Candied Ginger

I’ve been doing a bit of web design work lately, and one of my new clients is my writing coach, Chris of Firefly Creative Writing. I’ve been on a few of her amazing writing retreats, where she plies us with home made delights like strawberry scones and ginger-almond granola.

The ginger granola is delicious, and so I decided to try and make a candied ginger ale, a slightly modified recipe from Brooklyn Brew Shop Beer Making Book (I omitted the cloves. Cloves are evil.). I even made a little movie, where I learned that I really need to start turning the phone sideways for video. Sigh.

It smelled so incredible while it was brewing. I’m going to have to make more – next time, I’m going to toast the spent grains for her to use in the granola!

Grind, brew, cool, ferment.

Now to wait 4-6 weeks to try the Firefly Ginger Ale

Prud’homme Beer Specialist, session 4

Draught was the lesson for today, and I think the main thing I learned from it is that I am never ordering draught again unless it’s from a place that takes their beer more seriously than the corner sports bar. Does that make me sound like a beer snob? I’m trying to avoid that. It really is no biggie as I am not inclined to to to my corner sports bar to drink anyway.

Also wrote a test on history, and got the test on ingredients, fermentation and ageing/packaging back that we wrote the week before. I am so focused on getting this grade 12 chemistry done that both tests caught me unprepared. So imagine my surprise to find I got 13/15 on the first one! Not sure how that happened…obviously more things are settling in my memory than I’d thought.

Sensory Evaluation:

Style - Brown AleNewcastle, 4.7%Black Oak Nut Brown, 5%
Appearancemahogany, brunette, quick headcocoa, nut, wood
Aromacereal, brown sugar, raisins, root beercocoa, hazelnut - Ferrero Rocher
Tastesweet, honey, cracker/toastpumpernickel, molasses
Finish thin, quickdry, quick
Style - PorterLondon Porter, 5.4%Black Oak Porter, 5%
Appearancemahogany, red tintmahogany, red tint
Aromacoffee, vanillacherry, chocolate
Tastetoast, wood, walnutcherry cola, molasses
Finish dry, creamylonger finish, creamy
Style - StoutLost City, 8-Ball 5.8%Mill Street Cobblestone Draught, 6.5%
Appearancemahogany, quick headmahogany
Aromacurrant, fruitcake, vanilla, datessmoke
Tastelicorice, fruitcake, warmingmild, not complex
Finish softthin, creamy
Style - Imperial StoutWellington Imperial Stout, 8%Dragon Foreign Extra Stout, 7.5%
Appearanceblack, dark coffee.like black cherry pop
Aromabanana marshmallows, datescherry, red fruit, spiced rum
Tastesmoke, dates, molassescherry pie, almond extract
Finish smooth, bittercreamy, smooth

Brew Day – Abbey Ale Test Brew

One of the first beer brewing books I bought was True Brews by Emma Christensen. I had found her blog by searching the internet for 1-gallon brewing and immediately started following her. The book was exactly what I needed, as most books that I saw in my local book store were primarily about larger batches. Plus, the thought of making my own sodas, cider or mead eventually also intrigued me.

Emma announced late last year that she is working on a new book of 1-gallon recipes focusing only on beer, and was looking for test brewers. I thought about it for all of ten seconds before sending an email saying sign me up!

I got the recipe for an abbey ale last week. I made a visit to TorontoBrewers.ca new store the next day, and planned for the brew when my beloved was working – he’s not as keen on the smells of brewing as I am. I even broke down the steps in her email and created a checklist so I wouldn’t forget something like last time. And the time before that.

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The steps laid out in her recipe were very detailed and clear, and before I knew it  my checklist was complete and I was pouring a lovely copper-orange liquid into my fermentation bucket.

Now to wait. Beer-making is certainly teaching me much about patience.

US vacation, the beer version

My beloved and I had planned our 10th anniversary vacation back in April, before I was let go from my job of 12 years, before my life was turned upside down. I had thought a few times about cancelling it due to my change in finances, but am glad that Keith convinced me otherwise. We had not gone anywhere together for almost a year when finally got on the plane in December, and it was time to reconnect. Actually, getting on the plane was a bit touch and go – we left on the day of the ice storm. After two cancelled flights and 4 long lines, we got on one of the only flights out of Toronto.

I had thought about what beer to try while in the states. I had flipped through Stephen Beaumont’s book, The Pocket Beer Guide, that I had got during Cask Days, but hadn’t made any notes or thought of any must-haves. I decided to just see what happened along our travels.

Route

And travel we did. This odd butterfly shape covered over 3600 kilometers of some of the most beautiful scenery in North America.

Grand Canyon Brewery Sunset Amber Ale

The first day was spent getting supplies and getting out of Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon. We arrived around 3:30, just enough time to check into our cabin and go watch the sunset over the rim only a few paces away.

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It seemed appropriate to order a Sunset Amber Ale by Grand Canyon Brewery to accompany my dinner. It hit the spot, but like my dinner, there was nothing that made it unique or noteworthy. It had a pleasant sweetness, but was a bit milder/lighter than I was expecting. Very drinkable.

Grand Canyon Brewery Starry Night Stout

Monument Valley was the next stop, where we stayed at The View Hotel on Christmas Eve. Highly recommend this place – staff was friendly, food was hearty, and of course, the views are fantastic.

