Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Time to Pick the Pumpkin Patch!

Well, things have been a little crazy lately, but we finally made time to drink all the pumpkin beer we've been stock piling. Mike affectionately calls it the pumpkin patch.

The pumpkin patch.
It started with one beer. I picked up a bottle of Southern Tier's Pumpking as soon as I saw it for the first time this year. I had remembered hearing very good things about it last year and that it was in short supply. I figured we could save it for a special occasion.

Next up, I happened to see Rogue's Pumpkin Patch and had to have it. I always get excited to see Rogue Ales out East and I have enjoyed most of their homegrown line, where they grow many of the ingredients themselves.

Once there were two, Mike took over. It grew to four, then six, then ten. I drew the line there, but of course two more managed to appear.

With twelve beers to drink over the course of a single afternoon, we decided we needed to call in some reinforcements. Our friend Blair also happens to be a big fan of beer, so we invited him over. 12 beers split between 3 people seemed much more reasonable.

It's a happy beer family!
Our twelve beers were as follows;

Evolution          --- Jaques Au Lantern
Rogue Ales       --- Pumpkin Patch
Weyerbacher     --- Imperial Pumpkin Ale
Heavy Seas       --- The Greater Pumpkin
Leinenkugel's    --- Harvest Patch Shandy
Shipyard           --- Smashed Pumpkin
Saranac             --- Our Pumpkin Ale
Southern Tier    --- Pumpking
Southern Tier    --- Warlock
Fordham            --- Spiced Harvest Ale
Troegs               --- Master of Pumpkins
Samuel Adams  --- Harvest Pumpkin Ale

We rated each of these beers in six different areas for a total of 100 points;

Appearance (10)
Aroma (10)
Finish (10)
Pumpkin Flavor (20)
Over all Flavor (20)
General Impression (30)

While we differed on the order of beers a bit, the top three over all beers were in everyone's individual top 4.

Rogue's Pumpkin Patch, sitting pretty.
The over all winner and everyone's first choice was Rogue Pumpkin Patch. With a total score of 259/300, it was the clear stand out of the day. This brew was the only beer of the twelve that was clear, with a nice amber color. It had honey and spice on the nose with a very smooth finish and scored the best out of all the beers on pumpkin flavor.

A Baltimore brew and one of Mike's
favorite breweries.

Second place went to Heavy Seas The Greater Pumpkin. At 10% ABV, it was the booziest beer in the pumpkin patch. This beer received 242/300 and scored the highest in the General Impression category. It had caramel and a strong whiff of booze on the nose with a creamy oak finish reminiscent of a good chardonnay.

Third place went to Weyerbacher Imperial Ale. This beer scored 237/300. It was only my 4th highest beer, but Blair ranked it his second highest and Mike ranked it his third. It had lots of spice on the nose with a hoppier, heavily carbonated finish. I think the hoppiness was probably why I didn't rank it as high.

Southern Tier Warlock took fourth with 220/300. I personally wasn't as big a fan simply because it was a very dark beer, the darkest and strongest in the pumpkin patch.

Southern Tier Pumpking took sixth place, even though it was my second highest ranked beer. I thought it had an awesome nose of popcorn, vanilla and caramel with a smooth, creamy finish.

Last place was Saranac Our Pumpkin, which was a big disappointment. It was my favorite pumpkin beer last year, and we probably went through at least four 6 packs of the stuff. I'm not sure what they did differently this year, but this beer is a pale shadow of its former self.

I took a buttload of pictures and we all took some notes on the beers, just so we could share our tasting with you. Because we care.

So there you have it; the pumpkin patch has been picked.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Eastern Shore Brew Tour

My parents recently came for a visit. When I asked what sort of activities I should plan and what they'd like to see, all I was given was "beer."

Well, beer they had.

They arrived Sunday evening to a home cooked meal. Because I am just awesome like that.

Monday, I arranged for a tour at Evolution Craft Brewing (Evo), which happens to be our local brewery and where we eat at least once a week.

Usually on half price burger night. Or half price brisket night. Or $10 burger and a pint night...

Behind the scenes at EVO
Homemade pretzel and dip sampler.
Even though we had just eaten there Sunday, we took the family for lunch on Tuesday. Since my folks had the dogs with them, we made sure we could bring them along if we sat in the outdoor seating.

