Monday, March 23, 2009

3/22/09 - Brewday review

Although yesterday morning when we started brewing it was barely 40 degrees out, it warmed up quickly and turned out to be a very beautiful day. Here is a review of the day for those who couldn't make it over:

~Justin, starting things off nice and properly by apparently taking a moment to say the "Beer Prayer"
~Justin checking the temperature of the water for the Brown Ale. You can see the IPA in the keg-kettle in the foreground.
This was our first time brewing our Jedhead IPA all-grain, up until now it has always been brewed as an extract. How we haven't brewed this as an all-grain yet is beyond us. The recipe we did yesterday will be completely different from our previous one: it should be a lot hoppier, with more citrus, and be more copper in color. When we brewed our All Right Then Pale Ale, the recipe ended up being similar to the extract recipe, so the new Jedhead IPA should definitely satisfy the hop-heads.
We brewed our Back Porch Brown Ale last time we brewed as well as yesterday. We're still working on our recipe, trying to get it just right. For this batch we changed up the hops used and also added some molasses to it (Shannon got to add that, along with the hops ~ he knew exactly what Justin was getting ready to do, and made sure he got to help!).

~John Merkwan, the current President of the Star City Brewer's Guild. John brought with him for sampling a nice beer from Brooklyn Brewery, Local #2. A very nice beer. We also sampled some of our stouts, our brown ale, and March's Beer of the Month from Wine Gourmet, from Avery Brewing Co.: 14'er ESB, which everyone seemed to enjoy, and Ellie's Brown Ale, which was pretty decent.

~Harry Montoro, a new member but already proving to be a very enthusiastic member & all around pretty cool guy. When we came inside to show them our new keg-freezer, Harry spotted Justin's guitar and took it back outside with him. You can see Jomo "standing guard" - Jomo has become a little hesitant about new people, but found an instant friend in Harry .. who brought over meatloaf & immediately gave some to him! The smoke in the background is from the smoker -- the food came out utterly fantastic, but not until everyone had left. Better planning required for next time!!

~This is Justin's brother Matt, holding up the skirt I had been wearing. Here is the excitement for the day ---- I caught on fire! *NOTE - I told Matt to smile when I took this photo, as he had just saved my life ... so, know, he isn't just looking pleased with himself for burning my skirt or something like that.
I'm not sure how it happened, and all anyone can come up with is that it was one of those flukes - me walking past the burner, wind catching my skirt and/or the flame just right. All I know is that I was standing several feet away from the burner, facing back towards the house when I thought "do I smell something burning", I looked down and my skirt (at about my right calf) was on fire. I hollered about being on fire, swatted at the flame, and thankfully, Matt sprung into action. He quickly smothered out the flames and saved me from being burnt to a crisp.

~This is Matt sticking his arm through the hole, to show the damage done.
I did get slightly burned on my fingers and on the back of my right knee, but no worse than grabbing something hot out of the oven. No blisters, at least not on my fingers, I can't really get a good look at the back of my knee. No harm done though, except to my skirt ~ which I had specially made for me many years ago. I'm thinking about patching the hole from inside, with some fabric that has flames on it. Might as well have a good story and run with it.
A lesson was learned though. From now on, JUST IN CASE, we will be always keeping stuff outside for putting out a fire while brewing (or smoking food). Thankfully no-one was hurt, thankfully it wasn't a guest or one of our kids that caught on fire. Thankfully Matt was there to swiftly put me out, as Justin merely thought we were joking around and didn't believe I had caught on fire. Only Justin can find a way to get himself in trouble when I catch on fire!!! (He did come back to the bedroom as I was changing to make sure I was ok though).

