this is why the entrant has to supply a candle), can you see sediment in the bottle when it should be clear? Or is it perfectly clear when sediment should be present? Is the color of the item true to what it should be? If your not familiar with the attributes and qualities you should be looking for, ask the brewer or look in the documentation.

Pour the brew into a glass and once again hold it up to the light to check the clarity and the color. Smell the beverage. Does it smell like you think it should? For example, if it is a blueberry shrub it should have elements of a vinegar and blueberry smell. Does the beverage have off smells that should not be there? Next taste the beverage by taking a small sip and letting it sit on your tongue before you swallow. How is the body for the type of beverage? For example a syrup will have a fuller body than a shrub or tea. What are the general flavors and sugar balance like? Remember to judge to the TYPE of beverage the brewer was creating and not to your own palette. After you have taken a sample drink, check out the presentation. Is it appropriate to the drink being offered? If the item is in a bottle this would include making sure the bottle was properly filled and stored with appropriate labeling. If the drink is setup in a presentation method such as a pitcher, is the presentation appropriate to the type of drink and culture where it would have been available? Does the presentation transport you back to the appropriate culture? After you look at all the previous skill areas, go back and evaluate your palate. Was there any unpleasant lingering tastes or aftertaste?

Sit back and enjoy the beverage while you judge Ingenuity and the Judges Observations. Ingenuity is where you look at the entire project. Did they find creative and resourceful ways to create a period beverage? Was the entire process from research, interpretation, vision, and final project successful? In judge’s observation is where you share your own private and personal preferences. What did you like? What would you like to see again? What would you like to see next time?

Just as in judging traditional beverages, always make sure to judge to what the entrant was trying to achieve. I prefer my non-alcoholic beverages more syrup like and less vinegary, however I would never dock a shrub or sekanjabin for being too acidic.

When you look at the non-alcoholic beverage as a whole, including documentation, experimentation, process, and final beverage it  easily demonstrates just how complex these beverages can be.

Not so simple drinks for a Simple Day Feast

The Drunken Duck was set up as an avenue to highlight historical brews and give homebrewers across the Middle Kingdom ( and sometimes the Known World) a chance to share their historical creations.

Therefore when a supporter and wife of one of our contributors asked if we could donate some historical brews to an Irish Feast she was constructing, we just HAD to say yes.

Liadan, the Feast’s creator and Steward put together an amazing 4 course Irish Feast, so we just didn’t want to put some ale or meade on the table and be done with it. Instead we tried to create a sampling of historical brews, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic to go with each of the course.

Information for medieval Irish beverages are incredibly limited, though we know that milk and oat based drinks played a large component. However, we really did not just want to put down milk or buttermilk and call it a day, so we turned to Irish literature for influences.

The Vision of Viands
Wine in well rose sparkling,
Beer was rolling darkingly
Bragget brimmed the pond.
Lard was oozing heavily
Merry malt moved wavily
Through the floor beyond.

For the rest of the drink menu we relied on generic period techniques, humors, and some of our go to favorites.

    • The drink menu we came up with is:
      First Course: The Salmon of Knowledge

    • Alcoholic: A selection of Hot and Dry hypocras Liquors to stoke the stomach’s furnace
    • Non Alcoholic: A Hot and Dry Ginger syrup to keep the stomach’s fire burning.
        Second Course: An Dagda’s Boar
    • Alcoholic: A traditional gruit slightly spiced with rosemary, thyme and lavender. 3.5%
    • Non Alcoholic: An garden syrup of apples and mint to accompany the homegrown greens in the course.
        Third Course: Fionn Mac Cumhall’s First Hunt
    • Alcoholic: White Rose Wine pétillant-naturel in a sweet in young style.
    • Non Alcoholic: Rose Water Syrup to keep the appitite strong.
        Fourth Course: Smeara agus Cno
    • Alcoholic: Blackberry Hazelnut Honey Whiskey Cordial to add a kick to the Pudding.
    • Non-Alcoholic:  Spiced Barley Water to soothe the stomach after a fabulous meal.

With 4 courses, 100+ people present and some of the drinks hitting as high as 20% abv, it just was not feasible to give each person their own bottle of homebrew. Therefore, each table will be given a bottle, so they can wet their whistle and try out the medieval beverages, with additional bottles at the bar in case people would like a little extra. Unfortunately, most people only really pack 8 ounce cups for feasts, which would have been way too large for a majority of the sampling, so we are donating over 80 hand painted 2 oz tasting cups to every person who is attending the feast.span style=”

For those who are partaking in the non-alcoholic beverages, though they can be tasted by themselves, they are far more enjoyable mixed with water, milk, carbonated water, or other non-alcoholic beverages. Water, ice-tea, and lemonade are all being provided by Liadan and her feast team. However we will have carbonated water available at the bar for anyone who would like a little bubble to their homebrew.

