Thursday, July 30, 2009

14 Years and a Good Steak

Yesterday was my 14th wedding anniversary. Hard to believe sometimes, but then again both of our 20th high school reunions were/are this summer. Anyway, to celebrate we went for dinner last night to Nap's Cucina Mia here in Indiana. We try to get to Nap's once a month and we never have a bad meal there. Nick, the son of the owners, spent a year in Italy for part of his culinary training. The menu is small, compared to other places in town, but the food is just freakin' outstanding. Homemade pasta & sauces, fresh local produce and meats, prepared while you watch (the kitchen is behind the 'bar' and place only seats perhaps 50 people).

Normally we get pasta, but last night I finally got the filet (mignon), frequently a special, and it was without a doubt the best piece of steak I've eaten in town. It's not cheap, but it is delicious. Superb crust, seasoned with salt, pepper, and maybe something else. Rich and buttery on the inside, and almost fork tender.

So if you're local and haven't been, or if for some reason you plan to visit Indiana - do yourself a favor and have dinner at Nap's.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Brewing Update

So a couple of us have gotten together the last few weeks and brewed some all grain beer. Tonight was my turn as Der Braumeister and I opted to make a saison. Dough-in to yeast pitch was 3:45, and my new mash tun worked really well. Our efficiency was a bit low, but I think that might be a result of the milling.
  • 8 lb 2-row pilsner malt
  • 1 lb aromatic
  • 1 lb extra light DME (boil)
  • 1 lb wheat DME (boil)
  • 1 lb honey (5 min boil)
  • Hersbrucker (1 oz @60 min; 0.75 oz @20 min; 0.25 oz @2 min)
  • 2 tsp coriander
  • WL Belgian ale pitched at 70°F
The O.G. was 1.050, which was just a bit lower than I wanted, but that was also because we had a little over 6 gallons, rather than 5.25.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

One More Reason to Despise the PLCB

So we went to State College yesterday to visit the Arts Fest and People's Choice Festival (in Boalsburg) and so there had to be the requisite stop at Otto's for a bite and pint. I enjoyed the Munich Dunkel and a pint of Arthur's Best Bitter, and held back from getting some 2009 Jolly Roger. I was disappointed to see the Triple D IPA gone from the menu, and hope it'll come back again for me to try.

The reason for the snide title, however, is because of the ludicrous classification of Otto's new venture, Keewaydin Cider. It's available in 22 oz. bombers for just over $6, and you can get a taste of it - it's good. However, after dinner as I was about to settle up, I learned that those handy 22 oz. bottles can only be consumed in the restaurant! Why? Because the PLCB considers their cider to be a wine, and therefore Otto's lacks the correct license to sell it for take-out. So Woodchuck and Bulmers and tons of other ciders are fine to buy in sixpack stores - but somehow PA-made Otto's Keewaydin cider is a wine.

I wish Otto's the best of luck in unloading over 700 cases of this stuff by restaurant-only consumption - hopefully they can sell it to other restaurants? Or maybe I'll be able to go to the local liquor store soon and buy some.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Gorillo's in Butler

For those who might be curious after reading the previous post, we did indeed kick the keg of Belgian ale I took to the family reunion. After it carbed up, you could detect a bit of age (not surprising since it sat in my basement since April 2008) but it was drinkable.

On Thursday last, I drove to my parents' place and met up with my younger brother. We played 18 holes at Hiland golf course, despite some Belgian-like gray and rainy weather. We got pretty wet, but enjoyed playing. It was my first game in 8 years, and the best I could do was bogey 30% of the holes. My aim was off, but I was hitting them straight ... I guess an 8-year hiatus helped get rid of my slice.

Anyway, after golf we drove into Butler to check out Gorillo's Pizza (129 South Monroe St., Butler, PA). Through this and the Indiana Homebrewers Club blog, I was contacted by John Cirillo who owns the place. Since I was going to be very close to Butler, I couldn't not stop in to check it out (the paucity of good beer places in that area is disgruntling when I visit the folks).

I believe it was an old convenience store, and now it has the beer place on the left and a hot dog shop on the right. The pumps have been removed and there is a decent amount of parking. The late Friday afternoon crowd was moving through quickly, with just about everybody picking up 6- and 12-packs of light beers and macro lagers. A few were grabbing tall boys and 40s of malt liquor. OK, so what? Well - the gem of this place is the small selection of craft beers offered at rock bottom prices.

Hoppin' Frog, Victory, Bear Republic, Lagunitas, Voodoo, Chimay Bleu, Ommegang, etc. All priced very aggressively and some were several dollars cheaper than I've found in Pittsburgh or Indiana. In addition, he has three taps and fills growlers of Magic Hat, Shiner Bock, and East End Black Strap. In fact, a growler of Black Strap was going for $6.99!! That's a few dollars cheaper than if you go to East End yourself. Mixed six-packs of craft beers are $9.99.

Although you can sit and have a pint, it's not the best place for ambiance unless you like watching some interesting people. They also have a short food menu. So, if you're in Butler, this is the best place I've found yet to pick up some good beer at great prices.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

My First Kegging Experience

So today, finally, after a long wait to get my equipment and some time, I kegged homebrew for the first time. And I am excited. Ever since my first few batches, I have loathed and continue to loathe one step in all of homebrewing: bottling. I do it; I help others do it. But I don't like it. Hence my excitement for kegging. And actually, the delay in kegging has affected my homebrewing output. I swore to myself that I would not brew another batch of beer after the Belgian ale (sorta Leffe clone) in April 2008 until I kegged it.

Well, short of helping some others brew and teaching the Brewpub and Brewery Operations course, I have not brewed at home since batch 08B03. Sad, I know, but I'm stubborn sometimes.

Anyway ... I've had five Corny kegs sitting in my basement for a while now, gracious gifts from my friend Tom, whose cousin gave him about 40 of the things from the Pepsi plant. A few weeks ago, I placed an order with for some connections, O-rings, and a few other gadgets in order to wash and recondition the kegs. Last week, I cleaned up two of them, then placed an order with for a CO2 tank, regulator, and a couple of picnic taps. The tank and regulator arrived via FedEx this afternoon, and I got the 5-lb tank filled at the local oxygen gas place for $10.

So, after sanitizing two kegs with iodophor, I racked the beer from the carboy into the first keg that I'd purged with CO2. After putting some pressure on it, I submerged the bottom quarter of it in a bucket of ice water to try to cool it down as much as possible. For non-chemists, carbon dioxide gas dissolves much easier (i.e., with less pressure) in colder liquid than in warmer liquid. I've got about 10 lbs pressure on it right now and I shake it periodically.

After is cools down some more, I'm going to force the beer from the first keg to the second sanitized keg while holding pressure. This mixing/moving should help carbonate the beer more quickly that placing static pressure on it. My friend Tom does this up to four times (hell, he has enough kegs to do it). Hopefully then, the beer in the second keg will be cold and better carbonated, then I can really shake it up, roll it on the floor, etc. in order to mix in the gas. It should be ready for serving on Friday and Saturday for our family's reunion.

The beer itself? Well, it started out as a Belgian blonde-ish Leffe clone, but after 15 months in the basement, it's gotten a little richer than that. I took the final gravity today at 1.008, that's down from 1.072 - so we're looking at 8.4% abv. And it tastes darn fine ... can't wait to drink it in two days, rather than waiting three or more weeks had I bottled it.

Now all I need is a counter-pressure bottle filler ;)