We sat bundled up on the balcony after dinner, and watched the sun go down. The hotel is dry as it’s on the reserve, but I’d bought a few bottles of interesting beer before leaving the Grand Canyon. I opened the Starry Night Stout and sipped it from a plastic cup while watching  the stars pop out in a crisp, clear sky.

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It poured nice and dark, with minimal foam. It had a great smokey/molasses nose, which carried through to the taste. It had the right balance for me, and had a minimal bitter aftertaste.

Dogfish Head Midas Touch

Christmas Day found us meandering to Zion Mountain Ranch near Zion National Park, where we had booked a cabin. Ten years before, we had had our best and most memorable Christmas dinner at their fledgling restaurant, the Buffalo Grill. We know you can’t recreate a magical moment, but we wanted to make a new one. The three course prix fix Christmas dinner was delicious and completely overshadowed any beer I might have had with it. I thought about taking notes, but was enjoying the evening with my guy too much.

After dinner, we walked back to our cabin in the dark with the stars to guide us. And the flashlight app on our phone – it was still too dark  even with the incredible display of stars reflected on snow.

The cabin had a feature I couldn’t wait to try out – a huge claw-footed Jacuzzi tub! I filled it with bubbles, poured myself the Midas Touch I had bought at the Grand Canyon and listened to Soma.fm’s Groove Salad while Keith made a fire in the fireplace. I don’t know what your description of heaven is, but this was pretty close to mine.

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I did not take a photo of the bubble filled tub, the candles and Christmas lights arranged on the window sill or of the beer. I was too busy enjoying the moment to be pulled out of it. You’ll have to imagine it.

The Midas Touch was amazing, a perfect beer to celebrate with. Smelled of grapes and malt with the faintest saffron undertone. Sweet and dry, with the initial honey flavour giving way to fruit and a hint of spice. I was disappointed when it was gone, but not sure how much more I could drink in a sitting; I think the sweetness could get a bit cloying after a while.

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Gratuitous photo of our morning view – buffalo grazing outside our cabin window with the cliffs and valleys of Zion National Park in the background. Definitely a life-is-good moment.

Shock Top Belgian White

No meandering the next day as we bolted for the coast to drive the Pacific Highway. Interstates are not fun, but the conversation was great, the audio book, Ready Player One, was engaging and the the road snacks were plentiful. We got to San Luis Obispo just after sunset, and headed downtown for dinner. They had a major street closed off for a farmer’s market, and we bought oranges, home made hummus and pita, and locally grown nuts before heading in to Mo’s Smokehouse for ribs.

The choice of beer was between Samuel Adams Boston Lager and Shock Top’s Belgian Wheat – I went with the Belgian as I felt a lighter, brighter beer would go down better. The Shock Top Belgian Wheat seemed to have more citrus going on than in other Belgian wheat beers I’ve tried, but it worked to counter-balance the sweetness of the bbq sauce on the ribs.

Rogue Santa’s Private Reserve

What a day! Sunny and warm with incredible views as we drove along the Pacific Ocean. We stopped to walk along beaches, look at elephant seals, and have a picnic lunch while listening to the waves crash beside us. It took us all day to go only 375 kilometers, ending at Half Moon Bay just south of San Francisco. We got there just in time to catch a brilliant sunset and watch the surfers race to get one more wave in before it got too dark.

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Dinner was take-out pizza that was surprising good, and a bottle of Rogue’s Santa’s Private Reserve. The tasting notes on the bottle promised “a roasty, malty flavor and a hoppy spruce finish”. What I got was an off-flavour mess that tasted of imitation butter and pine. Not pleasant. Disappointed, I poured it down the sink and got a Coke from the vending machine in the lobby.

Indian Wells Brewery Orange Blossom Amber

Back on the interstate to head east toward Death Valley. It was a bit surreal to be driving through the green lushness of the growing region of California and have it turn to arid desert by just going over one mountain pass. We stayed the night in Ridgecrest, home of a naval base in the middle of the desert, speaking of surreal. We decided on steak that night, and were recommended a place called Caseys within walking distance from our hotel.

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On a whim, I ordered the Orange Blossom Amber. It poured an almost neon orange colour, the colour of C-Plus pop. The comparison to orange soda did not end there. Both the smell and taste were of over-powering sweet orange that would have been better as a dessert beer than with dinner. Even then, it might still be too much. Not to my taste at all.

Lindemans Framboise

The last day was a warm and dry drive through Death Valley and back to Las Vegas. After a dinner so memorable I can’t even tell you where it was much less what it was, we headed back to our spa suite at Mandalay Bay to pack and relax on our last night of vacation. While Keith watched Family Guy in the main room, I drew a bubble bath in the huge spa tub, poured myself a glass of the last bottle of beer in our cooler and watched a Harry Potter movie. Yes, a tv in the bathroom. I was very careful not to drop the remote control in the tub.

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I have to admit, I really prefer a bit of tart or sour more often than not. The Framboise was a treat for all my senses – I loved the deep raspberry red colour of the beer in the glass with the faintly pink head. The smell of tart raspberries fills the glass, with little or no discernible malt or hops tones. The taste is all nicely tart/sour fruit – Granny Smith apple to start followed quickly by the ripe raspberry.

Perfect end to a perfect vacation.