Per SCA Policy on Liquor (VIII)

Manufacturing, distributing, selling, serving, or furnishing of alcoholic beverages by the SCA or its branches or subdivisions is prohibited within the United States and its territories. The use of any SCA funds for the purchase of potable alcohol, except for such quantities as may be necessary for cooking, is prohibited in the United States and its territories. Officers are not prohibited from serving alcohol; however, it must be done as individuals, and not as part of their official duties as officers.

Therefore, ALL ingredients used in the creation of the homebrews and the homebrews themselves are donations by The Drunken Duck and it’s contributors. In addition, all drinking vessels being gifted to those present are also donations by the Drunken Duck due to the kind support and appreciation of the Drunken Duck supporters. In order to consume any alcohol supplied by the Drunken Duck, everyone must be of legal drinking age with an ID. A limited number of special “under 21” sampling vessels will be provided.

As with all Drunken Duck events, all drink offerings are available as a donation. Of course financial donations are always greatly appreciated as that just allows the Drunken Duck to organize and brew more medieval beverages.

Legs & Head of a Good Brew

With terms like Head, Body, and Legs you could be talking about a beauty contest- but in these terms we are looking for the finest glass of homebrew you can imagine. From Absence of off odors to Taste appropriate to type, here are some of the brewing terms used most often in SCA and modern world judging.

Components  •   Mouth Feel  •   Smell  •   Taste  •   Other  •   “Off” Flavors

The full class notes (pdf version) can be found here.

Components

  • Acid- Detectable presence of sourness normally in wine
  • Alcohol- Detectable presence of ethanol in the beverage
  • Carbonation-Fizz due to CO2
  • Clarity-Quality of being clear. Lack of sediment
  • Color-The pigmentation of the liquid within the brew
  • Head Quality-The foam quality on the top portion of the beverage
  • Hop Characteristic-Bitterness and aroma from hops if used/
  • Lacing-Pattern left by the head as it moves down the glass
  • Legs-A visible indicator of a drinks weight

Feel

  • Body-Texture or viscosity in the mouth
  • Finish-The feel and the taste in the mouth after the liquid has left the mouth
  • Tannin-The dry feeling in the mouth.

Smell

  • Aroma-Components perceived by the nose of both scent and flavor
  • Bouquet-A characteristic or particular scent

Taste

  • Aftertaste-Lingering flavor after the liquid has left the palate
  • Flavor- Taste
  • Sugar- Amount of sweetness or taste of the sweetening agent
  • Sugar/Alcohol Balance-Sweetness to ethanol balance
  • Sweet/Dry balance-Sweet to non-sweet balance as determined by the beverage type
  • Sweetness-Noticeability of the sugars
  • Taste-Sensation of flavor as perceived in the mouth and throat

Other

  • Presentation-The manner in which the beverage is displayed
  • Documentation-The history of beverage type as well as the creation process

“Off” Flavors or Odors

  • Acetaldehyde-Grassy, Acetic
  • Alcoholic- Hot, Spicy, Vinous, Warming or Burn in throat
  • Astringent-Dry, High Tannin, Puckering
  • Bitterness-Felt on back on tongue and roof of mouth
  • Buttery-Mouthfeel, slickness on palate, butterscotch
  • Cardboard- Stale bread, cardboard, wet paper. Wood like aftertaste
  • Cooked Corn-Vegetable or oyster like flavoring
  • Fruitness-Esters or any fruit like flavoring
  • Light Body-Water or weak
  • Grassy-Fresh cut grass
  • Grainy-Spent grain, starchy, cereal like
  • Phenoli- Plastic or medicinal
  • Musty: Earthy, musty, cellar like
  • Sourness: Tart, Sour, Vinegar like
  • Solvent Like: Pungent, harsh, acetone like
  • Sulfury: rotten eggs, burnt rubber,
  • Sweet: Sugary, Syrupy

Raktajino

I am a huge Nerd and an even larger Star Trek Fan. I grew up watching Next Generation and Deep Space Nine with my family, and now that I am an adult I love the Star Trek reboot movies and watching reruns of all the series on Neflix. Yes, I do own a Bajoran earring, have a majority of the Hallmark Star Trek Ornaments, and even have a Next Generation vintage Com Badge from the 90s.

So when I needed to mix up a liquor with a Space theme I turned to my tried and true Star Trek.

Now granted there are tons of Star Trek cookbooks and drinking guides out there; however, I wanted to really due homage to one of my favorite series so I figured I would create my own liquor.

When it comes to Star Trek themed drinks, there really are a plethora of drinks that come out of the replicators and everyone who ever watched NG knows that Captain Picard loves his earl grey tea.

I decided to see if I could do proper homage to the Klingon Raktajino. The way the crew of Deep Space nine drinks down Raktajino you would assume it was just a really strong coffee or chicory based blend, but is actually a blend of coffee and a Klingon liqueur called ra’tajRaktajino is normally served steamed or iced and has even been described as “like drinking an oil slick” but without the tangy aftertaste.

