I’m a big fan of using every part of the buffalo, as it were. I try to recycle my brew water (especially in the summer months) and be as eco-friendly as possible. My spent-grain goes directly into my compost pile so that it can go right back into a garden somewhere, but sometimes it seems a shame to let microbes and other beasties get all that great grain when I could be eating it, myself. So I make bread.
It’s a lot like brewing, really. I mix up water and grain, I add yeast and patience, and in the end I come up with something awesome that I can consume.
It’s taken me quite a few tries to come up with a good recipe for bread with spent grain. Since the spent grain is so wet it’s easy to make a loaf that is cooked solid on the outside but still pretty much raw dough on the inside. It can also make a huge difference in the composition of your bread; it’s rather hearty – after all, the grain is only crushed not milled – if you add too much it can be incredibly dense and chewy. So, since I’ve gotten this down to a recipe I enjoy, I’ll share it with you.
Caveat: I tend toward artisanal free-form loaves, rather than something in some sort of fancy pan. I like my bread rustic and chewy. On the other hand, that’s really easy to make. Here’s the deal (all these photos are clickable, if you want a closer look):
3 1/2 cups of flour
1/4 to 1/2 cup of spent grain
1/4 tsp of kosher salt
1 tbsp bread yeast
Put all that in a bowl.
Add 1 1/4 cups of lukewarm water. Mix it. There. Bread dough. That wasn’t so hard, was it?
You know all that stuff that your grandmother does with putting yeast in a cup and letting it soak to make sure it’s going before adding it to the bread? Yes, she’s making a starter. Never thought about it that way, did you? Well don’t worry about that. Bread yeast science has gone through just as many leaps and jumps forward as beer yeast science has. Unless you’re using yeast that’s as old as your grandmother, just stick it in the bowl and mix the whole thing together. I have a Kitchen Aid mixer with a dough hook and it is my friend. If you don’t have one, switch arms so you don’t look like Popeye from one side.
It makes a pretty wet dough, but not so wet as to be soupy. It needs to be firm enough that you can shape it later, but not too firm or it’ll be a rock later. It’s not going to be a pretty ball of dough that you can knead. It’s a sticky mess. That’s okay. You also don’t have to knead dough to make awesome bread. Now that you’ve got that sticky lump in the bottom of your bowl, just cover it up with something breathable like a kitchen towel and leave it for a few hours.
I find that the top of my kegerator works quite well because in the meantime I also get to have a beer. You want to let the dough rise for at least 2 hours, until it’s flat on top.
That is dough that is ready for action. If, at this point, you’re having a busy day and you have something else to do, this is a good stopping point. Just throw the dough into some tupperware and throw it in the fridge. It’ll keep in there for up to a week. If you do end up refrigerating it, just take some extra time on the next step.
Preheat your oven to 425F. If you can, use a pizza stone. If you don’t have one, a cookie sheet will do, but you may want to lightly grease it and dust it with flour. If you have a broiling pan, put it in on a rack below your pizza stone (or below where you’ll put the cookie sheet). We’re going to actually steam-cook the loaf.
You want to take that sticky mess of a dough (throw some extra flour on it so it’s not as sticky) in your hands and shape it into a loaf. Keep on adding flour to the outside of it as you form it in your hands to keep it from sticking to you. You can make a big round boule, if you want. This time, I went for the oblong loaf. Go ahead and place it on a pizza peel that’s been dusted with corn meal. If you’re using a cookie sheet, throw a little corn meal on there, too, and go ahead and stick the dough on it.
You want to let the loaf rise at least as long as it takes for the oven to heat up. 20 – 30 minutes. Longer, if you’re working with cold dough. After it’s risen, use a serrated knife to cut a few slashes in the top of the loaf or maybe a scallop or an X or whatever you want and then slide it carefully into the oven onto your hot pizza stone (totally not a euphemism).
Pour about a cup of regular tap water into the broiling pan. The water will evaporate during cooking and help caramelize the outside surface of the bread. It’s the secret to a nice chewy, flavorful crust.
Let it bake for 35 – 45 minutes. The top should be golden-to-dark brown, and if you tap the loaf it should sound hollow.
