Changing times

The road life takes us down can be both terrifying and beautiful at the same time. We don’t always know what the next curve will bring, and that is one of the things that makes life worth living. For me, seeing myself change over the years has been just like driving down a long road. The scenery has changed, my feelings about where I am and what I am doing has changed, and most of all, I’ve enjoyed every moment of the trip. Deanna and I are in the process of changing once again and we are really beginning to enjoy the scenery more than we did before. We are starting to appreciate actually living rather than coasting through life, what it means to actually eat, to breathe, and to survive.

People mistake growing up in the South as growing up in the country. While the South may have smaller cities (Atlanta excluded), it isn’t true that everyone from the South is “country-folk”. I grew up in the city. My parents were from the city. I didn’t learn to drive a tractor, I didn’t kill my own food. Heck, I don’t even remember my parents having a garden that was edible. Food came from the grocery store. I didn’t know the source of the food, and in the 80’s and 90’s, no one really cared. I don’t think we understood the implications of the industrially produced food that most of America now consumes. Things have certainly changed in recent years, both in my perspective and in the nation as a whole. People are joining the slow food movement, the local food movement, the organic food movement, the insert-whatever-here movement. It seems there is a movement for pretty much everything. What I find the most interesting, is that we are all really just trying to return to what eating was like for our grandparents. A time before High Fructose Corn Syrup was used to sweeten everything we eat. A time before half the ingredients on a label were unpronounceable. A time when you knew that what you put in your mouth was grown by a farmer, not a chemist.

I don’t know when the shift began for me. Maybe it is with my incredible in-laws that have shown us more about gardening and working with our hands than anyone else in my life. Maybe it is my friend Rich, who showed me just how easy and awesome it is to brew your own beer and make your own wine. Most likely, it isn’t just one thing, or one person, but the perfect storm of events that are transforming my life. It is more than just about the source of my food, but also my ability to create the foods I eat. From making my own ketchup, to stuffing my own sausage, and roasting my own granola for Yogurt. I have slowly started doing more things for myself that I would have previously just assumed needed to be bought from a store. Not only has the quality of homemade food surpassed my expectations, but my appreciation for them grows even more so. I now brew my own beer, make my own wine, make my own cheese, and try to grow my own food where I can.

Twelve years ago, when we moved to Birmingham initially, I never imagined we would be here long. Deanna always wanted to move to the city. To be in the mix of the action and noise. I just wanted to be away from the South. Things have definitely changed. We now seem to dream of a morning where we can wake up, go outside with a cup of coffee, and overlook our garden and our animals.

To this end, Deanna and I have started looking for some land on which we can build a farmstead. We have four chickens now, but we really want more. I would love some ducks. I especially want some dairy goats. We want a large garden area where we can grow the majority of the food we eat. We want to learn to be self sustaining, to provide for ourselves and potentially our families. To get back to the land.

How times change.

Young’s Double Chocolate Stout

Aroma: Roastiness. Dark Chocolate, to the point of reminding you of really good hot chocolate or chocolate milk.

Appearance: Very dark, almost black. Tan head with very little to no head retention.

Taste: Roasty and strong chocolate flavor. Reminds me of drinking chocolate milk, but with a really nice bitter, dark chocolate. Low alcohol and sweet.

Mouth Feel: Creamy! Good carbonation, maybe a little higher than I would have expected for a stout, but it really helps to balance the creaminess of the swee stout.

Overall: This is probably the best sweet stout I have ever had. This is not a beer you would want to drink all night, as I had all of two in two hours. It was, however, absolutely delicious! This is most certainly a beer I will be trying to clone soon. This beer is rated 9.1 on beeradvocate.com.

 

 

 

Joe’s Ancient Orange

I was looking for a quick, or “short”, mead that I could put together real quick and hopefully be drinking within 5 or 6 weeks. I came across this recipe in my research, and decided to give it a try.

