Monthly Archives: June 2010

Homemade Beer – Guest Blogger Bill Kiernan

Music: The Yardbirds – I’m Not Talking (if you only understood the irony here!)

Oh boy do we have a special treat today! Good pal and guest blogger, Bill Kiernan, has decided to share some of his secrets for homemade brewing.  He’s been doing this for a few years now out of his home in LI and recently, he made a batch to celebrate James’ birthday (We called it Jamesonian IPA).  Please enjoy his musings on home brewing and feel free to comment!


On Long Island, the spring fumbles in this year and I find myself brewing an IPA for James’ birthday. Any excuse to brew is welcomed, and when it’s for a friend, well, insert mush. There are varieties to home brewing, from stove top with a big pot to developing a veritable nano brewery in your garage, I find myself safely wedged into a bracket of the “want to make a good beer” but do not wear my “beeriodic table of Alements” shirt while doing so.  I would prefer to allow you to establish a meaning of the previous analysis.

Here, take a drink: an IPA is a pleasurable beer, especially during the spring and summer. India Pale Ale has unique histories, and one would say histories dependent on whom you speak with: read online and you will learn history of IPA rife with luck of shipwrecks and landlubbers loving the barrels of beer which washed upon shore (I guess I could liken this historical anomaly of human behavior to that first hit from a hypodermic needle that washed ashore on Rockaway); ask your local know it all craft beer distributor “so they made the IPA to survive the voyage from Britain to India?” and he’ll look at your forehead as though a piece of your brain were waving off the comment as an act of the ass rather than his constituents. Regardless, it’s a good beer, which is generally more bitter than a Pale Ale.  The degree of bitterness is measured in IBU’s which is a cute enough acronym for International Bittering Units, which is such a bold and forbooding measurement, it’s best left at IBU.

The bitterness comes from hops, which are  beautiful cone like vine plants, which, forsooth, New York used to be a Mecca of. There are extensive varieties of hops and even more variety to what they can do to your beer. Depending on which hops you use and when you add them to your boil or your beer as you ferment it your beer could be more bitter than flavorful. Add a variety of hops closer to when you end your boil you get more aroma, typically. Let’s just say it can get pretty complicated. Throw in some toasted oats, orange peels, a sprig of lavender from the garden or some st. johns wort, who knows what could happen.  If you are going to do an all grain brew, as opposed to an “extract” set aside a good part of your day, prepare to smell like some hopped up feign, and double check your equipment.  All grain brewing is not as insane as studying neutrinos in Antarctica but it does require a bit of close analysis and attention.

Start with the grain.

For this IPA, we are using 9lbs of Pale 2 Row malt and 1lb of Carafoam malt.

We are using 3.5 oz of Cascade variety hops and 1 oz of Amarillo variety hops.

All your grains are milled together in such a way that the grain gets cracked but not pulverized.

Heat up about five gallons of water to about 175 degrees. In what is called the mash tun, in this case a large cooler, slowly add your grain and scalding hot water from a difficult to manage gigantic six gallon pot of water. Ideally, your water will loose about 10 – 15 degrees in the transfer to the grain. You want your mixture to be apprx 150- 155 degrees.  You really are creating a mash, and at this temperature saccharization, which is a process that converts the starches in grain to fermentable sugars, occurs. Let it rest for an hour to 75 minutes.  The longer the time, the more sugars extracted. Meanwhile heat up another four gallons of water for the sparge. Yes, the sparge.

Welcome back. When you open the cooler you will smell a rather sweet, malty goodness. You want to quckily raise the temperature to about 165 to wash more of the sugars out of the grain. So to do this, you will add that water, which is hopefully around 190 degrees. Check the temp and do your best to get around the strike temp of 165.  Now allow a couple of minutes to pass to allow the grain bed to settle again.

Now take a small Pyrex or other such glass container and drain some of the beer out then pour is slowly and lightly bAck to the cooler. You are trying to create a flow that is free of grains.

Then begin to drain the cooler into a pot which can hold approximately six gallons. You may get as much as 7 -8 gallons from your sparging, depending on how much water you needed to get the temp.

The boil.

If you have considerable amount you might boil it down some before you start your official boil time. But you should  essentially start with about five or so gallons and boil for approximately an hour.  So with this beer our hop schedule (the time we add hops) looks like this;.

60 min add 1 oz of Cascade

30 min add 1 oz of Cascade

15 min add 1.5 oz of Cascade

At burn out 1 oz of Amarillo

You want to adhere to a schedule for the addition of hops because doing so will create the beer that you are aimming for. You can use a calculator to help you determine the all impressive IBU. For an IPA around the mid 70’s of IBUs  good. The hops added earliest are for bittering, whereas the later additions are for flavor and aroma.

After you have boiled for an hour with the addition of your hops at scheduled times, it’s time to cool down. Most home brewers have a chiller which is really a copper coil that cool water runs through. You want to be sure that anything you put in your beer after you stop boiling has been sanitized.

After your beer ha cooled down you want to aerate your beer, usually by pouring it back forth several times using the tub you will ferment in. Now simply add your yeast, sprinkling it on top, close up your fermenter (in this case a five gallon restaurant grade plastic tub with an air lock.  After several weeks the yeasts have eaten all the sugars and pooped out alcohol.

Look, go to these websites for some more specific instructions. You can do this.



Filed under Beverage, Drinks, Food Anecdotes, General Rantings, How to..., Recipes

Heart Attack Hamburgers

Music: Kingdom of Rust – Doves

We spent a nice long weekend in Connecticut with my family. One of the best things to do when you’re in the woods is grill food!  Because it was a holiday weekend, we decided to create the most insane burger we could think of paired with french fries and chocolate milkshakes.  Just so you know, I’m still full…

The fries were a little healthier than one would expect.  My father adapted this recipe from Cooks Illustrated and instead of frying the potatoes, you bake them in oil.  They came out crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. We cut 8 Idaho potatoes in strips and tossed them in some salt, pepper and 4 tablespoons of oil.  We baked them on 350 for 20 minutes and then checked them.  We tossed them and flipped the fries to their other sides until those were browned as well. When they are perfectly crispy, throw them in a brown paper bag for a few minutes to absorb any extra oil.

For our burgers, we basically just topped them with a bunch of yummy stuff. We bought the our burgers from a local meat market, Amity Meats in Woodbridge, CT.  We topped them with blue cheese, sauteed mushrooms, Niman Ranch thick-cut bacon, melted onions, shredded lettuce and sliced tomatoes. Slap that between a bun or some toast and voila…you got yourself a burger!  On the sides we served baked beans, sauerkraut and corn on the cob.

When I was a little girl, my mother worked at night, leaving my father and I hours of play time. He would make me play drums for our living room band and we would finger paint on the kitchen floor (only to have my mother come home later and panic).  I was sort of a picky eater and he would serve me food out of oversized sea shells.  Our favorite meal was fries and chocolate milkshakes (my father’s first job was as a short order cook).  My grandmother gifted us these silver straws with little hearts on the end of them that made sipping shakes all the more fun. I was overcome when they pulled out these straws were placed in our shakes this weekend. Brought back a lot of memories!

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Filed under Drinks, Food Anecdotes, Meats, Potatoes