Remove the bread from the oven when you deem that it is finished, but allow it to cool before cutting into it for best results. In the first few minutes after you take the bread from the oven you should be able to hear it cracking as the caramelized crust contracts. That’s how you know you’ve got the dial set to awesome.
Full admission – my sister-in-law got me a really misleadingly named book about making bread a few years ago, and I’ve been a full convert ever since – this recipe is not from there, but I made it following the theories and basic recipes from this book. It is Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day and I still use it pretty much constantly.
If you try this recipe out, let me know how you like it.
It’s part two of the “World Home Brew Fest“. Nah, I don’t know why it’s worldly, either, but I know that it’s as local as local beer gets. Last time there were roughly 15 homebrewers showing off their beers and this time there promises to be more. I’ll be pouring two beers – one on behalf of the burgeoning Chapel Hill/Carrboro Homebrew Club … which may be called Orange County Homebrewers or something like that now. I’m not sure – regardless! We made a Dry Irish Stout at my house with little incident, and I’ll be pouring that. In addition, I’ll be pouring an Abbey-style Dubbel which is currently being aged with oak, bourbon, and vanilla. That should taste like cookies, and you should come drink it.
So come on down! February 20. Drink my beer and the beer of many talented homebrewers, make a little donation to MS to make the event planners happy, come have a blast, and say hi.
Get your (free) tickets online.
This will be a little outside the realm of my usual posts.
Tomorrow I’m hosting a little gathering of homebrewers and beer lovers to make beer in my backyard. It’s a club event for the burgeoning Chapel Hill/Carrboro Home Brewing Club. We’re making a Dry Irish Stout that we’re going to serve, as a club, at the upcoming Carrboro Homebrew Fest.
It’ll be a good time, and I’m really looking forward to it, even if it’s going to be something like 30 degrees outside. It’s always nice to
freeze your ass off spend time with a bunch of people who enjoy beer, and I’m under the impression that a lot of these guys haven’t done – or maybe even seen – an all-grain brew, so it’ll be fun to teach them how to expand their hobby. But! Some of them have, and most of the others are – like any homebrew geek (like myself) – well-read enough to know their way around the concept pretty well.
In this comes my terror. Here’s what this post is. It’s a confessional:
I’ve never watched somebody else homebrew.
I have my system, and I’ve read every damn book under the sun. I know the brewing process inside and out, and I feel pretty confident that if you dropped me on a commercial system without a deadline I could eventually make you a batch of beer in one incredibly long brew day (no promises on cleanup), but I have no idea what my process looks like in comparison to other people.
I’ve got a pretty standard ghetto-brew system. 7-gal stainless steel pot, mangled orange cooler with a false bottom, copper coil wort chiller. No pumps. I still siphon by mouth, because I’m too lazy to do anything else. I mill my own grain. I’ve got a rusty el crappo outdoor burner, that leaves my kettle covered in awful black carbon that it takes me forever to scrub off and I think I make some pretty great damn beer.
But I’m going to be taking people through my process – like my weirdo continuous sparge that I actually do slowly with a ladle instead of any sort of automated fly sparge system or even batch sparging – and part of me is almost kind of embarrassed. Like.. I should be so much less ghetto than this. I should have some 3-tier brewing sculpture made of shiny stainless steel. I should have this incredible system, but y’know what? The ghetto-brew setup works so well.
I can just envision me being halfway through the brewday before someone says, “Wait a sec! Don’t you do some-incredibly-important-step?” and I look blankly at them and say, “I’ve never heard of that.” Probably not. But it could happen! It’s like stage fright. I haven’t felt like this for years. I’ll probably get nervous pees and everything. Ugh.
So, I’m excited to hang out and drink beer with beer lovers all day. I’m excited to show people a little bit more about brewing if they don’t know about it, and excited to maybe help people take the step to all-grain. Having all of those people watch me all day while I do this scares the ever-livin’ crap out of me. And even better, I’m pretty sure some of them will read this blog post before showing up. Hi guys. Now you know my terrible secret: like everything else I’ve ever done in my life, I’m guessing my way through it. Enjoy!
