Hart House

hart-house

Have you ever noticed that sometimes when you really look forward to something you are really just kind of setting yourself up for disappointment? That happened to me at Hart House …there wasn’t any one thing I could point to that reduced my enjoyment, but a lot of little things.

Eh, it happens.

Plum Crazy

plum

Plum Crazy is my first recipe at Magnotta, for their newly-launched growler line. I wanted to do a nice fruit beer for summer, and decided to do a cream ale with plums.

Why plums? Because I didn’t see very many plum beers out there. I envisioned a nice, light, slightly fruity beer in a lovely shade of pink/purple, something refreshing for a summer day.

I used one of the Festa Brew bases we make, a cream ale, because I wanted a solid base for the plums. The Festa kits are stable and make a solid background for experimentation (no, it’s not a sales pitch, I just think they are a very good product). 10 bags went into the fermenter with the US-05 that comes with the kit. It fermented from 11-ish brix to 3.3 quickly.

Then came the time to do the plums. This was where I learned that buying a puree rather than whole fruit is the way to go. The plums that came in from Niagara weren’t the lush ripe purple plums I’d envisioned, but smaller, harder and yellow. They were quite tart, and not easy to pit – it took the better part of a day. I simmered the fruit to get rid of any unwanted organisms on the skins, a process that took the better part of the day as we only found a tall stockpot and a hot plate to use.

It. Took. Forever.

The plums were left on secondary for about 6 days, tasting it daily for plum flavour. It was still incredibly tart, so I put in some lactose to try and balance the sourness a bit.

As you can see from the top right photo, filtration was fun. Score another point for puree!

The end result was a light and refreshing beer. The tartness from the plums came across as a slight lactic sour, and dominated over any malt and hop flavours there may be. The plums came through mostly on aroma, but dropped off as the beer sat in the kegs. A keg of it went to the Craft Brasserie in Liberty Village for their Women in Brewing event, and it got some favourable reviews on Untappd.

While it’s not what I envisioned, most customers liked it as a good summer beer. It was definitely a learning exercise!

So this is what they’re talking about

I have developed quite a love for Berliner Weiss’. I love the tartness on a hot day, and like not getting blasted with a too high ABV. I remember reading about the use of syrups in the BJCP guides – locals would dose their Berliner Weiss with a shot of either raspberry or woodruff syrup. The raspberry was easy to replicate but had no idea what woodruff even was beyond the fact it was an herb.

And then I saw this in Starsky’s in Hamilton:

woodruff

It tastes good in soda, but in a beer like Sawdust City’s Coriolis Effect, it’s sublime.

coriolis

Learn 2 Brew

My friend Virginie and I had been batting the idea of a women’s only learn to brew event around for a while, and after a conversation with Nick at Brew North we set one up through eventbrite.

There were messages back and forth about marketing on social media, and how to promote it. We feared not getting enough women interested. Imagine our surprise when we sold out after a few days.

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Day 1 – mashing in

We had nine women show up, of varying demographics. And we had fun. There were lots of questions and answers and laughs.

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Day 2, two weeks later, getting ready to bottle.

Two weeks later, we all met again for bottling. As we finished, I asked some questions about how they thought it went. There had been some heated discussions on some Facebook boards about women, brewing and general feminism, and I was curious if the supportive, all-women environment was in fact what women wanted. Short answer – yes.

All of them loved the open atmosphere, how all of their questions were answered fully and respectfully, and all felt that they had enough confidence to go and buy ingredients. And make more beer.

Bingo.