Hop Cast – Episode 73

In episode 73 of the Hop Cast, Ken Hunnemeder and Brad Chmielewski sit down and chat with some local hometown beer heroes, Doug and Tracy Hurst of Metropolitan Brewing. Metropolitan Brewing is making some amazing craft lagers in Chicago. They are located in Ravenswood just along the Metra tracks. Doug and Tracy give Ken and Brad a little background on the brewery and give them the scoop on what they have planned for the up coming year. Keep an eye out for their beers either on tap or in the bottle because they are all outstanding.

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Hop Cast – Episode 72

Brad Chmielewski and Ken Hunnemeder bring you some beer information as an intro to beer course in episode 72 of the Hop Cast. The two of them look at the differences between an ale and a lager. They explain that the key difference between an ale and a lager is in the fermentation. Lagers are fermented at a much lower temperature, and usually with a different yeast, than an ale. The lager Brad and Ken picked to drink is the Flywheel from Metropolitan. The Flywheel is classified as a German Pilsner and has an AVB of 5.5%. A Pilsner is a type of pale lager, or in this case a “bright lager”. After this excellent lager Brad and Ken move onto an ale. The ale they picked to talk about is the Third Eye P.A. from Steamworks, it is an American IPA and has a ABV of 6.4%. The important distinction for ales is that they use a top-fermenting yeast and are fermented at higher temperatures and thus ferment more quickly than lagers. Brad and Ken just scratch the surface in the differences of a lager and an ale. Hopefully you learned something and now can know a little more about what you might be drinking. Stay tuned for future beer 101 episodes like this from the Hop Cast.

Having issues watching this video? Try the Quicktime (171.3 MB).

Home Brewer Profile – Stephen Freshnock

For this home brewer profile we talk with Stephen Freshnock.

Stephen Freshnock

Where are you from?
I have been living in Chicago for 6 years. Before that Kansas City.

What is your favorite brew pub in the area?
My loyalty is to Goose Island Clybourn but I am a huge fan of Piece’s IPA’s.

Do you focus on one style or do you mix it up depending on the conditions and mood?
I try to brew Seasonally, for instance I am doing a lot of Stouts, Porters and Browns for the colder weather at the moment. Sometimes I get inspired by a particular beer or concept

How long have you been brewing and what made you decide to start?
3 years. As I got more into beer culture I kept reading about how many startup breweries began in the kitchen. Once I realized there was science involved, I was all about it.

Did anyone inspire you to start brewing?
Brandon Bosher’s (Bridges Brewery) showed me that you could make a pro caliber beer in the home. His Burnt Santa is a ridiculous recipe and he is doing a “More Burnt Santa” this year.

Would you mind giving us a run down of your brewing career to date?
I have never entered competitions but I am thinking about it this year.. maybe. This will be the second year I help with “Bridges Brewery“. Last year I did a Scotch Ale and a Golden Strong Ale, the Scotch Ale is coming back this year along with a Rye Stout.

Are there any brewers you look to or anyone you think is at the top of your list?
I think John Cutler at Piece really knows how to get hop flavor in his beers. Boulevard in Kansas City, MO for consistency. I challenge anyone who says they make a bad beer, plus they have the Smokestacks to compliment a solid session beer lineup. Three Floyd’s for really tweaking out beer styles without sacrificing drinkability and having a killer presentation with everything they do. Metropolitan Brewery for passion around their business. I am really inspired by the Twitter #homebrew community, too many of you to name but you all inspire me to keep it up.

How often do you brew? What days do you brew?
I brew weekly if weather allows. Monday and/or Friday as I work weekends. I am always looking for people to come by and help out. I will feed you homebrew.

What are you brewing with?
I currently have a Sanford and Son gravity system that is lovingly called “The Ghetto Voltron”. 12 gallon cooler style mash tun, 5 gal cooler style HLT, an old chair, milk crate, propane burner, 10 gallon Kettle and 5 gallon kettle. It’s not pretty to look at, the only button is on the “aim n’ flame” but i have been told it makes decent beer.

I really believe that process not equipment makes great beer. You can have an automated brew sculpture but without the correct processes and knowledge you will be broke and still making shitty beer.

I know a lot of home brewers end up building their own equipment. Do you have any untraditional brewing equipment that you won’t find at a home brew shop?
I am great at ideas but horrible at execution. I once tried to build a “Lager chamber” that would recirculate air over ice cylinders. It worked for about a week, and then I ponied up the cash for a proper freezer and temp controller.

