Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Fred's Downtown Philly in Richardson, TX

Fred's Downtown Philly for those of you in the DFW area

Fred's is probably one of the best cheesesteaks I've ever had.  Greasy hole in the wall joint with dvd's playing on a TV, Philly sports shit everywhere and the same two guys working the grill everytime you're there.    I highly recommend them to meat eaters everywhere...

I know, not really beer related but its our blog and I post whatever I want!

Last Night

Slow cooked chicken thighs (Megan's recipe - dill basil butter rubbed, sat on the grill for a couple hours).

Magic Hat #9.  Its really hard to describe this beer, but its a little bit of a pale ale, a little bit of an apricot beer.  We get it occassionally - these came in this year's Night of the Living Dead variety box along with some Hex (Oktoberfest), an IPA and their version of an Irish Red.  The red is actually pretty comparable to the batch of Irish Red we've got in secondary right now, so we're feeling pretty good about that one.

We also had one of our first batch, which was supposed to be a Lager but isnt really any particular style.  Despite our mistakes, it actually turned into a pretty good drinking beer.  Crisp, refreshing, a little dry.  Still has hints of the cider/green apple taste that comes from fermenting too warm and too quickly.  Not going to win any awards, but its tasty.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

How we got our start

I brewed beer about 15 years ago, back when it was a dark art practiced by a few grumpy old folks in back rooms and basements.  I wasnt very good at it, so it kind of fell by the wayside.  Fast forward to a few months ago, when one of us had the genius idea to give it a shot.  We love beer and we love cooking, so why not?  There's nothing terribly difficult about brewing your own beer.  If there was, we'd be doing something else and spending a silly amount of money for the good stuff.  Which we still do for the moment, but only because there's not much drinkable beer ready yet.  Even a small beer (5% or so) takes about a month and a half to be drinkable.

We started out with the cheapest, most basic kit available from our local homebrew shop and brewed a starter can of Coopers "Lager" that was included with it.

The quotes are necessary because true lagering entails keeping the beer at about 50 degrees through most of the process and we're just not set up for that yet.  Also, the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission has a real problem with Lager.  Seriously - check your beer label next time you have a Sam Adams.  I bet you see something that says "ALE in Texas" on a Boston Lager.  Sorry, beer nerd moment.

The canned kits that some homebrew places carry are trash, and may be the biggest reason that some people brew a batch of beer once and never again.  The ingredients are probably old as hell, which is a big factor in the taste and color of a brew.  They're pre-hopped in some cases, so you dont get the fun and variety of adding your own (Pay attention to the next Sam Adams commercial you see.)  There are no steeping grains so you're missing out on another level of flavor.   The dry yeast that was in ours was expired, but they still did what yeast do - wake up, eat sugar and have yeast sex so that a 5 gallon bucket of fermenting syrup turns into beer.

We made a ton of rookie mistakes with that beer, spent hours hovering over a plastic bucket watching a $2 airlock make bubbles and said all kinds of sweet things to it in the first 3 weeks of life.  Basically, we were doing things that probably would have gotten us committed to an asylum if anyone but a homebrewer had seen them.  We sent that beer straight from its warm cozy home (in our bottling bucket) into 48 brown glass bottles, along with a little sugar droplet to make the fizzy bubbles, then packed it away in a dark box and waited some more.  A week later, we cracked one (two weeks too early, but patience is not our strong point) and pretty much immediately caught the homebrew bug.  There were flavors there that definitely should NOT have been there, but it was ours.  We made it. 


We're both pretty new homebrewers, driven to it by a love of all things beer, cooking and a hole in the craft beer market in Texas.  Thanks to the fine folks at InBev and their lobbyists, its a major pain in the ass for companies outside of the state to import in and its an even bigger pain in the ass for local breweries to put product in the hands of consumers.

For example, we can go to a local brewery and drink "free" beers on the tour (paid admission) but we can't actually BUY any of that brewery's product unless we go find a store that sells it.  Which is the kicker, because this is Texas after all, so the craft beer folks have to compete for space on the shelves with hundreds of brands sold by Bud, Miller or Coors.  BMC beers are happily sucked down by the keg here in the DFW area, so we're in the definite minority.  For everyone like us, interested in actually tasting something delicious and exciting, there are dozens of people swilling at the trough of the almighty Bud Light in the Blue Aluminum Bottle.

Here's your first lesson, folks:  If its served ice-cold, its probably shit and the brewer is covering up the taste.  Real beers are meant to be poured in a glass and enjoyed.