Oktoberfest 2008

This year’s ‘fest was much smaller in scale than previously. However we still had a great time. Homemade sauerkraut, carmelized onions, veggie and pork sausages, handcrafted brew. Great friends and good conversation. I love the picture of all the shoes at the door; it seems to say that everyone was relaxed and at ease.

Internet Flames: My Hot Sauce Collection

Dead SoldiersYou’ll never catch me flaming someone…unless my mouth is on fire.

In my twenties (ah, youth!), I started liking hot sauce. Wellll, I developed an affection for hot sauce. OK, obsession. I put hot sauce in or on almost everything I ate. I used one packet of hot sauce on each bite of a fast-food burrito. I discovered lots of sauces that were not just heat, but flavor.

I started collecting the sauces from vacations and specialty shops. I had tasting notes on various sauces and different dishes for using chipotle versus habanero-based sauce. I didn’t collect full bottles anymore- I saved empties. Why let those wonderful sauces sit unused??

I grew my own peppers. I learned that peppers are hotter if watered less frequently so my garden was a desert. One day, I decided that it would be fun to eat one of my habanero peppers whole. These things are about 300-400 times hotter than jalapenos, by the way. I chomped down on the pepper’s tip, the least-hot part of the pepper. Hmm, not bad. Delicious flavor and needle-like heat. I decided to go for the hot part- veins, seeds, all of it (ah, youth!).

The flavor disappeared behind searing heat. My mouth watered uncontrollably. Standing alone in my kitchen over the sink, my mouth watering like a leaky faucet, I groaned from the delicious pain. Oh, it hurt. Oh, it really hurt. But the experience was worth it.

I recently read a blog about simplifying life and focusing on things that increase rather than decrease her family’s pocketbook. My hot sauce collection is not a big money drain, but it does cost money and even more, it costs time to maintain and precious space in my home. I haven’t looked at the collection in three years other than pulling out a bottle to use. It has sat in a dark closet wasting space.

Now, I don’t grow my own peppers. I trade a few bottles of my homebrew for a neighbor’s freshly grown peppers and homemade sauce. Less waste, less cost, and it builds a friendship too.

My collection is growing more and more into a bunch of empty bottles. I used up these two bottles in the picture and was going to write up tasting notes, clean them, and add them to the collection. But it wasn’t worth my time. I don’t need those bottles anymore. So I rinsed them and put them in the recycling bin. This weekend, the rest of the ~150 bottles are going in the bin.

It’s such a small, small thing. But it represents a little piece of me. I used to have the time to do it and now I just don’t. My job is more demanding; my family is more demanding; I’d rather spend the time with friends and family, not polishing some bottles of a collection that nobody sees but me. It is the right thing to do but it just reminds me that I’m not so young and free anymore.

Fridge Friday Part III

The final refrigerator is unveiled! I know the suspense is killing you.

This is the bar refrigerator, unstaged.  It was on the floor until my c-section made it impossible for me to crouch to retrieve things; we never put it back on the floor.  It’s much more convenient but it’s pretty ugly to see the back of a refrigerator on the bar.  Anyway, the contents are: top shelf, a day’s worth of milk for Ainsley and a freezer pack in the freezer.  the rest of the fridge is full of beverages and perishable drink mixers.  The bottle under the freezer is olive brine for martinis!  The door also holds some peach mead (it finally tastes good) and Ainsley’s Ale.  Ainsley’s ale has turned out to be my best homebrew to date IMO.  It’s perfectly balanced and delicious.  So good that it’s sippable more than gulpable.  I will be making that one again!  Since I can’t unveil it at a nonexistent party this year, I encourage friends to invite themselves over for a taste.  It’s worth it.

Well that is it for my fridges.  I actually like my pantry better than my fridges, but there isn’t a day of the week starting in “p.”  Hope you liked seeing inside my own personal refrigerated section.

But about what will I post next Friday?  Even I don’t know yet.  Suggestions are welcome.

Fridge Friday Part II

OK, the fridge thing is addictive.  I realized that if they had a day of the week for other storage areas, it might strike enough fear in me to make me organize them!  But as it is, my refrigerators are in pretty decent shape.  So now for my other refrigerators.

First is the keg fridge.  I love this refrigerator because it’s unique.  How many people have a three-tap keg fridge for homebrew?  This refrigerator was originally for a store-purchased regular keg.  I purchased the triple-tap and fittings so it could hold three homebrew kegs, and even have a special tap handle for stout.  In this photo you can see only one tap is in use.  Sadly, I realized that this year’s Oktoberfest would be Januaryfest or Februaryfest or may not happen at all.  The two weekends we picked for this year both had multiple conflicts for key guests.  We held out hope until last week, when the Nut Brown tap ran out!  Hard to have a brew party when the beers are gone.  We admitted defeat and put the Red Amber on tap.  Hey, we’ll still have guests to drink beer…just not all at once.  The keg on top of the fridge is the empty; inside is the red amber and the mess of CO2 and beer lines.  The CO2 cylinder is underneath the bar sink.

