Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Quick and Dirty Guide to Lagers

One of my all time favorite food blogs is The Kitchn, the foodie spin off from Apartment Therapy. Today they had a post all about lager beers, which I had to repost on here. I'm partially putting this on here for my own reference, but I thought other beer drinkers might find it interesting as well.

The original post can be found here. They are going to do a few posts about different common types of beer, so if I find any more I'll post them again on here.

Quick and Dirty Guide to Lagers
from The Kitchn

Lagers are on one branch of the beer family tree, with ales on the other. Lager beers are made with a particular kind of yeast that ferments at cooler temperatures than ale yeast. This yeast also ferments much at a much slower pace, so the beer is stored (or "lagered") for much longer than ales before being ready to drink.

The long fermentation time leads to cleaner, smoother flavors in the finished beer. Malt and hops flavors tend to predominate with extremely little or no fruitiness from the yeast.

• Pilsners - Typically gold in color, with sweet caramel malts and herby or spicy hops. Pilsners should finish very clean and crisp, and the beer should feel refreshing on the palate. Try Pilsner Urquell, Lagunitas Pils, and Harpoon Pilsner.

• Helles - A bit more malty than pilsners, but with a similar clean and refreshing flavor. They are also pale gold with a crisp finish. Try Victory Lager and Paulaner Original Müncher.

• Oktoberfest - Also called märzen beers, this style is normally heavy on the caramel malts with little or no hops presence. They're deep amber in color and medium bodied. Try Sam Adams Octoberfest, Paulaner Oktoberfest Märzen, and Widmer Oktoberfest (generally only available in the fall).

• Dunkels - Rich and hearty, this beer is also very heavy on the malts, but has more roasted flavors than the Oktoberfest. It's typically dark brown or ruby in color with medium body. Try Ayinger Altbairisch Dunkel and Harpoon Munich Type Dark Beer.

• Maibocks - Also called heller bocks and golden bocks, these amber-gold beers have a good amount of hops to balance their creamy maltiness. They finish a bit bitter and have a full-bodied feeling to them. Try Smuttynose Maibock and Sierra Nevada Glissade.

• Bocks - These beers have a lot of roasted malt character to them with just a bit of hops for balance. They're dark brown and generally very full-bodied. Try Anchor Bock and Leinenkugel 1888 Bock.

• Doppelbocks - Also called double bocks, these are an amped up version of bock beers. The malts are generally more complex and heavy with very little hops presence. Try Tommyknocker Butthead Doppelbock and Ayinger Celebrator.

Which lager styles do you love? Any particular beers to recommend?

Monday, February 15, 2010

Fireplace be gone!

When we bought our condo almost two years ago, we were charmed by the fireplace in the living room. Against the brick wall, the fireplace looked cozy and inviting, and we loved it! However... soon after we moved in, we realized what a pain in the neck the fireplace really was. First of all, it took up so much room! It was about 3 feet out from the wall, and the spots on either side of it were totally dead space. It looked nice, but made the room seem so much smaller once we put furniture in the room.

I also didn't like that the fireplace really only left us with one way to set up furniture in the room. This was more of a problem for our table, which had to be pushed against the windows. The fourth seat was pushed into the corner, and we'd never actually had more than 3 people sit at the table at one time. Seems silly, right? And the final nail in the coffin? The fireplace didn't actually burn properly, and shot up bright blue flames that didn't look realistic at all! So, after a lot of debate and planning, we decided it was time to tear it out.

Joe's dad is really handy, and has done a ton of home renovation projects over the years. He loves doing these types of things, and was really eager to help Joe with his first big project. It was a dusty, busy few hours, but by the end of the day the project was complete!

We had to sand the marks from the edge of the fireplace, and now you can barely see where the drywall used to be. Joe enjoyed this excuse to play with power tools!

At this point we were almost done! Can you see the exhaustion and relief in their eyes?

After we sanded and varnished the wood, we discovered the color was a little different. We're planning to refinish all the wood floors before we sell the condo anyway, so it's not too big a deal. Plus, we're going to have the sofa covering it until then, so you can't really tell unless you look closely. The picture below is our finished living room. We love it and are marveling at the way it opens up the room! The table now has 4 chairs around it, and the couches are much more open and welcoming. I'm dreaming of new curtains in the near future, but otherwise I think the room is pretty much perfect!

If you're a Chicago friend, get ready for a party some time in the near future! We can't wait to do some socializing in this new space. Otherwise, come visit and see it for yourself! What do you guys think?