Can you tell us about the first beer you ever brewed, what was it and how did it come out?
German Wheat. Under attenuated, sickly sweet but drinkable.

What was the last thing you brewed?
Today I brewed a Rye Stout. I am under the assumption most beer styles improve with Rye in the grain bill.

Anything in the works you would like to share?
I am brewing a Coffee Porter with coffee from “Star Lounge“. Going to cold brew and add it to secondary. This would be my first time brewing with coffee. Hoping to do several lagers in the new year. I made two last year that I felt could have been better.

Do you do all grain or extract?
I am a big all grain champion. I did two extract batches and jumped to all grain. Would you rather have biscuits made from lard by Grandma or Pillsbury from the can?

What type of yeast do you use and how do you maintain your culture?
I love US-05 and US-04 dry yeast. They are easy to pitch, fast and effective. I only use liquid yeast when looking for that specific character, like Belgian’s. Regardless of what yeast you use, pitching the right amount and proper aeration will really make the difference.

What about hops… do you use whole or pellet hops? Why?
I prefer plugs or whole hops whenever possible. They do a great job of filtering out break materials in your kettle and you can judge the character much better than pellets IMO.

Do you do any sort of collaborations with other home brewers in the area?
I take part in the Bridges Media Holiday beers. This is the second year I will be brewing for them. I have a project on hiatus with “Blake @fermentus“. We are both working on an Imperial “SLOVAK” Pils in celebration of our shared heritage.

Are you part of any home brewers club or organizations?
Not at the moment but I have been threatening to attend a “North Side Home Brewers” meeting. At the moment I strictly brew for my #gents.

Any plans to do this as more than just a hobby?
I hope to make this a career. I love the idea of smaller brew pubs and production breweries that brew for the community. I am inspired by all the small breweries in the Czech Republic and Slovak Republic that are just now coming back to life. They are brewing styles that were forgotten during occupation and revitalizing beer culture in a land where for the longest time only one beer style existed.

Do you have any tips or words of wisdom for anyone looking to brew?
Brew often, people like free beer. Read and ask questions. You are going to make bad beer and phenomenal beer. Every brew will teach you something new. Stay on top of your processes. DONT CUT CORNERS! Most importantly SHARE your brew with uneducated beer drinkers.

Be sure to check out Stephen’s blog at http://freshbrewlog.blogspot.com/ or follow him on twitter http://twitter.com/SlovakBrewer/ for all kind of great updates.

Hop Cast – Episode 71

Episode 71 of the Hop Cast is here just in time for the holidays. Ken Hunnemeder and Brad Chmielewski snuggle up in front of the fire to share a couple fine Christmas ales  The first beer the two of them crack open is the Bell’s Christmas Ale. This Christmas ale falls under the style of scottish ale and comes in at 5.4% ABV. A solid beer but besides the label you’re not going to find any spices or anything reminding you of Christmas in this beer. Attempting to get more in the Christmas spirit, Ken and Brad go with the Frosted Frog Christmas Ale from Hoppin’ Frog Brewery . This is a beer both Ken and Brad have been hearing a lot about this season so they were very excited to be able to try it. And it didn’t disappoint, with an ABV of 8.6% it packs a bit of a punch and tastes like fresh out of the oven gingerbread. This beer has Christmas all over it and should get you in the holiday spirit.  If you’re looking for something to go along with your Great Lakes Christmas Ale then this would be a perfect partner. It’s sweet and packs a lot of spice. Happy Holidays from the Hop Cast.

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Hop Cast – Episode 70

The Holidays are here so for episode 70 of the Hop Cast, Brad Chmielewski and Ken Hunnemeder are sitting down for some liquid holiday cheer. Both the beers they sample in this holiday episode are Belgian Strong Dark Ales, which seems to be one of the favorite styles for holiday beers. The first beer they open is the St. Bernardus Christmas Ale. This beer has been aging for a year in Brad’s cellar and has an ABV of 10.0%. Brad and Ken follow up the St. Bernardus Christmas Ale with the Noel De Calabaza from Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales. Unlike most of Jolly Pumpkin beers this one isn’t as sour as most and its a great beer if you’re looking to see what the world of sours has to offer.

Instead of milk and cookies this year, why not leave Santa a delicious beer. Happy Holidays from the Hop Cast.

