Your Guide to Seasonal Spring Beers

A SPRING MENTALITY
Spring is the opening of life after a long season of cold and hibernation. The first moment your senses are tickled with the fresh aromas of spring air, you are jolted. It’s an intense experience for me every year. Spring is a time of excitement–of paroxysm, and I think spring beers reflect that eagerness.. the perfect compliment. Winter ales always strike me as spicy and heavy, like a thick blanket, but spring beers are a step outside, if you will. They are crisp, floral, like citrus–so lightly alive like the scent of new leaves on the trees or flowers in bloom. Here’s a list of beer styles perfect for spring:

MAIBOCK
There are many styles of bock beer, but this beer, the Maibock, is made specifically for the transition between the cold winter and warm summer. Mai means “May” in German. The German Beer Institute describes this beer perfectly:

“While most Bockbiers are dark-amber to hazelnut brown in color and exceedingly malt-accented, the Maibock is brewed entirely with pale malts for a warm golden hue. It is also more aggressively hopped than others bocks for a refreshing finish. Thus Maibock, like the lusty month of May, is a transitional brew. It still has some 6 to 7% alcohol as do its wintry cousins, but its brightness and bitterness already foretell the perpetually blues skies of summer when the straw-blond Helles and the pale and spritzy Weissbier predominate.”

For this style, after much consideration (because I can’t wait to find a good maibock to enjoy this year), I think I want to try Hofbräu München Maibock. Beeradvocate.com rates this beer pretty high relative to the amount of people rating it. It has everything we want: a little malt and fruitiness upfront with a toasted malt finish and a smidge of hoppiness? Sounds delicious.

MÄRZENBIER
Here we have a beer that is medium bodied, with a malty flavor and a light hops profile. You can find a lighter (Helles) Märzen and a darker (Dunkles) Märzen. It is served in a pint glass, mug, or stein, and should be cold.

Märzenbier is as the name suggests: March beer, but the history is pretty interesting. Märzenbier use to be (1500’s) the beer used for Oktoberfest. During summer in Bavaria, the temperature was too warm for successfully brewing without air contaminants ruining a batch. To circumvent this dilemma, the Bavarian brewers made extra batches of Märzenbier in the winter for March, before summer. The stored the extra beer in cellars or ice caves to keep cold during the summer. At the end of summer, in October, when the new grains and hops are harvested, the Bavarians had to consume all the leftover Märzenbier so they could put their new batches of beer in the casks. Tada! Oktoberfest!

Since the times don’t require the avoidance of summer heat, Märzenbier made in March isn’t used in Oktoberfest celebrations. Most Oktoberfest beers are brewed for 6-8 weeks. This doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy the brew, though! Take this opportunity to celebrate Spring with this beer and its history.

Most labels will read Märzen-oktoberfest, but if that feels uncomfortable, Gordon Biersch Märzen is an excellent option. The Beer Advocate has an excellent list of rated Märzenbiers to try out, too.

LAMBIC FRUIT BEER
What better to celebrate the coming of summer, than with a spontaneously fermented, fruit beer. Most beer we imbibe has yeast strains specifically crafted and carefully transported for the production of beer. Lambic beer, however, is fermented by wild yeasts and bacteria in the air. The wort (the non-alcoholic, grain/malt/barley-steeped liquid prior to the addition of yeast in brewing beer) is left exposed–inviting anything. This often creates a sour, funky, and unique taste. Hops are used, but not for flavor. The hops help protect the brew from spoiling. Lambic brewers use stale hops which don’t have much taste.

Lambic fruit beers are a derivative of the original Lambic style. The fruit is added during the primary or secondary fermentation. This is exactly how fruit beers are defined here in the US when breweries add fruit as a predominant flavor to a base beer other than a Lambic.

This is my favorite style of beer to enjoy when the air is starting to warm, but the crispness of spring still lingers. Whew. The first fruit beer I ever tasted was a (raspberry) Lambic Framboise by Lindemans. Tart. Sweet. I love it. It went beautifully when made as a half and half (half one beer on top with a different beer floating on top–like a black and tan). I liked to float Samuel Smith’s Organic Chocolate Stout over Lindeman’s Framboise. SPEAKING OF SAMUEL SMITH, they also have a delicious Strawberry Ale which could make an excellent ale to taste during late spring.