After I decided I wanted to make my own Raktajino I went searching for any reference I could about it, and also went researching the dietary customs of the Klingons…. Needless to say I don’t think I will be eating at any Klingon restaurants anytime soon.

There were a few elements I know I wanted to include in my Raktajino liquor. I wanted it strong alcohol wise, a very strong coffee flavor, salty/smoke elements, non-bitter, not-cloying or sweet, and STRONG.

I started with the coffee. When incorporating coffee into any beverage you will want to use the best coffee possible. If you use cheap coffee you will get a cheap light flavor, and coffee that has a burnt or over-processed flavor will make your drinks taste burnt. If you use instant coffee your brew will be done quicker but will taste just as bad as instant coffee.

Since I wanted to create the best coffee liquor I could, I started with the best coffee there is- Rising Star CoffeeRising Star Coffee is a Cleveland based coffee roasters whose coffee is so fresh and non-bitter it is the only coffee I can drink without cream and sugar.

I used a cold press process using vodka. That’s right, I cold pressed using straight vodka- how’s that for strong?  I left the rough ground coffee beans (1lb per 1.75 ml of vodka) sit for 3 days to extract as much of the coffee oils and flavors as possible. While that was sitting I took 1 cup of dark molasses and thinned it with 1 cup vodka and 1 tsp of smoked salt.

This is where the previous Star Trek research came in handy- a majority of Klingon food comes from the equivalent of a salt based environment- Racht, krada legs, octopus, etc.; so I knew this was an element I really wanted to add into the beverage.

People have been adding in salt to beverages since the Greeks (if not before) in order to highlight the other flavors. Salt also opens up the molecules of the ingredients in a brew allowing them to blend more thoroughly.  Most importantly, it is  known to counteract the after taste of more bitter items- and the last thing we want is a bitter coffee liquor.

After letting sit for 3 days I strained the grounds from the vodka and then using a bit of fresh vodka pressed out as much essential oils as I could in my French press. I mixed in the vodka molasses mixture and added in an additional ¼ cup buckwheat honey. Let this mixture sit for another 24 hours in order for any remaining spare sediment to sink to the bottom and rack like you would any beer or mead.

What I ended up with was a very STRONG coffee liquor with just enough sweetness to cut the burn from the vodka but not enough to make it sweetened. The smoked salt adds just a slight amount of tang on your tongue and everything combined gives you a drink to put hair on your chest, wake you, and ready to do battle.

Besides looking incredibly geeky displayed on your bar, this is a liquor that would be amazing added to cold coconut milk or cream, over ice cream or even added to a hot cup of water with cinnamon and sugar added to it.I have also thrown a splash in my morning shakes when I ran out of coffee flavoring and added a shot to a milk stout for an extra kick of coffee flavoring.

Maumee Bay Brewing Company

Over Easter I found myself away from home teaching a weekend long workshop in Toledo, Ohio. On Sunday, before heading home, I figured I would try myself to some Easter Beer (and some food) at a local brewpub.
I asked around for recommendations and surprisingly heard only crickets. I found it hard to believe that a town bordering two great craft brewing states would not have an enormous collection of brewpub choices.

After a little more social media prodding I decided to check out Maumee Brewing Company. Luckily, not only were they open on Easter Sunday, but they had a special Easter Sunday menu highlighting some of their regular items but with a down-home holiday feel.

Though I am only about a 2-hour drive from Toledo, I know fairly little about the city, and I know less about Maumee Brewing Company. Granted, the streets of Toledo were quite bare being a religious holiday; however, driving up to Maumee Brewing Companies restaurant had me just a little worried… The area was deserted and the part of town seemed like it had had better days (or was in the process of having a better day). In contrast the very large building that Maumee Brewing calls home was clean, bright, and very welcoming (but once again very deserted). I am glad there were ample signs pointing me where to go as there is a Café, a Brewpub, a steakhouse, a sports bar and lounge, and a banquet hall (some of which were closed) all in the same building. I finally found an employee in the massive building who guided me to the brewpub area.

I don’t enjoy sitting at the bar by myself, but I also didn’t want to monopolize one of their larger tables, so when they seated me at the bar I just went with it. Luckily for me the bartender, Lexi, was incredibly welcoming and efficient. I saddled up to my bar stool, pulled out a book and settled in for a relaxing holiday meal.

For dinner, they had a special “Root Beer Glazed Ham w/ pretzel stuffing and honey glazed carrots”. Everything food wise was spot on and their pretzel stuffing was so amazing if I ever find myself in the area again I will most certainly get their pretzels as an appetizer.

When it comes to their brews it was a little hit and miss. It was early in the afternoon so I wanted a lighter beer. I went with their Glass City Pale Ale which boasts citrus and grapefruit notes. The A.B.V. comes in at a respectable 5.7% and I.B.U. 37. The website claims that this pale ale is “dangerously drinkable on a warm day” which is a statement I would totally agree with. Quite honestly this is the way I would like all my American pale ales to taste; Light with a very prominent grapefruit front end, hoppy middle notes and a clear finish. I ranked this beer a 4 out of 5 on Untappd.