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Dragon’s Milk Ice Cream Recipe

IMG_9430

Makes 1 quart

Ingredients:
1/2 Vanilla Bean
1/2 Cup Whole Milk
1/2 Cup Chocolate Milk
1 Cup Heavy Cream
2/3 Cup New Holland Dragon’s Milk
2 1/2 Tablespoons Robust Molasses
4 Egg Yolks
1/3 Cup Sugar
1/2 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1 Teaspoon Dark Drinking Chocolate or Cocoa

Directions:
Split vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape into a medium saucepan. Add the pod, milk, chocolate milk, and cream into the saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, once boiling turn off the heat and add drinking chocolate. Stir in drinking chocolate and then cover the pan. Let sit for 30 minutes so flavors infuse.

In a small saucepan whisk together the Dragon’s Milk and molasses. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Once boiling turn the heat off.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk the yolks, sugar, and vanilla extract until combined.

Whisk in a few tablespoons of the hot cream mixture, then very slowly begin to whisk in the rest of the hot cream mixture. Be careful not to add too much too quickly, you don’t want to cook the eggs.

Pour the mixture back into the medium saucepan and remove vanilla pod.

Add the beer/molasses mixture into the cream mixture.

Cook over medium heat, stirring often with a wooden spoon, for 8 to 10 minutes or until you think it has thickened enough that it is coating the back of the spoon.

Refrigerate in bowl overnight.

The next day, add the mixture to an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Beer & Ice Cream

You don’t hear very often about wine drinkers pairing wine with a good ice cream. Sure it can be done, a good sherry would probably work well with a light vanilla or there are always Wine Cellar Sorbets. But what happens when you want to mix up the flavors of your ice cream and try something different then a vanilla or chocolate. It becomes a lot hader to pair the two.  Beer and ice cream are an excellent team. This is a pairing I feel beer has the biggest edge over wine. Beer has a broad range of flavors and it presents an unlimited possibility for ice cream and dessert pairings. Beer floats rock and they seem to be appearing on menus all over the place and for good reason, the richness of the cream goes well with the CO2. All you have to do is replace the root beer with one of the endless number of stouts out there. Beers that incorporate layers of flavors like honey, pumpkin, coconut, apple, and raspberry are practically begging to be paired with their food counter part or tossed into the ice cream machine. I have always been a fan of coffee and ice cream so a Russian Imperial Stout with vanilla bean ice cream is a perfect combo in my book. But try your own ice cream and beer combo and let me know. Would love to hear about an ice cream that has worked well with an IPA or a sour.

Hop Cast – Episode 69

In episode 69 of the Hop Cast, Ken Hunnemeder and Brad Chmielewski reach for a morning beer rather than their typical morning coffee. The first beer they crack open is the Coffee Bender from Surly Brewing in Minnesota. The Coffee Bender is an American Brown Ale and has an ABV of 5.10%. Both Ken and Brad need at least two cups of coffee in the morning so they follow up the Coffee Bender with the Java Head Stout from Pennsylvania brewery, Tröegs. The Java Head is an Oatmeal Stout and has an ABV of 7.50%. Both of these beers are great coffee beers but the Coffee Bender packed more of a coffee flavor then the Java Head Stout. Don’t expect to get your caffeine from beer, the level of caffeine is rather low in just about all the coffee beers.

Having issues watching this video? Try the Quicktime (156.0 MB).

Home Brewer Profile – Ryan Merritt

For this home brewer profile we talk with Ryan Merritt.

Ryan Merritt

Where are you from?
Originally I’m from the heart of it all- Ohio, but I have been living in Chicago for the last seven years.

What is your favorite brew pub in the area?
Whichever one I find myself in at that moment. I do appreciate that there is a wide choice of brew pubs here in Chicago. It’s kind of like asking someone to choose their favorite child. Ok, it’s Goose Island. It’s synonymous with Chicago and their food is as good as their brew.

Do you focus on one style or do you mix it up depending on the conditions and mood?
I definitely tend to brew the styles I prefer to drink, mostly ales, big ales. I am currently working through the Brewing Classic Styles book to better understand each style and what they bring to the glass.

How long have you been brewing and what made you decide to start? Did anyone inspire you to start brewing?
I have only been brewing for about 8 months now, but I completed my 16th brew this weekend. I had been talking about brewing on and off for a while with an old college buddy, but it was my wife who brought me home a copy of “How to Brew” and a commercial beer kit that actually ignited my current addiction.