AMERICAN “IPA”
I actually want to label this “American Pale Ale”–IPA, or Indian Pale Ales were named because extra hops were added to the pale ale for preservation during the long trek from India to England. I digress. I choose American IPAs specifically, because American IPAs are so hoppy compared to English IPA’s. The smells of fresh hops are floral, citrus-y, intense, and, personally, intoxicating.

When we brew beer in our kitchen, we use Cascade hops, and I love to just sit and take in the scent. These beers capture that invigorating aroma, and despite my distaste for the bitter-ending IPAs leave me with, I keep drinking them. My favorite this year is Rude Parrot IPA by Seven Seas Brewery. It’s an all-around intense American IPA that is enjoyable beginning to finish.

DOPPLEBOCK
We’re going to start and end this list with bocks.

During spring, Catholics celebrate Lent, a time for fasting. In the 17th century, Monks in Einbeck, Germany decided to brew a beer to aid them through the 40 days of Lent. A high-calorie beer intended to help with their nutritional needs. Hence the creation of bocks beers. The monks, however, wanted something stronger to get them through those 40 days of Lent, so they brewed the dopplebock.

My personal favorite dopplebock is the Optimator by Spaten, or an Ayinger Celebrator Dobblebock. They are dark, full bodied, with a lightly toasted flavor–very fresh.

SEASONAL BEERS SEEM ANTIQUATED, NO?
Well, yes, but who cares? Of course, seasonal beers are no longer physically necessary. Early brewing was in part shaped by the seasons (humidity, temperature). With present day technologies in place, however, the seasons no longer play a domineering role on a brewer’s new batch of beer. Any one could brew a winter ale or Oktoberfest year round if they wanted.

Not many do want to brew traditionally seasonal beers year round, though. Breweries have an excellent opportunity to brew experimental, trial batches each season, and beer drinkers like myself love the anticipation for their favorite seasonal brew to hit shelves (which is getting sooner and sooner each year, isn’t it?).

Cold weather triggers a desire for a complex Christmas ale (and knit scarves… and Bing Crosby… and eggnog). A hot summer afternoon near water leaves me pining for a crisp pilsner or witbier. The Drizly blog, asked a deserving question, “Do these companies repeatedly force autumnal down our throats, or are our buying habits guiding their marketing behavior?”

I think we can admit both parties are the cause: our love for seasons are rooted in deep nostalgia, and any good company wanting to cater to and profit off its target consumer will exploit this nostalgia. It’s catalytic. I don’t mind, though. Breweries keep the inventory and options fresh, keeping my attention and deepening my relationship with their product. We all win.

With a fruit beer in hand, here’s to spring: to experimentation, new flavors, to fresh notes and the coming of summer. May your adventures bring new delicious spring beers your way:: Cheers!

Home Brewing: The 5 Scary Things That Could Be Lurking In Your Beer

The only bad thing about home brewing: to pour your heart and soul into a batch, only to discover that there are weird flavors in your beer. Let’s take a look at some of the culprits that cause these strange flavors, and ways to stop them from wreaking havoc on your beer.

1. Acetaldehyde – The green apple flavor.

Cause: Acetaldehyde is a naturally occurring compound during the fermentation of yeast. It’s usually converted to ethanol alcohol during the fermentation process. Some yeast strains will produce more Acetaldehyde than others, but it usually means your beer is under conditioned.

Solution: Luckily, this problem is easy to fix. Acetaldehyde usually will take care of itself after some more conditioning. Aging your beer is an important part of home brewing. If you detect apples in your beer, just let it sit a couple weeks longer.

2. Chlorophenol – The plastic or medicinal taste.

Cause: The most common reason for chlorophenol to be present in beer is using chlorinated water during the cleaning process. It’s also possible that ingredients bought for brewing were stored in an area that may have exposed them to chlorine, although this is less common.

Solution: The best way to avoid this is to just make sure that you never use chlorinated water at any point in the brewing process. This might seem obvious, but many people use tap water to clean equipment, and tap water may have chlorine.

3. Diacetyl – The bad butter flavor.

Cause: Diacetyl is another by product of the fermentation process. During healthy fermentation, yeast will break down the diacetyl. However, mutated yeast can cause serious problems. Some yeast will lose the ability to metabolize diacetyl, and leave the buttery flavor in your beer.

Solution: In most cases, just allow your beer enough time to age, so that the yeast can absorb all of the diacetyl. But if your yeast is mutated, this problem will not go away with time. Be sure to always use the healthiest, and highest quality yeast you can find in order to avoid this problem.