I couldn’t leave with just tasting one beer so I figured I would try out the Coffee Cream Ale. As much as I liked the Glass City Pale Ale, I did NOT like the Coffee Cream Ale. It was heavy on the coffee and there was an element of “something else” I could not put my finger on. With “Coffee” in the title I expected something dark and creamy, and this turned out to be a much lighter cleaner beer than expected. With so much coffee flavor it almost felt like they used an artificial coffee flavor, so I was surprised to find out they actually did a cold steep post ferment process (which still makes me wonder how they got the beer so light in color). Quite honestly I don’t really enjoy cream sodas, and I didn’t like this. However, if you like cream sodas and love coffee more than I do (which I don’t know is humanly possible) you might enjoy the Coffee Cream Ale. A.B.V. 5.2% I.B.U. 22 I ranked this beer a 2.5 out of 5 on untapped.

The best advice I could give to someone visiting Maumee Brewing company is to get one of their samplers and try each of the beers before deciding on their drink of choice. While you are there you MUST stay for the food. Where the beers offerings have both good and bad all the food was to die for and all the employees were efficient and friendly.

Only Brew What You Like

You would think that this would be a serious no-brainer. We like beer; therefore, we brew beer. But then comes the holidays and you try to find an economical gift you can brew for 40 of your closest friends. One day after a cookout you find yourself with 3 extra watermelons and no enough hot pewter to fill them. Or you have a keg fail on you, causing you to find a way to quickly use up 5 gallons of a slightly flat ale.

Needless to say this is potentially the hardest brewing rule for me to follow and I am constantly stuck in a situation where I find I don’t like the type of item I am brewing.

It’s easy to say that I don’t have to drink it and I can just gift the final product away, but in all honesty it comes down to a quintessential point much larger then me not wanting to consume said alcohol.

When all is said and done and the wort has boiled down it comes to one point- You really can’t adequately judge how “good” something is if you don’t enjoy it.

Take me and IPA’s- I don’t like the floral bitter aftertastes of Pale Ales and Imperial Pale Ales makes my mouth feel like it walked into a perfume counter and was sprayed down by every tester in sight.

Yes, I could try to make an IPA for all my friends who enjoy it.

Yes – can make a hoppy, bitter, moderately strong American pale ale with a dryish finish, fresh hop aroma and a Medium-sized, white to off-white head with good persistence.

But can I make it good? I can’t guarantee that because how do I know what is good? As a homebrewer who doesn’t drink IPA’s I don’t think I can adequately judge when something is good, great, friggin fantasilicious or really bad.

This past holiday season I had a friend make a really lovely perfect example of a Christmas Ale for my birthday in one of the kegs he had borrowed. Unfortunately, the seal went bad on the keg and we couldn’t carbonate it. I took the beer home and planned on bottling it, giving it away for holiday gifts- but in good conscience couldn’t give it away without doctoring it a bit. I ended up taking this now flat slightly spiced Christmas Ale- fortified it and increased the spices and re-bottled it- Except for the fact that I HATE spiced beers. Seriously I think there are few things worse than dumping cinnamon into a beer.

So what do I do? I add in cinnamon, cloves, allspice you know all the mulling spices you are supposed to add to holiday beverages. I re-carbonated it and bottled it. I tried some and it wasn’t bad but it wasn’t my cup of tea (or in this case pint of beer). I gifted bottles to friends for Christmas.

I honestly thought that the reason it wasn’t great was because I don’t like spiced beers- and you know what? The reason I didn’t like it was because it was not that good of a beer.

If it had been something I enjoyed or choose to drink regularly I would have been able to say “This is not that great, MAYBE I should not gift this”. If it had been a cordial, meade, or even a stout I would have figured out that MAYBE it tastes off NOT because of the style but because I put to much allspice in there (which I think I did) .

So now I have about 3 dozen bottles of a booze I don’t enjoy drinking taking of space in my little apartment. I WONT give anymore away because I don’t think they are up to my standards, I WONT drink them because I don’t like them and I won’t throw them away because I am a cheapskate (Spiced beer jelly maybe? Roasted good marinade?)
So today’s lesson is to follow your instinct and ONLY brew things you actually enjoy.

Reviews Destihl Brewery (Or a GOSEing we will go)

I have made it a goal for 2016 to stop going to chain restaurants if I can at all help it. This is mainly for two reasons: 1.) I want to support local businesses over larger conglomerations 2.) I want to drink good beer at brew pubs whenever (and wherever) humanly possible.

So when I found myself in Champagne-Urbana for a weekend event I asked around for some brewpub recommendations. A good friend and fellow brewer pointed me towards DESTIHL RESTAURANT & BREW WORKS for serving decent food and drinkable brews.