Here’s the one guarantee on the day: I open my first beer at 10 AM. It’ll be a great day.
This post was originally going to be for this month’s Session, #35: “New Beer’s Resolutions, but I canned it. It’s a cute topic, but I can’t do it. I don’t believe in looking back at mistakes. To learn from your mistakes is paramount, to dwell on them is folly. They are done and I won’t revisit them, but rather stay positive with their lessons in mind and move forward to greater achievement.
At the same time, I feel like resolutions are bunk. The number one way to not get something done is to make it a New Year’s Resolution. If you want something to get done, you need to roll out of bed in the morning and do it. Screw tying it to the calendar. Just get up and go.
I also won’t attempt to make any predictions about what could happen in 2010. The problem with predictions is that they are based on the past; they’re based on our current knowledge set and our current environment. We cannot forsee individual random events or, even more importantly, what will be invented that will change the world in the next 12 months. It’s impossible and fruitless to speculate. You can only be ready for anything and enjoy the ever-living-crap out of it.
But! The dawn of a new year is an opportunity to look forward to all of the wonderful things to come that you DO know about. Here’s my personal list of things to come in 2010:
Homebrew and Competition
After withdrawing myself from homebrew competitions for a while, I plan to get my feet wet again to see what comes out of it. I’ve had some rather snarky judges in the past that have made me feel rather jaded about entering competitions, but in the spirit of “I’m going to start a business.” I’ve decided to say screw-all to the critics, throw my hat back into the ring, and wait for the Gold Medal to arrive in the mail. If the rest of my big bold headings work out as I expect them to, this will also be the last year I enter into homebrew competitions.
Here’s where my beer is going:
2010 Craft Brewers Conference Panel Presentation: I’m a Social Media Guru Now!
One of the things that I am both looking forward to and slightly terrified of is the 2010 Craft Brewers Conference where I will be part of a panel presentation entitled Storytelling 2.0: Social Media as Conversation with some colleagues that I feel rather starstruck about. Fullsteam’s Sean Wilson (one of my co-panelists) posted a nice up front review of what we’re attempting to do. Here’s the selected excerpt from our draft pitch that sells it best:
Itâ€™s time to stop thinking of Twitter, Facebook, and blogging as simple extensions of your press releases. Storytelling 2.0 will help you discover your own unique voice, and connect, build, and bond with your fan base. Itâ€™s time to talk with â€” not at â€” your audience.
Craft brewing is story-driven. Each individual brewery has a unique story to best engage its customer base. Social media empowers your brewery to include enthusiasts in that story, giving them access to your narrative voice in an unparalleled way. Well-crafted updates, photo postings, and personalized responses engage your customers, giving them a chance to see inside your operations and meet the characters in the story first-hand.
By the by, I hope nobody ever calls me a social media guru. I don’t use it enough (I’m sure my wife would argue that I use it way too much) – on purpose – because I feel like it’s easy to spam and therefore achieve negative impact through annoyance, but I think that automatically takes me out of “guru” running.
As we work on the conference panel over the next few months, you’ll probably see a few columns here about social media and how it pertains to breweries. These columns will not be meant as part of the presentation or may not even be related, but it’s the best way I have to work through things. At the same time, I hope that my ramblings will be useful to the internet/brewing community at large.
Know Your Brewer Re-Launches
We haven’t said a whole lot about this yet, but I am working with Sean over at Fullsteam on a little project that I think will turn out for awesome. Know Your Brewer, a website that was originally focused on North Carolina Beer as part of Pop the Cap 2.0. The site provided the basic template and early content for the North Carolina Brewers Guild website NCBeer.org, which I’m also helping on, but that left a domain and a concept unoccupied. I’ve somehow managed to convince Sean to let me help retro-fit Know Your Brewer for a new life.
The re-launch is coming and it’s coming nationwide. I’m not yet sure of our official re-launch date, I can say that I think it will be pretty terrific. The site will focus on the men and women behind craft beer – the people that make it, the brewers – and look at their beer and their breweries through their eyes. We’re hoping to have writers and bloggers across the country interviewing brewers from across the country, with lots of added content – recipes, Q&A, etc, all in a regular weekly format.