The food was fantastic, as always.

After lunch, we headed to Assateague and stopped by Burley Oak Brewing for a pint along the way.

Digging that logo!

Aside from having one of the coolest logos, Burley Oak also has some good beer and a laid back tasting room. It's a BYOF place, which means they don't serve food so you can bring your own. They also have stuff going on almost every night of the week from game nights to live music.

The new outdoor fountain at Ava's Pizzeria and Wine Bar.
Complete with Evo's Rise Up Stout!

Wednesday we headed up to St. Michael's to see the sites and have dinner with Mike's folks. That gave us the afternoon to walk around and explore town. Mike is friends with the couple that just started up Lyon Distilling so he arranged for us to stop by and do a tasting. Aside from being awesome people, the dark rum we tasted might be the best rum I have ever had.

Wait a sec...if that's the camera...
How'd I take a picture?
After rum tasting, we heading to Eastern Shore Brewing, another place where Mike knows the owner. We've been a few times, but were excited to be able to bring the dogs in. It was a hot day and they aren't used to the humidity.

First, we got a flight of all 5 beers on tap. Upon trying their Hefeweizen, I got a pint. It had the crisp wheat flavor and cloudiness that I love about Hefeweizens. It also had banana notes to it, giving it a fruitiness that I enjoyed.
Flights; all the beer minus the drunk.

For our final full day together, we headed across the bridge for some car shopping. Not exactly how we wanted to spend the day, but we still managed to hit a brewery so we could continue the one a day trend.
Flights a Ellicott Mills

We had some time to kill before we wanted to try and head into the city, so my mom and I took the dogs for a walk, while Tom and Mike grabbed a beer at Ellicott Mills Brewing Company. As it turns out, no pets are allowed in commercial buildings in Howard County.... Which is complete bullshit because the wine store in downtown Ellicott Mills has a dog. Maybe it's just food establishments, but I still think that's crap. Whatever.

While there are many other breweries we could have hit, we had hoped to make it to Dogfish Head as the sort of cap stone to our brew tour, but we just didn't have the time.

I guess it'll be a good reason for a return visit!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Tabbouleh flavored couscous(aka what I ate for dinner last night)

Couscous was the base of my food pyramid growing up.
Seriously, we ate so much couscous.
I work at a coffee shop. What does that have to do with a blog post about cooking food? I'll get there.

When you work as a barista, tips are kind of a big deal. The extra cash is awesome and you know you did your job well when you leave with a large roll of cash.

Thing is, not all tips are of the cash variety. Sometimes customers bring in random things. Sometimes it's flowers or maybe a gift card around Christmas, but the most random tip of all is food.

A little parsley, red onion and diced
grape tomatoes.
Yes, food.

I'm sorry, but I grew up in a society that inspected its Halloween candy for razor blades and other horrifying additions. Why the hell are strangers bringing me food at work?!?

And yet....while it took me awhile to get over my initial trepidation, I have come to enjoy the random gifts of food.

So now I will get to the whole point of this post. A few weeks ago, a customer brought some homemade Mediterranean food including really awesome tabbouleh. I have been craving more ever since.

This recipe is really a half-assed attempt at tabbouleh, but I didn't really care. I just threw in a bunch of stuff I had in my fridge but I think it turned out pretty delicious.

If you want the actual recipe, it was pretty basic.

  • 2 cups couscous
  • 1/2 bunch of parsley (this was in my fridge from the last time Mike made dinner so I used what was left)
  • 1/4 red onion
  • Several grape tomatoes (any tomato would likely work here, I chose grape tomatoes because I wanted more skin so that the chunks would hold shape better, instead of becoming mush)
  • 1 lime
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Noms.
  • Salt to taste

I also threw in other green stuff from my fridge, including some cilantro (since I was already using lime, I figured I would just roll with giving this dish some Spanish flair) and kale. I put kale in pretty much everything these days. No mint. I didn't realize until after I was home and already chopping that most traditional tabbouleh had mint (at least according to the various recipes I was comparing with on the internet).

Dice up all the veggies and herbs, cook the couscous according to the directions on the package, mix everything up in a large bowl and squeeze the lime over it all.