4. Dimethyl Sulfide – Like vegetables in your beer.

Cause: All malts have a chemical in them called S-methyl methionine or SMM. During the mashing and heating process, this chemical is converted to dimethyl sulfide or DMS. This is the chemical that causes the vegetable taste.

Solution: Luckily, most of this DMS is evaporated during the boiling process. To ensure that higher concentrations aren’t present in your beer, be sure to maintain a rolling boiling during the brewing process. Some brewers will boil for 90 minutes to ensure that most of the DMS is evaporated.

5. Atringency – Tastes tart, vinagery, or metallic.

Cause: Atringency in beer can be caused by many factors, but it’s usually a result of tannins being released from your grains. Tannins are found in all grain skins, and they are released when grains are steeped at too high of temperatures, steeped too long, or when they are milled too finely.

Solution: Be sure to never mill or crush grains too much. Always steep your grains for the correct amount of time, at the correct temperatures, and never boil your grains. These preventative measure will ensure your beer tastes great.

Home brewing is half science and half art. It’s easy to arm yourself with knowledge about the things that could go wrong during your brew.

Choosing A Smoker That Is Right For You

Are you finding it difficult to determine the best smoker for BBQ? Not to worry, here are some easy tips for finding the best smoker to suit your needs.

Smoker Size:

The first thing you must do when choosing the best smoker to buy is to determine the kind of BBQ that you will be doing. More importantly, you must determine whom you are cooking for.

A large smoker would be preferable when cooking for a large family, festive events, competitions, customers, etc.

A smaller grill should generally be used for cooking at home, for yourself, or a small group of people.

Smoker Price:

When choosing the best smoker to buy it is a good idea to consider the price. It is always good to remember that choosing an expensive smoker does not necessarily guarantee that the quality of the food will be any better.

However, many expensive smokers have built-in feature that can simplify your cooking. Another thing to consider when choosing the best smoker to buy is to have an idea of where it is going to go.

Smoker Cover:

Like most people, it would probably be a good idea to keep your smoker outside. If you choose to do this, understand that certain weather conditions could permanently damage your smoker so be sure to also buy a tarp to keep it covered while it is not in use.

Do a Research:

Before choosing the best smoker to buy, do all your necessary research. Start by examining online BBQ forums and discussions. Also, look into the company’s website and explore their different prices and sales.

Talk to friends and co-workers about what smokers they use. You can even go out to cooking competitions and see what smokers are widely used. It is a good way to exchange knowledge and cooking strategies with experienced people.

Types:

There are four types of smokers. You can choose a charcoal and wood based smoker, or a propane powered smoker. No one smoker is better than another, it all depends on the kind of cooking you are looking to do.

Quality:

One thing that you are going to want to consider is the build quality of the smoker. A quality smoker is built with thick steel. This is important because it is able to absorb heat, and spread it evenly throughout the cooking chamber. In addition, a quality smoker will have doors that prevent the heat and smoke from escaping.

You also want to make sure that you have a high quality thermometer on your smoker. If the temperature of you meat is not properly accounted for, the flavor will suffer big time.

Many high quality smokers will come with accessories such as extra racks, surfaces, tools, etc. It is best to choose a smoker that has the best to offer for the money that you are willing to spend.

No matter what smoker you decide to choose, what matters the most is the type of cooking that is right for you. I hope these tips will help you to choose best smoker. Good luck and have great BBQ!

5 Awesome Homemade Barbecue Sauces That Every Grill Junkie Will Love

Imagine that you are hosting a barbecue and you’re serving a variety of grilled meat. One type of sauce for all dishes is a big no-no. This is where the beauty of homemade recipes come in – use different sauce recipes for different types of meat for a variety of flavors and textures. Remember, sauces can make or break any grilled dish. So if you’re aiming for better flavor and freshness, skip the store-bought kind and make something homemade.

Here are 5 awesome homemade barbecue sauces that anyone who loves to grill must try:

Hot Raspberry BBQ Sauce

What you need:

4 1/2 cups ketchup
1 1/4 cups raspberry preserves
1 cup dill pickle juice
1 cup honey
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons prepared spicy mustard
1 tablespoon dried minced onion flakes
1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 dash hot pepper sauce
Salt and ground black pepper to taste

On a medium saucepan, mix together ketchup, raspberry preserves, pickle juice, honey, red wine vinegar, brown sugar, mustard, onion flakes, red pepper flakes, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low then add hot pepper sauce. Simmer for 1 hour. Allow to cool for a few minutes then serve on top of grilled meat.

