Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The book club that brews together...

Last week the girls in my book club got together to discuss our latest reading. As we discussed the book (A Walk in the Woods, which was good, but no Neither Here Nor There), we veered off into many other topics of conversation. Someone mentioned that the group had originally wanted to plan lots of social get togethers in addition to the book club meetings, and that we should try to get back to that focus. I thought this was a great idea, because the ladies in this group are a great bunch, and I would love to hang out with them more than once per month.

The next day I got an email from Jess, who had just hosted the book club. She noticed that many of us either brewed our own beer or were interested in learning how, so she invited everyone over to brew with her and her boyfriend Natan, an experienced home brewer. I wasn't scheduled to work on Sunday, so it worked out perfectly!

Joe was especially excited to help with the process, because Natan does all grain brewing, which is a more advanced method than the extract or partial mash techniques we have done. It involves more equipment, which requires some upfront costs that we haven't been willing to commit to yet. Natan has done a bunch of DIY projects to get his equipment in order, and seems to be so comfortable with the whole process. He really knows his stuff!

This is Jess showing off the new tool Natan made for sparging the grains. It involved welding and making tiny holes in a metal pipe, so I don't see Joe and I making anything like this in the near future. Overall the process is not too different from what we already do, once you get to boiling the wort then it's all the same steps.

(Side note: Jess is an amazing host, with major cooking and baking skills. I am pretty sure I will never turn down an invite to hang out at her house. She made a fantastic veggie platter that I couldn't stop eating, and some addictive pumpkin chocolate chip cookies. And another amazing baker in the group made chocolate cupcakes with stout... so appropriate for a brew get together!)

Here's most of the set up for all grain brewing. Basically, hot water goes into the top, then slowly drips into the grains that are in the bottom container. The water seeps through the grains, making the wort. Then you boil the wort, cool it down (Natan had a nice homemade wort chiller, too), add your yeast, and let it ferment. There you have it-- how to brew in 100 words or less).

All grain brewing is done in bigger batches than the other methods, so most people use a turkey frying burner to boil the wort. This is best done outside, away from any nice kitchen equipment or finished floors, cabinets, etc.

Last but not least, if you're going to be outside brewing some beer, you might as well smoke some meat, too. The grill smell had me drooling!

Joe and I haven't brewed for a couple months, so I thought this was just the motivation we needed. I think we'll brew this Sunday, and my vote is for a spiced Christmas ale. Tis the season, right?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Checking in...

Ok, so I haven't posted to this blog in a while. Life has been busy, we haven't been brewing, I've hardly kept up with my other blog.... blah, blah, blah. No excuses, I'm a slacker! So, how about a few life updates? Here's what we've been busy doing:

We did a Brown Line Pub Crawl at the end of August. It involved taking the L from stop to stop, visiting various bars along the way. This picture was taken at Scott's, a gay bar, pretty early in the night. They actually played "It's Raining Men" while we were there! After this the pictures got more embarrassing, but we did have a really fun night!

We went to St Louis for a quick visit at the end of September, and decided we were overdue for a visit to the Anheuser Busch brewery. It's still pretty gross beer, but it was impressive to see such a big operation. Very different from the microbreweries that we usually tour! The property of the brewery was really nice, with old brick buildings and nice landscaping. It was fun to see, but it's still very unlikely that you'll catch Joe or I sipping on a cold Bud.

My Dad and I posed by the international beers, now that they're owned by Inbev. Much more our taste!

We did a quick stop in Columbia, to relive our college days for an afternoon. Campus was so different, because they've done a bunch of construction in the last couple years. It was fun to wander around, and made us very nostalgic for the good old days. We had lunch at the Berg and walked by the columns, and deemed it a good little visit. I'd love to get back to Columbia for a full weekend at some point, to see a football game and visit more of our favorite bars and restaurants. Go Tigers!

Then we drove across the state to visit our new nephew in Kansas City. Liem was such a cute and snuggly little baby, and Joe and I really enjoyed seeing him. His parents were doing great, and it was a nice opportunity for us to get together with a few of our siblings.

In October, our friends Mario and Steph got married. It was a beautiful ceremony and reception, held at Mario's parents house in the country outside of Chicago. Mario is a chef, and made most of the fantastic food. Steph worked at Goose Island, and was able to brew a beer for the wedding. The setting was beautiful, and they did an amazing job with the decorating. Needless to say, we enjoyed ourselves that night!

At the end of October I ran the Go Go Green 5k in Lincoln Park. It was nice weather, and not too crowded of a race. I didn't get to train much in the weeks leading up to the race, so I was pleased to manage to run the whole course without walking. I'll never try to say I'm a hard core runner, but I do love the feeling of running a 5k every once in a while!

We're planning to brew with some friends this weekend, so I'll try to remember to take a few pictures to share on the blog. Also, I'm hoping we'll have the time and extra cash to brew something for ourselves pretty soon. My vote is for a spiced Christmas ale!