Reading material

I am a reader. I love books, and I get cranky when I am away from them for too long. There are piles and drifts of books throughout the apartment that need to be collected and sorted every few weeks; library books go back, cookbooks re-shelved in the kitchen, knitting books put away near the yarn stash, fiction put back on the shelf in the hallway, and a place found for anything new I might have bought.

I noticed in the last clean-up that there is a new genre I need to find a bigger place for. I think I’ll put them where my poker books used to go.


From the top:

Pocket Beer Guide, Stephen Beaumont
I received a copy of this when I did the tasting session with Stephen at Cask Days. I took a look through it when I got it, but think I’ll get more out of it when travelling to the US at the end of the month.

History of the World in Six Glasses, Tom Standage
I read this book when it first came out in 2006, and really enjoyed the correlations between historical events and six beverages: beer, wine, spirits, coffee, tea, cola. Yes, beer is only one-sixth of it, but it’s well-written and engaging enough that I think I’ll re-read it again soon.

Complete Idiot’s Guide to Beer Tasting, Rita Kohn
I’m a bit disappointed in this book. It would be perfect if you were looking for a good overview of beer, but I was hoping for more detail on the beer tasting experience rather than a chapter or two. It seems quite pale after reading Tasting Beer by Randy Mosher. Very glad I got this a library book rather than buying a copy of my own.

Tasting Beer, Randy Mosher
I LOVE this book. I was hooked from the first pull-quote on the first page: Don’t even think about reading this book without a beer in your hand. I read it up a the cottage this summer in about a week. It looks like it’s been in a war. It’s had beer spilled on it, a leaf was used as a bookmark and left its imprint, it’s been half buried in the sand and travelled around through a rainstorm in leaky motorcycle luggage. I keep coming back to it as it successfully walks that line between entertaining and informative. So informative – there is a lot here. Randy Mosher’s writing style makes me feel like he’d be a good guy to sit and talk with over a few beers.

Brooklyn Brew Shop’s Beer Making Book, Shea & Valand
This one is a recent impulse buy. I was actually looking at David Ort’s Canadian Craft Beer Cookbook and this was beside it. I decided to get this one instead as 1) I already have a lot of food cookbooks, 2) this one is a beer cookbook with some very intriguing 1-gallon recipes, and 3) I could only afford one. I was flipping through it last night, and have pretty much decided to make the gingerbread ale as my third home brew. Of course, I will likely change my mind a few times between now and then.

True Brews, Emma Christensen
I found Emma Christensen’s blog during one of my many home brew research sessions. I think the keywords here might have been apartment, small batch home brew. I was getting discouraged until I saw this. Everything I’d seen up to this point had been about brewing five gallons or more which would never work in this one bedroom apartment with no storage space. I bought the book right away, excited by the thought of making not just beer, but cider, meads and sodas in my small kitchen. I’m just about ready to make the Mocha Stout from True Brews, expect another blog post about that process.

Beer, Food and Flavor, Schuyler Schultz
This is another library book that needs to go back soon. It has far more detail in it than the Idiot’s Guide to Beer Tasting, and seems to describe the sensory experience much better; however, I just don’t have time to dive into it too deeply right now as holiday and vacation preparation ramp up. Will check it back out again in January.

The Complete Beer Course, Joshua Berstein
This one was a gift that I had skimmed through one evening and then forgot about until now. Somehow, it ended up under some mail and my BBOCPKP (Big Bowl Of Christmas Present Knitting Projects). It’s gotten good reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, but it might have to be another book that’s going to have to wait until the new year.

First home brew poured



I opened my first bottle of my first home brew last night.

Oh. My. God. It is good! I made beer that you can actually drink!

It’s not perfect; there were a number of issues during the brewing process, not the least of which is I didn’t know what the hell I was doing. In spite of all of that, I have something that is definitely beer-like. I think the grin started as soon as I popped the swing-top cap and heard that distinctive pop.

The beer poured a hazy bright golden colour (the picture shows it as more amber) with plenty of creamy foam. The first sniff from it was cold and boozy, like a cider, but soon mellowed into warmer notes of apple and pear.