DESTIHL’s restaurant is not your grandfather’s pub- it boasts packed seats, a large college clientele (not surprising in a college town), a candle lit atmosphere and a “hip” menu.

This “gastrobrew” pub is riding a very close line between being a “culinary” destination and trying just a little too hard. However, I am here to review the brews, not the restaurant (although our servers were pretty awesome and made up for some of the almost yuppy atmosphere of the place).

Instead of a flight option they had 4 oz samples available ranging from $1.25-2.75, which I actually appreciated as we could choose as many or as few samples as we wanted. In contrast, something I did not appreciate was that these samples did not come with any way to easily identify one from another. Over the course of the night I think I had to ask my server a half a dozen times what each beer was.

The first beer (and my date’s favorite beer) was the Privyet Russian Imperial Stout. Privyet, which is Russian for ʻhiʼ or ʻheyʼ, is one of their award-winning beers. DESTIHL’s classifies it as a bourbon barrel ale, even though this beer isnʼt aged in oak barrels. They say you can’t notice, but I think you can, as some of the notes come across as burnt as compared to barell aged. They also pride themselves in this being a more hoppy imperial stout, and I have to agree – in the terms that I found it just a little more hoppy then I enjoy in my stouts. The thing they got right was the mouthfeel; this is a smoooooooth beer. It is incredibly rich and creamy and if you enjoyed caramelized burnt hops this is a great beer for you. 12.4% ABV and a solid 4 ranking by others on Untappd.  I would give this beer a 3.75, meaning I wouldn’t buy it to keep it in my fridge but I would drink it when I went out if that is what I was in the mood for.

Next up was the Roggenbier, a German style rye. Basically if a red and Belgium mated this would be their offspring: an unfiltered red. Traditionally Roggenbier’s are older (as in medieval) rye beers made from 50% barley malt and then equal portions wheat and rye malts. They are low in hops and usually unfiltered (which is what gives you the Belgium taste). I applaud DESTIHL’s for choosing beer styles that are not the norm and this Roggenbier is not a bad example of the style even though it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea (or pint of beer). 5.7% ABV and a 3.5 ranking on Untappd. I would give it a 3 (OK. Drinkable if there is nothing else. Would not buy a six pack.) because I think it was just to reminiscent of a red beer that happened to be unfiltered over being a true roggenbier

The Black Cherry Stout neither tasted like black cherries or really a stout. It has very little cherry taste to it and it almost seemed liked a dark colored sour beer than a stout. I am calling it a black cherry stout as that is what the server called it (the menu it was listed as just black cherry). At 7.2 ABV this had so few cherry undertones it was one of the beers I had to keep asking the server what it was. Untappd members gave it a 3.5 and I think that is really generous as there was so little good I could write about in the beer. It was not vile, but it was lacking anything really stellar so I had to give it a 2.5 (a 2 means it’s not good and I would prefer to not drink. Would never spend money on it.) In this case I am glad I only spent $1.40 on it.

It wouldn’t be hard to beat the black cherry but luckily our next brew the Farmhouse Double Stout was a decent stout. The Farmhouse Double was just a tad bit harsh on the end but not enough to not drink it. Overall it was mellow with a slight coffee flavor. It also came in at a very strong 9.3% ABV that could easily sneak up on you. Untappd users gave it a 4 and on this one I would agree with them except for the fact that besides being a good decent stout there was nothing that said I must drink this again- therefore I learned towards my 3.5 rating

Now if you are thinking there was nothing really fabulous happening at DESCTIHLS, don’t worry I saved the best for last. I am a hard critic when it comes to sour beers. I either love them or I find them to be the most vile, repulsive thing a brewer can create. Therefore I am always just a tad surprised when I find a sour I really enjoy. Always eager to give sours a chance I went for the DESTIHL’s Wild Sour Series in their Smoked Gose. Now, most regular beer drinkers might not be familiar with Gose beers as they are not ones brewed regularly or found in a six pack at the quickie mart. A Gose is a an old German beer style with a low hop factor, spice from coriander and salt.

SALT?!?!?!?!

Yes Salt! Salt was a common early brewing ingredient used for a plethora of reason from stopping the yeast in a beer from over processing  to changing the flavor of sour bad beers and vinegar like wines. It is easy to over salt any home-brew so it is not one many people try. The salt is DESTIHL’s Smoked Gose is a combination of smoked sea salt and mesquite-smoked malt. I found the Smoked Gose not heavy on the smoked flavor or heavy on the sour. The only thing I regret on the Smoked Grose is that I had a 4 oz sampling instead of a pint. If you have never tried a gose before I recommend DESTIHL’s Smoked Gose. At only 6% ABV, it is an easy Rauchbier (think smoked Octoberfest beer) to enjoy. Try the sample size first, just in case smoked beers, sours or salt in your beer is not the flavors you enjoy. Me? I gave this one an easy 4.5 ( as compared to Untappd’s 3.5- I blame the style of the beer not the beer itself)

Overall I appreciate DESTIHL’s attempt to create beers most breweries aren’t and overall every one we tried was drinkable, even if some of them were not noteworthy. The food portions were good sized and really well done. I would recommend DESTIHL’s for anyone in the Champagne-Urbana area. Though I would try it again if I was in the area, I don’t think this would ever be a regular go to place as I like to feel relaxed in my brew pubs and I found DESTIHL’s was trying just a little to hard to achieve “something” – which is a shame, as I found their food and beers solid.