1 gallon batch

3 1/2 lbs Clover or your choice honey or blend (will finish sweet)
1 Large orange (later cut in eights or smaller rind and all)
1 small handful of raisins (25 if you count but more or less ok)
1 stick of cinnamon
1 whole clove ( or 2 if you like – these are potent critters)
optional (a pinch of nutmeg and allspice )( very small )
1 teaspoon of Fleishmann?s bread yeast ( now don’t get holy on me— after all this is an ancient mead and that’s all we had back then)
Balance water to one gallon

Process:

Use a clean 1 gallon carboy

Dissolve honey in some warm water and put in carboy

Wash orange well to remove any pesticides and slice in eights –add orange (you can push em through opening big boy — rinds included — its ok for this mead — take my word for it — ignore the experts)

Put in raisins, clove, cinnamon stick, any optional ingredients and fill to 3 inches from the top with cold water. ( need room for some foam — you can top off with more water after the first few day frenzy)

Shake the heck out of the jug with top on, of course. This is your sophisticated aeration process.

When at room temperature in your kitchen, put in 1 teaspoon of bread yeast. ( No you don’t have to rehydrate it first– the ancients didn’t even have that word in their vocabulary– just put it in and give it a gentle swirl or not)(The yeast can fight for their own territory)

Install water airlock. Put in dark place. It will start working immediately or in an hour. (Don’t use grandma’s bread yeast she bought years before she passed away in the 90’s)( Wait 3 hours before you panic or call me) After major foaming stops in a few days add some water and then keep your hands off of it. (Don’t shake it! Don’t mess with them yeastees! Let them alone except its okay to open your cabinet to smell every once in a while.

Racking — Don’t you dare
additional feeding — NO NO
More stirring or shaking — Your not listening, don’t touch

After 2 months and maybe a few days it will slow down to a stop and clear all by itself. (How about that) (You are not so important after all) Then you can put a hose in with a small cloth filter on the end into the clear part and siphon off the golden nectar. If you wait long enough even the oranges will sink to the bottom but I never waited that long. If it is clear it is ready. You don’t need a cold basement. It does better in a kitchen in the dark. (Like in a cabinet) likes a little heat (70-80). If it didn’t work out… you screwed up and didn’t read my instructions (or used grandma’s bread yeast she bought years before she passed away) . If it didn’t work out then take up another hobby. Mead is not for you. It is too complicated.
If you were successful, which I am 99% certain you will be, then enjoy your mead. When you get ready to make different mead you will probably have to unlearn some of these practices I have taught you, but hey— This recipe and procedure works with these ingredients so don’t knock it. It was your first mead. It was my tenth. Sometimes, even the experts can forget all they know and make good ancient mead.

 

Founders Breakfast Stout

I have been extremely excited to give this beer a try.  I’ve heard quite a bit about it as I was researching stouts — preparing to brew my own a few weeks ago.  The Founders Breakfast Stout is considered one of the best of its style.  According to their website, this beer is the coffee lover’s consummate beer.

Aroma: Stout roast, coffee, and chocolate. some alcohol — but subtle.  I expect some for an 8.5 percent beer.

Appearance: Black with a brownish/cinnamon head.  The head was decent when first poured, but I did have to pour aggressively to get it.  It laced the glass nicely, however didn’t last very long.  Attempts to rouse the head worked to some degree.

Flavor:  This beer taste just like it smells. Roasty, chocolaty, and especially coffee like.  The flavor coats your tongue and stays there. With this beer, that is NOT a bad thing.

Mouth feel: Very full bodied, creamy and smooth. The bubbles seemed to give the appearance of high carbonation, but the beer displays perfect carbonation and mouth feel for the style.

Overall: I am so glad I got to give this beer a try.  It is a great combination of oatmeal, coffee, and chocolate flavors in a stout.  Breakfast Stout is the perfect name for this beer, especially since I get the feeling I will wake up wanting to have one with my cereal.  Run, don’t walk, to get this beer in your hands.

 

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Kraut was a bust.

The homemade sauerkraut I was making for the brew club meeting was a bust. I believe I didn’t put quite enough salt in and the cabbage just wilted before forming a good brine.  While out today, I went ahead and picked up some kraut examples from Germany, via World Market. I went ahead and grabbed a nice Oktoberfest beer for the brew club meeting as well.

 

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Sam Adams Harvest Pupkin Ale

I found this in a build your own 6-pack at Whole Foods.

Aroma: Spice, spice, spice.
Appearance: Clear brown, perfect to style. Little to no head. No head retention.
Taste: You get the spices right away and they dominate, but they are well balanced with the malt of the beer. Taste like drinking pumpkin pie. Finishes with a slight tartness, that is refreshing after the malt and spice. No hop character, no alcohol perception.
Overall: Hello fall! I’ll be drinking a few of these as the season progresses.