I’ve already done interviews at a couple of breweries and I have a half-dozen more scheduled in the next few weeks. It’s been a ton of fun talking to brewers about their work, how they got into it, and what they enjoy the most about it. It’s been a ball and I can’t wait to share it.
What you see there isn’t the final design, but it’s on its way. Look for an official announcement here (and, of course, on Know Your Brewer) soon. In the meantime, we’re recruiting writers – are you interested? Let me know!
Announcing the Location of Mystery Brewing Company
Finally, in either the second or third quarter this year, I will be making the announcement on the geographical location of my own startup: Mystery Brewing Company.
At that point, the blog will likely go through a slight transition where you end up hearing a lot more commentary about startup issues. On of my major criticisms with startup brewery content I have found, read, and yes, even paid thousands of dollars for, is the lack of practical detail. I get a lot of “you need to fill out TTB forms and apply for licensing.” And while it’s true, it’s not necessarily as helpful as telling me what forms are around, what information they tend to expect, and what pitfalls I should look out for. Not to say I’ll be posting how to fill out your TTB label forms here, but I will, whenever possible, post practical information about the startup process specifically pertaining to startup breweries in the hopes that others coming after me will find something useful. I believe that the future of the industry lays in continuing spread of the individual small brewery, rather than the continual creation of more megabreweries, and I hope that I can help the industry in the right direction.
Back when I was in high school, as a miserable teenager, I remember somebody taking me aside and telling me: “Remember these days, because these are the best days of your life.” And then I remember thinking, “Oh god – kill me now.” They were wrong. Totally and completely and in all ways possible: wrong. They were not even remotely the best days of my life. Every year that I’ve been alive, things have just been better and better, more fun and more awesome, and I can’t imagine that changing now. I’m looking forward to 2010, for all of these reasons up here and the hundreds of reasons that I haven’t found out about, yet.
Happy New Year, everyone. It’ll be a great one.
This goes down as one of the coolest ideas I’ve seen in some time.
Get a bunch of people together, give them the same basic recipe and allow them to change ONE thing about it. Make it at the same time with the same basic conditions, ship bottles of it around, and then we all get to taste. Being that we’re all bloggers, I’m gonna bet we’re all going to taste pretty publicly.
The following people (other than me) have signed up for the good cause:
Aaron – Captain’s Chair(@captainschair)
Derek – Luther Public House(@LutherHaus)
Ethan – Geek Beer (@geekbeer)
Joseph – Hopfentreader (@hopfentreader)
Michael – Thank Heaven For Beer (@heavenlybrew)
Nate – Thank Heaven For Beer (@THFBeer_nate)
Peter – Simply Beer (@simplybeer)
Thomas – Beer Genome Progect (@TomBGP)
The recipe looks like this:
9 lbs. Domestic 2-Row barley
16 oz. Chocolate Malt
16 oz. Roasted Barley
4 oz. Flaked Barley
4 oz. Caramel 60Â°L
1 oz Williamette hops (60min)
1 oz tettnang (2 minutes)
60 min mash @ 152
~75 min sparge @170
60 minute boil.
American Ale Yeast (wyeast 1056)
base recipe has estimated gravity of ~1.046 and finish around 1.014.
Here’s what I love about this – one ingredient can totally change a beer. I think we’re going to see some radically different beers from one small ingredient change, and it should be a pretty fantastic learning experience, as well as a great chance to sample some great homebrew.
The tasting is currently scheduled for February 12th. Brew day was today – and unfortunately I’m a week behind schedule from everybody else (though I will hit ship schedule and not delay the tasting). However, I have settled on what I’m going to change about the beer — mine’s going for the exact grist and hop schedule, but with Abbey Ale yeast. It’s my opinion that yeast is… well.. maybe not the soul of the beer, but it sure is the soul’s wrapper. As far as I’m concerned, we’re looking at a dry dubbel instead of a stout.
Aaron of Captain’s Chair has already written up a report about his brew day, and I’ll do the same when I brew next weekend. In the meantime, keep an eye on Twitter, hash tag #brewoff for updates from all the brewing bloggers over the next month or two, and keep an eye out for an announcement of the live tasting on the 12th.