Mixed Drinks Hot Buttered What Ever You Want To Put In There

it’s not surprising that National Buttered Rum day falls on January 17th; it’s just far enough away from the Holidays that the cheer is dwindling, yet still during the bitter cold of winter, where a warm drink is a much needed comfort.

However, the fans of Hot Buttered Rum are few and far between, and many think that there are simply far better warm alcoholic drinks out there to enjoy. I can honestly say that I am one who usually falls into this category; typically it is either too oily or too full of the wrong kind of Rum.

Hot Buttered Rums are a tricky beast.

You see, the number one complaint when it comes to Hot Buttered Rum drinks is, that a main component is butter; that when melted, leaves an oily residue on the surface of the drink. This is usually neither appetizing, nor appealing.

The idea basically comes down to the question:

Why would you ever want to drink melted butter anyways?

The answer to that lies in its history and its purpose in the drinking world.

The first mention of “Buttered Rum” goes back somewhere to around the 17th century in colonial America, but the idea of “butter” or fattening agents in alcohol drinks goes much farther back.

One of the oldest forms of adding a fat source to a warmed alcoholic drink goes back as far as the 14th century in a Caudle. In this case, the fat source was an egg… See, caudles are customary made of  warm ale or wine mixed with bread, eggs, sugar, and spices. By adding extra fat and calories (from the sugar), the drinker would receive extra nourishment and extra warmth.

That is the key to this type of drink. During the middle ages, many could use whatever warmth they could get; whether it be from a warm drink or putting a few extra pounds on their bones. Even now, it is recommended to add a little bit of butter to hot chocolate to keep you warm on chilly camping nights.

Eggs weren’t the only fat source that people would add to warm alcoholic drinks. It was sometime around the 16th century they started to add warm cream or curdled milk to their alcohol. A posset is a drink made of hot milk with ale, wine, or liquor and typically flavored with spices. Most often, due to the acid content of the ale or wine, the milk would become curdled in the process. Sometimes an egg or egg white was added, and sometime it was just the warm cream mixed with sugar and then the alcohol. Possets were a common and very popular drink all the way through the 18th century.

Shortly after Possets were popular came the Syllabub. The syllabub is a whipped cream dessert (once again, usually with eggs or eggs white added) typically flavored with  a warm white wine or sherry.

That brings us back to the Hot Buttered Rum, because some of the best tasting hot buttered rums come from family recipes that creates an ice cream like base and freezes it until you are ready to put it in your hot rum. After all, ice cream is made up of eggs, cream and sugar… the same ingredients in syllabubs and possets.

I personally have a problem with this technique for two reasons. The first reason, would be that when you add cold ice cream to hot rum it makes a melted ice cream mess that I can honestly say that I am NOT a fan of. The second reason I don’t recommend this is because it calls for you to heat the rum, which will start to burn off part of the alcohol.

Instead, I recommend creating an almost  pre-caramel sauce of melted butter, BROWN sugar, cinnamon and apple pie spice. Normally, you would add some warm water to this mix but I recommend adding cider and your rum of CHOICE.

In my opinion, the three keys to a good hot buttered rum are to make sure you use brown sugar instead of white sugar, warmed cider, and to make sure you use a rum you enjoy. Why should you use the cider instead of water? Because it helps to add body to the drink and mixes well (really well) with the butter. Also by adding cider instead of water you are less likely to notice any potential residual unappetizing greasy sheen on the top of the drink.

Finally and most importantly, make sure you choose a rum you enjoy. White rum, dark rum, or spiced rum it honestly doesn’t matter as long as you enjoy it. And if you are like me and really don’t enjoy the taste of rum, substitute in some bourbon.

And if you would like to share similar portions of what I enjoy when I make my hot buttered “something” drink —

  • 1 sm. slice soft butter ( no more than ½ tbsp. worth)
  • 1 tbsp. brown sugar
  • shake of cinnamon and a tsp of pumpkin or apple pie seasoning
  • 2 oz. hot cider (and a little extra to fill your mug)
  • 2 oz. rum

Warm the butter till melted and add in the brown sugar and spices. Heat on low heat till melted and mixed. Add in 2 ounces of apple cider ( or juice if you don’t have cider). Heat until warm, and by warm that means before bubbling but after where you can no longer comfortably put your finger in it. Remove from heat and pour into your favorite mug. Finally add in 2 ounces of your favorite rum or other alcohol. If you have extra space in your cup feel free to add extra warm cider. Enjoy!!