Then came the first taste, and the second, third, etc. to make sure. I’ll come right out and say that this is not a nice smooth beer you can drink while shooting the shit with your friends. This beer has a lot of attitude and once it hits your tongue it demands your attention. It’s very dry, with a pronounced warming sensation of alcohol. I wish I hadn’t broken the hydrometer; I’d love to be able to calculate ABV on this. I get the distinct feeling that it’s more than I think it is. I can taste the bitterness of the hops and the sweetness of the honey, but I don’t know as I’d call them balanced. The sweetness fades very quickly while a citrus pith/pink grapefruit sharpness lingers.

But while it has its faults, I’m still proud of it. I’ve made enough things by hand to know that first efforts are all about making mistakes and learning from them. I still have the first pieces I made in stained glass and in knitting. They are both lopsided and kind of sad with obvious mistakes, and while they are not indicative of my current mad skillz, I keep them as a metric to show my growth after practice. This beer is my before.

Speaking of practice, I have everything for the Mocha Stout recipe from True Brews and will be making it as soon as I wade through the forum posts on how to set up a Corona grain mill – 160+ pages of comments on this post alone. Good thing about home brewing is there is no lack of information on teh inerwebs!

Prud’homme Beer Enthusiast, session 4

Monday was the last session of the Beer Enthusiast level of the Prud’homme courses. I’ve enjoyed it so much, I signed up for the next level, Beer Specialist, even before writing the test.

We started the class with an overview of putting the right beer with the right food. This is a concept that I’d like to delve into more. Roger talked about the three C’s – complement, cut and contrast. A few examples were given, but this was just a small fraction of a bigger topic.

The next topic was about cooking with beer. Honestly all I could think about through this whole section was the glorious smell that fills the apartment every time I make the Guinness-braised steak and vegetable stew! Next thing I want to try is to bake with it; I’m definitely having a go at the vanilla porter cupcakes, if I can refrain from drinking the vanilla porter first. Man, that stuff is good. I’m not the only one to think so either, going by the empty spot on the shelves in my local LCBO.

20131127-200705.jpgWe also had two separate tastings. The first was Belgian beers, and I think I fell a little in love with #3.

  1. Dupont Saison
    Appearance: cloudy, straw
    Aroma: a bit skunky, sour, spice like Blanche de Chambly
    Flavour: boozy, lemon pepper, pickle, citrus pith aftertaste
    Finish: sharp champagne dryness
  2. Leffe Blonde
    Appearance: clear (filtered), rich gold
    Aroma: light apple
    Flavour: apple, bubble gun, cream soda at finish
    Finish: lots of sharp bubbles, sweet finish.
  3. Trappist Rochefort 8
    Appearance: hazy brunette, beige foam
    Aroma: vanilla, caramel, eastern spice (garam masala, cardamom, 5 spice powder), a bit like the Redpath sugar barn
    Flavour: boozy, chocolate, molasses
    Finish: tingle.burn from the alcohol
  4. Chimay Tripel
    Appearance: cloudy, pineapple gold, creamy foam
    Aroma: banana, apple
    Flavour: bubble gum, pear
    Finish: carbonated/fizzy, citrus pith at end

And there was more! Next there were three rounds of food and beer pairing, two beers with 2 kinds of food in each round. My notes are a bit of a scribble (I think I was too busy enjoying it all), but I know it was a real eye-opener. Some of the pairings really worked, others not so much.

Round 1: Fat & Protein.
Jever Pilsener and Amsterdam’s Downtown Brown with spring roll and prosciutto. The Jever worked really well with spring roll, but turned sour and metallic with the prosciutto. The spring roll took away away all the warm nutty flavours of the Downtown Brown while the prosciutto was enhanced by it.

Round 2: Cheese.
Steamwhistle and Trois Pistoles with Beemster and Danish blue. I’m not a fan of Steamwhistle on it’s own, but it both cut and complemented the Beemster nicely and brought out some nutty flavours. It completely disappeared with other cheese – it just couldn’t compete with the blue cheese. The Trois Pistoles didn’t do much for the Beemster, but really brought out some of the underlying sweetness of the blue while taming a bit of the harshness.

Round 3: Dessert
London Porter and Mort Subite Framboise with almond chocolate pudding and chocolate covered cheesecake. Let’s just say that pudding and porter don’t go together and leave it at that. Porter really does go with the cheesecake, the richness of both the beer and the dessert met someplace warm and lovely. The cheesecake was too much for the Mort Subit; one of the guys observing likened it to a Viva Puff. You don’t get enough of the raspberry in those either. The Mort Subit did work well with the pudding by cutting the sweetness and enhancing the chocolate flavour rather than fighting with it like the porter did.