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Crossing State Lines

Last weekend Joe went to Wisconsin with a group of guys for an ice fishing trip. While no fish were actually caught, it sounds like the guys still had a lot of fun hanging out in the great outdoors. Joe came back with two six packs from New Glarus, a craft brewery in Wisconsin. They are #21 on the list of the top 50 craft breweries in the country, but you can only get their beer in the state of Wisconsin! So anytime we head north, we try to bring some home with us.

We got two varieties to try: Spotted Cow and Stone Soup.

According to their website, here's how the beers are described.

Spotted Cow: Cask conditioned ale has been the popular choice among brews since long before prohibition. We continue this pioneer spirit with our Wisconsin farmhouse ale. Brewed with flaked barley and the finest Wisconsin malts. We even give a nod to our farmers with a little hint of corn.

Naturally cloudy we allow the yeast to remain in the bottle to enhance fullness of flavors, which cannot be duplicated otherwise.

Expect this ale to be fun, fruity and satisfying. You know you're in Wisconsin when you see the Spotted Cow.

Stone Soup: Who is qualified to judge one's contribution? Is it the pure Wisconsin barley malt or shall credit be given to traditional German and English hops? Maybe it is the Belgian Monastic yeast or the Brewer's tender care? Combined, this is a sophisticated Abbey style ale. Both elegant and drinkable this ale is cleanly aromatic with spicy notes of clove and ginger. Crisp and fragrant up front while gracefully sliding into warm malt notes at the finish.

Fermented naturally in this bottle, the beer in your hand is a living testament to the value of many working together to create something bigger than the individual parts. Moving a mountain begins with a single stone.

Also, this is an amusing shot of the far (aka hidden) side of the bed in our guest bedroom. This has become the spot where we store our beer and empty bottles. Right now we have the IPA we just finished bottling, which I'm going to force Joe to blog about really soon. We also have about 65 empty bottles, which is a sign we need to start brewing another batch really soon. Thankfully, the IPA is about ready, so we can stop buying beer and accumulating bottles. I think we'll try a spiced winter white beer next, but we still need to pick out a recipe. We'll keep you posted!

Monday, February 1, 2010

IPA Bottling... a success!

What a strange and beautiful sight, a dishwasher full of empty beer bottles. This can only mean that it's bottling day once again. We had waited almost three weeks while the beer gurgled away in our spare bedroom, as the yeast turned the wort into beer. I have to admit that we were pretty nervous after the last disastrous batch. Cracking the lid on the fermenter, we couldn't help but wonder if we had actually made beer or if we'd made another, rather expensive, bucket of undrinkable bacteria water.

Now, for anyone who hasn't brewed before, the picture below might not look very appetizing. (Is that a ring of sewage around the top of that bucket?!?) In reality, this is exactly what we were looking for. More importantly the aroma smelled like...well it smelled like beer!

The nifty little contraption that you see sticking out of the top of the bucket is autosiphon that Erin got me for Christmas. Definitely an excellent gift as it made the bottling process so much easier. We used it for the first time with this batch and it did a good job of taking a little bit of the comedy out of what is usually a pretty haphazard process.

Here's a shot of me transferring our new brew into the bottling bucket. That smirk on my face is actually bittersweet, because at this point I'm pretty sure that we've made something delicious, but I know that we have to wait another two weeks to drink it.

Happily those two weeks have passed and we've got a really good, hoppy, IPA. This is probably the best brew yet, and it's just made me want to do another. Cheers!

The job search begins...

I'm at the point in my high school math certification where I can start applying for jobs for next year. That is why our guest bedroom looks like this:

I'm going to my first job fair next weekend, out in the suburbs. This job fair is for secondary teachers only, and focuses on suburban districts north and west of Chicago. There are a few districts that I'm very interested in, and I am excited to have a chance to talk with representatives from these schools! I'm focusing on the suburban school districts first, because they tend to do their hiring earlier. Once this job fair is out of the way, I will begin researching schools here in Chicago. I know for sure I'll be applying to at least a few public CPS high schools, and I will also be looking into some of the Catholic schools in the city.

This is a stressful time, because I'm so ready to just be a normal adult again! I can't wait to have a decent paying job and a regular schedule. I'm really spending the time and energy on job applications, so that no matter what I can say that I did everything in my power to find a teaching job. I know some districts around us are struggling financially, but I also know there are going to be openings because of teachers retiring or moving on. Send some good thoughts my way, and hopefully this crazy year of being back in school will end up being worth it!