Cleveland Brewfest

This particular Sunday morning started with drinking a cup of coffee and logging the 23 different brews I tried at Cleveland’s BeerFest the night before.

To those who follow my twitter feed, it must have seemed odd to see me hammering back so many different beers so early on a Sunday… Looking back at it, at only 5 ounces per sample (a little less than half a bottle) 23 beers is quite impressive… that equals about 10 beers for the night. Though truth be told, I had no issue not finishing my brews prior to getting a new one or flat out tossing the worse in the bunch; so my total bottle of beer count is probably closer to 5 or 6…bu still impressive for a girl my size.

Case in point, about 4 years ago at Chicago’s Beer Under Glass, I learned of the horrors of 5 Rabbits, probably some of the worse beers I had tried to that point in my life. I now try to stay very clear of 5 Rabbits, though I am hopelessly in love with their name. I figure I will give them 1 more year of isolation before I go back and give them a chance, just in case their beers have improved.And to me that is the point of places like BeerFest; to try as many brews as possible, finding the winners in the bunch, and staying away from the losers.

However, I digress, let’s get back to Cleveland’s BeerFest. It was easy to spot those who were there to get sloshed, those who were there to be cool, those dragged along by their spouse, and those who were serious about beer. The later group normally had one of the maps and beer list, and some even sported a clipboard  to take notes. I like to consider myself in this group, and though I tucked my beer list into my pocket, I definitely took notes of all the beers I tried.

There were some real winners in the tastings (Ink by Rhinegeist Brewery, Albino Stout by Cleveland Brewing Company, and North County Milk Bourbon to just name a few), some that were ok, and some that could only be described as epically bad (Magic Hat Seasonal Single Chair and Rivertown Sour).I choose brews from breweries I had not tried before, and on the few occasions I revisited a brewery, I made sure to try something entirely new. I tried to properly plan, and knew which beers I didn’t want to try (mostly IPA’s, though I did end up trying a few) and which ones I couldn’t try (I’m allergic to grapefruit). I ended up just going with the flow of the beer tasting ambia I was with. Honestly I am ok with this, as it allowed me to try even more beers and styles than I would normally choose for myself.

When it comes to rankings I have a very easy to remember scale.

  • 5- Favorite Beers
  • 4.5- Would buy and drink when I wanted to have something I wanted to enjoy.
  • 4- Good Drinkable Beer. On the list of beers I would buy at the grocery store or at a pub.
  • 3- Ok. Drinkable if there is nothing else. Would not buy a six pack.
  • 2- Not good. Would prefer to not drink. Would never spend money on it.
  • 1- Nope. Not Going to Do it. I would rather drink a Bud Light.

Here are reviews of 17 of the beers I tried at Cleveland Beerfest 2016.

Score Brewery Name Style ABV Notes
 5  Rhinegeist Brewery  Ink Stout  10% A really great solid stout. Not too bitter, not too sweet. What Guinness wants to be when it grows up. Also at 10% you really don’t need more than one or two.
 4.25  Maumee Bay  5 hole Dunkle Weizen  5.3  A solid winterstyle DunkleWeizen.
 4.25 Maumee Bay Total Eclipse Breakfast Stout Double Stout  9.1 A good smooth very hearty oatmeal stout with a good combination of lactose.
 4  Arbor Blonde Blonde Ale/Herb Spiced  5.5 A little heavy on the honey, but as I like honey I enjoyed it. A nice light blonde that would be perfect for summer drinking.
 4  Arbor Phat Abbot Tripel Trippel  10 Strong (even for a Belgian Tripel), but good.
 4  North County Station 33 Firehouse Red Red  5.5 Normally reds are not my drink of choice, but I liked the North County’s Red. As I can say it’s a red I enjoy, and that’s pretty high praise.
 2  Magic Hat Single Chair Blonde  5% Tastes like Bud Light without the flavor. Honestly, just have a glass of water.
 3  Magic Hat Raspberry Stout Stout  7.5% A little heavy-handed on the raspberry. A good stout, but I doubt you could drink more than one or two before the sweet raspberry gets too much.
 1 Rivertown Divergent Berliner Weisse  3.8% Sours are hard beers to do and you have to like sours to enjoy them. I like sours, but something went wrong in Rivertown’s sour…Like really bad. Like the whole thing turned to vinegar bad. I don’t know if that is their recipe or the batch, but there is no way I would have ever served it as it was.
 2 DuClaw Double Naked Fish Imperial Chocolate Raspberry  8% Way too bitter, even for an imperial.
 2.5 DuClaw For Petes Sake Imperial Peanut butter Porter  8% Better than the Double Naked Fish, but there is an offputting burnt (not smokey – burnt) taste to it.
2.5 Mt. Carmel Amber Ale Red Ale – American Amber / Red  6% Way too hoppy for an amber ale.
 3 Mt. Carmel Imperial Pinapple IPA Imperial IPA  9% I hate IPAs and am not a huge fan of pineapple… However, I would drink this. I would even buy it for a party knowing I might have one to two leftover in my fridge.
 3.5 Mt. Carmel Coffee Brown Ale Brown Ale  6% Good non bitter coffee flavor in a decent brown ale.
 2.5 Heavy Seas Deep Six English Porter  6.8% Way too smokey; even for a porter.
 3 Heavy Seas Double cannon American Double  9.5 Not bad. Drinkable to enjoy while watching a game.
 1.5 Old Firehouse Winterale Double Stout  9 % BAD aftertaste like the batch was infected by an odd bacteria.