All White Delight

What you need:

1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons white sugar
3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Mix together mayonnaise, cider vinegar, water, white sugar and pepper on a medium bowl. Stir to combine ingredients well. Use as a sauce or a dip for grilled meat or vegetables.

Pepper-Vinegar Barbecue Sauce

What you need:

1 1/2 cups cider vinegar
1/2 cup water
10 tablespoons ketchup
1 tablespoon white sugar
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 pinch red pepper flakes
Salt and ground black pepper to taste

Combine cider vinegar, water, ketchup, sugar, cayenne pepper and red pepper flakes in a small saucepan. Simmer for 15-20 minutes over medium heat. Season with salt and pepper then remove from heat. Use to baste any type of meat for grilling.

Nuts About BBQ

What you need:

4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup hot water
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup chili paste
2 tablespoons white vinegar
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger root
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper

In a medium pan, carefully combine hot water and peanut butter. Add garlic, soy sauce, chili paste, vinegar, vegetable oil, ginger root and red pepper. Stir to mix ingredients well. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to low then simmer for 5 minutes. Allow to cool before serving on top of grilled meat.

Guavalicious Barbecue Sauce

What you need:

1 guava, peeled, seeded and chopped
1 3/4 cups tomato sauce
1/2 cup water
3/4 cup tomato paste
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons liquid smoke flavoring
1 tablespoon habanero hot sauce
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 teaspoon molasses
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Mix together guava, water, tomato sauce, tomato paste and brown sugar on a large saucepan. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until well-blended. Add lemon juice, smoke flavoring, hot sauce and Worcestershire sauce then season with garlic and onion powder, molasses, salt and pepper. Cover and cook for 20-30 minutes until thickened.

Take your grilled dishes a notch higher with these uniquely delicious homemade barbecue sauces!

Guidelines To Pick The Best Wedding Cakes

I guess everyone would agree with me when I say that the wedding cake plays a very crucial role in a wedding. Therefore, selecting a cake for the wedding is a huge responsibility. But, this is something that you procrastinate until the last minute. And in those last moments, with the pe-wedding jitters, an increase of workload, formalities and rituals, choosing the wedding cake seems nearly impossible due to which you either pass on the responsibility to someone else or choose any cake just for the sake of it.

Now this is not how you plan a perfect wedding, just like any other wedding preparation choosing of a wedding cake also needs to be started at least 2-3 months before the wedding, giving the bride and groom ample amount of time to select the perfect cake for their special day. Now this is a task that seems to be very simple but later when you start the process, you realise how complicating and confusing choosing a wedding cake can be.

In order to choose the perfect cake for your dream wedding, there are a few simple guidelines that you need to follow-

1. APPEALING APPEARANCE

The flavour of the cake, it’s texture, taste, everything is important but the main thing to keep in mind is the appearance of the cake. If the cake doesn’t look tempting enough, people might skip it thinking it might not taste good. Therefore, decoration of the cake has to be keenly focused on.

2. THEMED CAKES

Even though it is not a compulsion to have a wedding themed cake, it does make the day more special and memorable. A cake with toppers of the bride and the groom makes the cake look elegant and romantic at the same time.

3. TIERED CAKES

The wedding cakes are usually preferred as a tiered cake. The tiered cakes somehow always seem to look elegant and classy. In a practical sense, it is an advantage as it helps in having more quantity of the cake in less space so that every guest can get a taste of it.

4. TYPE OF FROSTING

Many people don’t tend to think about this aspect of the cake much and choose any kind f frosting. But frostings like buttercream, icing, etc. have the danger of getting ruined as they are comparatively very delicate. Whereas, in the case of fondant, it not only gives a polished and classy look to the cake, it is also easy to handle.

5. DELIVERY

One of the crucial tasks regarding the wedding cake is to make sure that it reaches the venue safe and sound. Any mistake while bringing the cake might ruin it completely, which cannot be afforded. Therefore, this is work that needs to be taken very seriously and done perfectly.

These are a few things that need to be kept in mind while ordering a wedding cake. While all these are very important, the most important thing is that the cake should be of the choice of the bride and the groom. The wedding day is all about them both, right from the scratch, everything that has to do with the wedding should be according to the couple’s choice, including the cake.