Oh and there was the test. 40 multiple choice and 20 incredibly easy fill-in-the-blanks. I know I got 3 wrong (it’s impossible to escape the inevitable post mortem), and I’m sure I got a few others wrong. All in all, I’m sure I’m good to go for the next session.

At least two others from my session will be joining me at the next one, Jen from Ltd Supply and Jen from Beerlicious. I’m very glad, as we seem to have clicked and it’s great to have a few like-minded women around to go and drink beer with!

Prud’homme Beer Enthusiast, session 3

After we got the quiz out of the way (9 out of 10 on this one,TYVM), we did a quick tour of Great Lakes Brewery. This was my fourth tour of a working brewery, and took some photos and notes to compare to those taken at my other tours.

They had just brought in their new copper vessel, and were roughing in the placement of the dials and lines with cardboard cutouts. I wish I could have shown this picture to some of my past students – do mock-ups and rough things in first, it will save time and headache later!


It’s not a big brewing space, but there was a area for the experimental brews, and the fermentation and ageing cellars are enormous by comparison.


A lot of this class was spent looking at draught systems. I was surprised to see that it accounts for only 9% of beer sales across Canada; I’d always thought it more. Roger went on to explain that it used to be more, 12% in 1997, but when the economy goes bump, people will cocoon and drink at home rather than go out to bars.

We looked at draught systems (CO2, beer mix, mixed gas and air compressors), and went through some troubleshooting flow charts to help diagnose issues. I love flowcharts – I’m a geek, what can I say?

I shuddered to remember how some of the places I waitressed in treated their draft. Like the Bar That Shall Remain Nameless, where we always had so many complaints about the draught. It’s no wonder; it was run by an air compressor that lived in the musty basement beside the bathrooms. Ick.

After we were grossed out by worse case draught scenarios, it was time for the tasting – wheat beers this time!


  1. Blanche de Chambly, Belgian wheat. I do love this one.
    Appearance: cloudy, buttery gold, lemon meringue pie, creamy head
    Aroma: clove from the coriander, citrus
    Flavour: spice, lemon peel
    Finish: lots of carbonation
  2. Hacker Pschorr, German
    Appearance: cloudy, honey
    Aroma: banana
    Flavour: mild citrus, Juicy Fruit gum
    Finish: smoother, not as carbonated
  3. Erdinger Dunkel Weisse, German
    Appearance: chocolate/mahogany coloured
    Aroma: Banana bread (faint)
    Flavour: banana bread, walnut, caramel (later)
  4. Weihenestphaner Weissenbock, German
    Appearance: cloudy, butter
    Aroma: boozy, sharp
    Flavour: bubble gum, spiced apple, banana
    Finish – thin bubbles,



Bottling day

I’m not sure what I expected when I opened up the pail that had been under for my counter for two weeks. I think I’d built up my errors in my head so much that I wouldn’t have been surprised to find a pail of green mold.

Thankfully, there was no mold. What I found instead was a liquid the colour of dark honey that smelled of windfall apples that have fermented on the ground of the orchard, yeasty and sweet. It smelled so good. This, I thought, is not the smell of something that has gone bad. It made me hungry.

20131117-180413.jpgI watched more videos on YouTube about bottling. I read the instructions that came with the kit and got everything ready. 

Everything got sanitized, including the counter. I cleaned and sanitized six of the 750ml swing-top bottles I’d gotten from Three Brewers, but it turned out I only needed three. I think I was a bit short on the liquid I’d poured into the pail, and then I had a small mishap with the siphon; I thought it was in the bottle, but it was actually sending everything right down the sink.


So in the end, I have three 750ml bottles of what will hopefully be White House Honey Ale. I am (im)patiently waiting for the first taste test in two weeks.

I’m also planning my next batch; the Mocha Stout from True Brews looks pretty good. I’ve researched it and can get all the beery ingredients from Toronto Brewing, I just need to get a grain mill as inexpensively as possible from somewhere. The recipe also calls for cocoa nibs, which means I’ll have to make another visit to Soma Chocolate. Always good to have an excuse to head there!