We will be getting to keg some of the beer brewed yesterday, another first for us. So, expect another post for when that happens.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Bull & Bones ~ a review

A quick bit of background info: we got married on St. Patrick's Day. One year, for our anniversary, we decided to venture into the world on homebrewing which has now put us on the path of opening our own microbrewery. Now, we've begun a new tradition of sorts: either taking a "brew-tour" (road trip to breweries) or just visiting a brewery nearby. This year we chose the latter.
Southwestern Virginia has gone from having absolutely NADA in the form of brewpubs and breweries to having a rapid string of them pop up. A blessing indeed. So, yesterday we traveled up to Hokie Country (Blacksburg, Va for you non-Hokies ... and if you aren't a Hokie, why are you reading this?) to check out Bull & Bones.
Location: It is located on S. Main in a new development, just off of 460. Good for driving up from Salem. It is in one of those new "outdoor centers" - a wonderful, revamped, and MUCH better version of the old strip mall. Being the luddite and conservationsist that I am, new developement immediately makes me approach with caution, this I liked. There was parking in the rear, easy to get back through to the front, very nice.
Atmosphere: We got up there about 5:30 on Saturday evening, before dinner rush had begun. Interior was very nicely done. Ok - here is where luddite opinion will vary from "the way things are": It was too noisy!! Though the bar is to the left and dining to the right, the ceilings are cavernous and the sound echos .. something not helped by my migraine, I'll admit. However, Bull & Bones is in a COLLEGE town!! It's Blacksburg baby & PROUD OF IT!! So, take it for what it is .. if you want quiet & romantic, this might not be the best spot, but over-all the place is nice.
Food: Now this is where they get a BIG A+! We got their Shrimp & Crab dip appetizer & were REALLY impressed. Normally this dish is pretty greasy and gooey when served at other restaraunts, but this one was awesome!! Justin had the wings for dinner and thought they were good as well. I (Carrie) had the Smokehaus Chicken sandwich - very tasty, though I didn't eat much because of my migraine; their homemade potato chips were also pretty good.
BEER: (Why you're really reading this after-all, right?) We got the sampler to try, just one for both of us, which honestly we thought was enough to know what we liked or didn't ... these are good size samplers (we've gotten WAY less beers at almost every tasting we've gone to .. aside from Starr Hill, so a nice plus here for Bull & Bones). So, here is our take on their beers to date:
*Sun Lit Wit ~ We liked this one. Justin thought Awful Arthur's was a little bit better, Carrie doesn't remember AA's that well, so this was her #2 beer from B&B. Lots of orange present. VOTE: Justin - yes, Carrie - yes
*All Night Light ~ This one was dyed green for St. Patrick's Day. According to Justin "just call it a Miller Lite." Carrie is NOT a fan of American Lagers, and this was no exception!!! VOTE: Justin - meh, Carrie - NO!!!!!!
*Lunch Pale Ale ~ We both liked this one. According to the resident hophead, it could use more aroma, but the non-hophead thought it was ok. I mean, it is Bud Foster approved, and our Lunch Pail Defense is strong, so I'll trust it. VOTE: Justin - yes, Carrie - yes
*IPA (their Seasonal, doesn't have a special name) ~ This one we thought could use some more aroma since it was an IPA. It does have more hops than the Lunch Pale Ale, but it ought to since it is an IPA! VOTE: Justin - yes (and this is what he ordered a pint of), Carrie - yes
*Stricks Dark Lager ~ This one started off nice, and had a nice flavor, but as it rolled around in your mouth it suddenly took on what can only be described as "armpit flavor." A weird combo. VOTE: Justin - meh, Carrie - meh
*Maroon Effect Ale ~ At first we thought it needed some more aroma, but the longer we let it sit out the more the aroma came out, so not too bad. We found it to be a fairly typical brown ale, nothing terribly special, but not bad either. VOTE: Justin - ok, Carrie - ok
*St. Maeve's Stout ~ Great flavor, nice aroma, definitely an Irish stout. We did think it was a little thin, but still a good beer. VOTE: Justin - too thin but ok, Carrie - yes (and this the one that Carrie got a pint of).

Over-all, would definitely go there again. Would be a great place to go and watch the Hokies play while shooting some pool. Their prices can't compare with Awful Arthur's $2.50 - $3 for a pint, but where can? Definitely a good place to go for a night out.

~ A quick side note we found amusing: Another table was being seated nearby and as they walked past our table the girl said "there's a sampler" (referring to the sampler we had on our table) .... one of the guys in the group immediately replied "a sampler of what?" -- Yea. Then, you have us, beer snobs & wanna-be alcoholics (haha). The waiter came up to our table which was full of the beer samples, our pints, and our food. He asked me "have you had a chance to try everything?," to which I replied "... you mean the beer?" -- He was referring to the food. Oops. Justin admitted he thought he was inquiring about the beer as well. -- Yea.