Next week- bar fridge!

Fridge Friday Part I

Main RefrigeratorI jumped on the Fridge Friday bandwagon thanks to Amy. I actually took the pictures on Wednesday so I wouldn’t have time to clean and stage my fridges!! When I took the photos, I had to resist the complusion to turn all of the labels outward so it would be prettier.

I didn’t do a fridge post on last Friday, so let’s start with the main fridge. Top left is dairy/soy; top right is homebrew for cooking, cooking wine, and big pots of leftovers (no leftovers this week, though!). The two small open shelves on the left are cheeses and eggs; the larger open shelf on the right is tofu and leftovers that are ready to be taken to work for lunch. The left drawer is “mire poix” (carrots, celery, green onions/shallots/whatever) and the right drawer is other fresh fruits and vegetables, currently packed full of hand-picked apples. The huge bottom drawer is unopened dairy and soymilk. It’s extra cold, so the stuff stays fresh for a long time. I can buy lots on sale and it doesn’t spoil!

If you haven’t already stopped reading this very boring post, I’ll tell you what’s on the door by shelf, starting at the top: baking (e.g. yeast) and meds; butter; condiments; jellies; homemade hot sauces and jalapenos; and the bottom shelf is tall stuff and perishable, opened condiments.

Main FreezerStill with me?? How about the freezer? Top shelf is, left to right ice (duh), limeade (for delicious margaritas not from a box, Mymsie!), frozen bagged vegetables in the back row, and frozen homegrown produce in the front row. Most of the homegrown stuff is from other people’s garden. Homebrew is a powerful bartering tool!

The bottom shelf is soymeat (crumbles make a really yummy marinara additive), Extra frozen veggies, frozen fish, lots of frozen milk for Ainsley, an ice cream maker, and a big chunk of charred wood. Wha? What idiot puts charred wood in the freezer? Well, it’s my salmon grilling plank and although I rinse and scrub it after use, I just don’t think plain water can rinse off all of the bacteria that could fester before the next time I use the plank.

I guess I didn’t realize the large amount of insanity that goes into my fridge. It is a very small refrigerator, so I really have to be creative with the space. It is not very deep, which is really a big advantage; it’s much harder to lose a container of leftovers, only to find it six months later covered in fuzz. The biggest thing I noticed was that I am doing a pretty good job of keeping it neat. I used to throw away a lot of rotten food- what a waste of money and resources. Having everything organized has helped me use everything before it rots and also feels less cluttered.

I hope this post isn’t as boring as what I had for lunch.  Next week: different fridges from around the house! Stay tuned…

Fauxtoberfest 2007 Update

Those are NOT all my empties!This is apparently a busy weekend for most people I know! We only had a crew of three to attend the Fauxtoberfest for Tuxedo Park Brewers.

We all expected it to be in a park somewhere in Fountain Square, but it was actually in someone’s yard! I felt like I was crashing a private party. We ordered beers and chilis and ate and drank in the cool, crisp weather. They offered free two ounce tastings, so I indulged my palate.

Blackout Stout- This was my last beer of the evening. I love stouts and this one was delicious. The person pouring had likened it to a Young’s Double Chocolate, but I thought it was less overly sweet and offered a roastier flavor, with notes of coffee and toasted marshmallow. I’d drink this as dessert.

Dog Days Cream Ale- This had been named “Cream Corn,” but the brewers decided that evoked a rather unpalatable dish served by lunch ladies. Carlton suggested “Corn Dog” was a better name yet. The beer was smooth and creamy, with a mouthfeel similar to Boddington’s. Made with Indiana sweet corn, it was a great ale for a Hoosier brewer. Delicious and mild with a candy-like aftertaste.

Flat Tire Amber- I was expecting something like Fat Tire. This beer was nothing like Fat Tire. It was crisp and a little too boozy, with none of the buscuit character I expected. It was a perfectly good Amber, but not my favorite beer of the night. Midwest Supplies markets a Fat Tire kit called Flat Tire already, so maybe this one’s up for a name change also.

Big Buck Oatmeal Stout- Chewy and hearty, this was my favorite beer of the night. It was a great beer for a fall afternoon. Nutty and delicious, the stout delivered big flavor in a beer best sippe, not chugged. Best drunk while socializing around a quiet fire.

Wrecking Ball Robust Porter- At least I think it was Wrecking Ball. I couldn’t read the small print on the tap handle. It was a porter, in any case. I didn’t think this was a special beer; just drinkable and easygoing for a porter.

Raspberry Wheat- I only had a small taste (still not eating wheat).  This wasn’t on the menu but was very good. I dislike fruit beers as a general guideline. I always wonder- how bad/boring is the beer that it had to be hidden behind fruit? This was bursting with raspberry and apple notes, but wasn’t stickily sweet. The beer was straw colored. That’s usually a sign that the fruit flavor came from an extract instead of the actual fruit. As a beer purist, I should (and usually do) dislike the use of flavorings; however, this was the perfect way to have berry flavor without adding sugar or making the beer pink.