Would you mind giving us a run down of your brewing career to date?
It will be ashort trip. I started with an off the shelf commercial beer kit and made a few examples from their catalog. They turned out fairly well, but I knew I could make better beer. From there I invested in some dedicated gear and starting doing some full boil extract kits eventually with steeping specialty grains. After that, I started using the Brewing Classic Styles as a guide and picking up my ingredients fresh from a local brew supply store. With each subsequent batch I would up the ante of the previous batch with a new piece of equipment or technique. My last handful of brews have been all-grain, batch sparged, stir-plated starter, immersion chilled, and keged. I primarily dispense out of a dual tapped kegerator, but I do have bottles stashed in every nook-and-cranny I can find. Seriously.

Is there any brewers you look to or anyone you think is at the top of your list?
Well, I think I have to mention Sam from Dogfish Head. They are cutting edge, and a super inspiring brewery to watch. Those guys have no fear. I’m a huge fan of Jeremy’s work over at Founders and the brewers at Three Floyd’s. On the home brewing side I have to say I really have learned so much from listening to Jamil Zainasheff and John Palmer.

How often do you brew? What days do you brew?
I brew about once every other week, typically on Saturdays but every once in a while a mid-week brew session is in order.

What are you brewing with? I know a lot of home brewers end up building there own equipment. Do you have any untraditional brewing equipment that you won’t find at a home brew shop?
I am in the initial stages of using a programmable microcontroller to build my own spectrophotometer to output the SRM of my beer samples. It combines two of my hobbies. Well, I guess that would be more of my brewing obsession swallowing one of my other hobbies.

Can you tell us about the first beer you ever brewed, what was it and how did it come out?
My first beer ever was an American Blonde Ale and it came out “drinkable”. It was a hit with the fans of the American Macro breweries. I was happy that there were no casualties, but ultimately I knew I could brew something better.

What was the last thing you brewed?
A Pumpkin Spice Ale. It is currently in primary. I’ve been hearing some cool stories of people fermenting/conditioning part of their Pumpkin Ale in an actual hollowed out pumpkin. If I can get my hands on any decently fresh gourds, the plan is to do something along those lines.

Anything in the works you would like to share?
I have been brainstorming more ways of combining two of my current hobbies- programming microcontrollers and brewing. In addition to the spectrophotometer, I have some ideas about using a floating wireless thermometer to both control my heat source and alert me to key temperature steps throughout the brewing process.

Do you do all grain or extract?
I’ve been doing all-grain batches for the last couple of months. After completing my first all-grain batch, I immediately thought “That’s it?” and regretted not jumping into it even earlier. Don’t be afraid of all-grain.

What type of yeast do you use and how do you maintain your culture?
I typically use a new Wyeast Smack Pack and stir plate up a starter. I’ve harvested a couple of yeast slurrys but I haven’t really done much second-gen or beyond yeast work yet.

What about hops… do you use whole or pellet hops? Why?
I’ve only used pellet hops so far. I thought I had a line on some fresh whole hops in the area to make a wet hopped beer this harvest, but sadly it did not pan out. Pellet hops are great from a storage and utilization standpoint. At least that is what I tell myself.

Do you do any sort of collaborations with other home brewers in the area?
I’ve been doing some home brew trading with a few brewers. We trade up when we get the chance and give each other feedback. It’s a super important part of my brewing since I feel that my co-workers and friends that I give free samples to may have a conflict of interest in giving any critical reviews.

Are you part of any home brewers club or organizations?
I am a member of the AHA, subscribe to BYO and Zymurgy magazines, and I consume most online brewing resources from podcasts to message boards. In addition I do try to make it to the local beer events. Sheffields has been putting on some great events lately in the Chicago area.

Any plans to do this as more than just a hobby?
It currently is much more than a hobby, it is an obsession. I just don’t currently have any plans to recoup my costs. Who knows where life will lead though.

Do you have any tips or words of wisdom for anyone looking to brew?
If you have the interest, start today. You won’t regret it. Like my great-grandad tells me, you aren’t going to learn how to do it any younger.

Be sure to check out Ryan’s beer photos at http://www.flickr.com/photos/rnast/ or follow him on twitter http://twitter.com/Rnast/ for all kind of great updates.