Drinks (and in this case drinkers) are like books and should never be judged by its cover. Towards the later part of the night (after I stopped keeping track) I had a string of mediocre beers and really wanted to break the cycle. I figured – who knew the beers better than the people pouring them? So I asked the man behind the tap for something good that is not an IPA. He looks at me and says “you look like an amber fan” and hands me an amber, which turns out to be once again not a winner. One of the others in my group received a dark beer from them that turned out to be fabulous. I ended up going back to the server to let them know I am not an “amber” girl but the darker beer was fantastic.

My favorite beer of the night could also not be judged by its look – very light, white oat ale with subtle sweet chocolate and coffee overtones. Turns out this light ale is actually a stout- an Albino Stout from Cleveland Brewing Company to be exact. Besides being a really drinkable beer, it started a debate amongst our group on what classifies a stout. This is why this beer is my pick of the fest- a well made beer that pleases the tastebuds and ignites conversation amongst friends.

Drink a Hot Toddy

Have a sinus infection- Drink a Hot Toddy.

Have a cold- Drink a Hot Toddy.

Have strep throat- Drink a Hot Toddy.

Basically, I believe Hot Toddies are the cure for everything that does not involve extreme stomach issues.

So when a friend said they had a sore throat they could not get rid of, I recommended she drink a hot toddy. I was floored when I found out she did not have the makings for my favorite remedy drink!

To me, hot toddies are as quintessential in the house as toilet paper. In fact, I have been known to run out of toilet paper before running out of whiskey, honey, and lemons. See, in essence that is all a hot toddy is – an alcoholic mixture with honey, lemon and hot tea.

So how come this simple magical mixture is so amazing? Well, it is probably because in addition to being rather tasty, it actually works to help cure most of what ails you.

Let’s start with whiskey, which is a surprisingly effective antiseptic. Whiskey comes in about 40% alcohol and though not as effective as say, rubbing alcohol when it comes to killing bacteria, it still seems to pack a punch on most of the little buggies that are trying to make you sick. So when you start to get sick or have a sore throat, make sure you have some whiskey to help clean out your throat.  In addition to the disinfectant qualities, drinking alcohol helps us relax the sore muscles from coughing and general body ache and pains. As a little icing on the alcoholic cake, a Carnegie Mellon study showed that moderate drinkers had increased resistance to viral infections.

Take your whiskey and add in the honey. Just like whiskey, honey is also incredibly antiseptic, especially if you get natural local honey (hint: skip the commercial honey and go for local natural honey- it tastes better and is much better for you). Honey will also coat and soothe a sore throat better than any cough drop you can find.

As you now have the antiseptic healing properties down, let’s take care of some of the other symptoms. This is where you want to add in either hot water or hot tea. Inhaling the steam of any hot beverage can soothe nasal passages and temporarily relieve congestion. Hot beverages will also promote mucus secretions in the nose and mouth, which is one of  our bodies’ first line of defence against bacteria and viruses.

Finally, you want to add in some Vitamin C in the form of lemon juice and zest. Scientific studies have shown that lemon can cut cold symptoms short by usually at least a day. Besides the lemon juice, I like to put the zest from the lemon in my hot toddies as well, in order to get as much lemon oil into the drink as possible. The essential oils in the lemon zest help open up the nose and unblock your ears.

Independently, all of these ingredients are great cold fighters, but when you add them together you can really put your coughs and sneezes to bed.

If you are not like me and do not always have a handy supply of whiskey, lemon juice, and honey on hand, then you can always make a hot toddy liquor to keep on hand for the cold & flu season.

For my hot toddy liquors I use — 2 lemons, 2 cups whiskey (or bourbon or your favorite alcohol of 40% or higher) and ¾ cups honey. I mix the lemon zest from the lemons in with the lemon juice and add in the ¾ cup honey and bring to boil. Once it is cool enough to touch, add in the whiskey. You will want to let it sit for about 2 weeks to extract as much of the essential oils out of the lemon zest. Strain the liquor through a coffee filter and keep in a cool dark place. I recommend adding in 1-2 tbsps of the liquor into a cup of tea before bed when sick… or when you just want some.

It is incredibly important to stay fully hydrated when you are sick, so I recommend drinking at least glass of water or orange juice for every hot toddy you drink.