The Tuxedo Park crew had outdoor games, tables, a free cream soda tap, a fire pit, and a CD mix that brought back my college days.  In fact, the whole party had the feel of a college house party…but with better beer.  The brewers I met were really nice and we talked homebrewing for a long time.  They offered to let me watch an all-grain brewing session so I could see what it’s like.

Where can Tuxedo Park beer be purchased?  Uh, I don’t know.  I forgot to ask that one!

Bourbon Review: Woodford Reserve versus George T. Stagg versus A.H. Hirsch

sunny_bourbon_connaisseur_resize.JPGMany people buy wine or champagne to celebrate (including me). My Kentucky husband buys bourbon. There was a ton of hype for the A.H. Hirsch, so he splurged and purchased it. We decided to save it a few months and sip it to celebrate our new back porch and little Ainsley’s arrival.  We did just that a couple of weeks ago.

While preparing the tasting tray, Sunny decided that surely there was food involved- so she hopped on the tray and parked herself until we moved her!

Instead of just sipping, we decided to compare it to our favorite premium bourbon, George T. Stagg uncut, and to our favorite lower-cost bourbon, Woodford Reserve. We expected the Stagg and Hirsch to be much stronger in flavor but wanted to use the Woodford as a “control.”

All of them were a standard one ounce over ice, with one ounce of Ty Nant still water to dilute. I wanted to use a little more water on the uncut Stagg, but I was overruled. We started with the Woodford (I hadn’t had bourbon of any kind in ten months, so I started slowly!). As always, it was smooth and clean, with a mild carmelized woodsiness that is perfectly sippable. Next, the Stagg.

It was toward the end of the bottle, and the Stagg had some carbon that made it into the glass, so the color was off. The aroma was thick and bursting with cherries. I tasted it- BLEH!  It was definitely too strong.  I swished some Pellegrino in the hopes of saving my palate from destruction.  I haven’t had a stiff drink since before I was pregnant so I thought I might be losing my affection for bourbon.  Oh no!

Finally, we tried the Hirsch.  We sipped, swirled, sipped again.  We cautiously looked at each other.  My thought was…”that’s it?!?”  We were both thinking the same thing.

The Hirsch was smooth, with a saltwater-limestone finish.  Carlton identified a walnut flavor which I liked and he didn’t.  It had little carmel or cherry character and tasted more like a salty (not peaty) scotch than a bourbon.  We were nonplussed.  I compared it to the Woodford directly.  Woodford had more complex flavors than Hirsch but the same smoothness.

The result?  We’ll save our precious income and buy 3 or 4 bottles of Woodford instead.  Even a bottle of Stagg is more economical than Hirsch and, once we’d cut it with the right amount of water, was delicious with its pipe-tobacco overtones.

Oktoberfest Update

I think karma is trying to tell me not to have a party. I made a Nut Brown last week; a kit I’ve made before. When I tasted it, it seemed overly hoppy. Did I add the aroma hops too soon? It was pre-hopped malt, so it couldn’t be from over-extracting the hops. Then I realized I added almost a gallon too much water. SO stupid. Original specific gravity: 1.035 (should have been at least 1.044 if not overdiluted).

I was going to rack it while the Red Amber brewed today, but when I checked on it, the krausen had bubbled out of the airlock and the airlock barely had any liquid as a barrier. So I will rack it tomorrow and find out if it’s contaminated.

The Red Amber was also a pre-hopped kit. I made it without overdiluting (duh) and it went into the primary with no problem. SG = 1.045, well within range for this ale. I had Carlton taste it and…


What’s the deal? I didn’t even add aroma hops until the stove was off, not even for the last three minutes of the boil (as is standard). Maybe it will mellow. Who knows. But as of now, I have two very bitter beers. I was trying to brew crowd-pleaser beers. *sigh*

Besides all of this, I can’t even drink beer right now. It’s not on the SCWOB diet (thanks, Mymsie 🙂 ), so I’m sure I won’t have Oktoberfest until I can at least enjoy the brews. Novemberfest?

If there’s anything to enjoy. GRR!

Your Vote Matters! Oktoberfest Brewing 2007

I knew that between being pregnant and having a newborn, my usual huge brew party would be impossible.  This year’s Oktoberfest will be a much, much smaller version of previous years.  I’m thinking it will be a close group of friends, sipping brews on the back porch and watching the sun set.

There will be exactly two homebrews available, as well as that draught Shlafly Wheat beer that tastes like Bud Light.  The first brew will be a bottle-aged Belgian tripel, the same batch on which I’ve been working since April.  The second brew will be…


I am not able to do a three-hour, complex brew, but I can still brew a 20-minute kit.  Descriptions of each of these kits are at Midwest Supplies’ website.  Please vote, and you’ll score an invitation, too!

(PS, Amy– no cider kits exist.  I’ll buy you some though 🙂 )