Easy peasy.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The Veronica Mars Movie

Warning: If you haven’t see the Veronica Mars movie already, do NOT read this blog post. First, it’s full of all kinds of spoilers. Second, it probably won’t make any sense.

See the trailer for the movie here.

We know, it was good. Now go watch the 3 seasons of this show on Amazon, and then watch the movie and then come back here and read this review.

It’s OK. We’ll wait. After all, we’re experts at waiting seeing as how we waited SEVEN YEARS for this movie to offer closure.



Kristen: So, I don’t really know how to write a movie review. Especially for a movie that I feel so invested in, like the Veronica Mars Movie. As Ariana mentioned in an earlier post, we were both backers for the Kickstarter that turned Veronica Mars from a forgotten, cancelled show into a movie (and a line of books!) with renewed interest. Because the movie was funded by fans of the TV show, it was made with us in mind. So how can I write a review on a movie that was made to pander to me? Because pander it does.

Ariana: I’m pretty sure this is the first review we’ve done for media. I mean, I reviewed the BestEssays website because HOLY SHIT, WHAT AN AWFUL SERVICE. But the Veronica Mars Kickstarter campaign was nothing like that.

Kristen: From reprising the roles of some of my favorite secondary characters, to a reference to the proposed fourth season trailer that was pitched to networks after the show was originally cancelled, it kept the fangirl in me happy. Plus the ending. Whoa.

Sorry to those that bought Team Piz shirts. 
I love that throughout the process of making the movie and getting it into theaters, the Logan vs. Piz debate was a way to get people excited about the movie. I also love that this debate was clearly settled by the end of the movie, and with the correct answer (TEAM LOGAN BITCHES).

Ariana: I’ll be real with you. I’’ve rewatched the Logan/Veronica “shipper” episodes more times than I care to admit. Rob Thomas (The creator) totally knew it, too. I didn’t even have to tell him. Logan and Veronica together is how the show is supposed to be, and I’m glad he sided with us. That said, I’m equally as impressed with how he translates Logan and Veronica’s tumultuous teenage love roller coaster into the adult relationship that takes place 10 years later.

There was one big thing that kind of got to me, though. Let me show you a picture of it:

*And the award for least believable transformation goes to. . . LOGAN ECHOLLS. (And also for looking awkward in his ill-fitting uniform)
Maybe it was just me, but I didn’t buy him as a Marine. Logan could have gone a million different ways, but he became a Marine and then dated a pop star? Which active service member do you know that has time to deal with all that drama?

A big theme in movies and TV in the last few years has been addiction. We crave what we shouldn’t have. High risk, high reward. We need a “fix” of something to make us whole. Thomas went that route in the movie and I was impressed, because that’s something that has always made Logan stand out as her love interest: he’s volatile, he’s unstable, he can’t be trusted. . .but he makes you feel great. A drug, if you will. When she shitcans Piz and goes after Logan, you get to see Veronica’s character flaw as an addict. For anyone who also watches Showtime’s Shameless, I hope you’re seeing the parallels between Fiona Gallagher and Veronica Mars.

Kristen: One of my biggest complaints with the movie is that at times, it moved too quickly. As much as I was a (rabid) follower of the show, I can understand that someone just being introduced to these characters, might not be able to follow what is going on quite as easily. I think the movie was short enough, that a few more scenes could have been added to help the flow of the movie.

My other complaint would be the side story that involves Weevil. Had this been a TV episode, I would understand leaving a loose end like that, but this was a movie. There is no guarantee we will see these characters again and I feel that this movie should have done its best to wrap everything up nicely. Is that selfish of me? Probably. Regardless, I didn’t like that Weevil’s story was left untold. Maybe that will come up in one of the books. . .

Ariana: The fact that they don’t finish Weevil’s story and don’t give me more information about him DRIVES ME CRAZY. I loved Weevil’s character and I loved his relationship with Veronica in the show. They tell us that he’s married and has a child but we get NOTHING about how he got there. With so many characters to catch up with, it would have been nice to get more information on the ones we actually cared about. I could have done with a whole lot less of Krysten Ritter’s character. Honestly, if anything, I’d have loved to see a plot that focused a lot more on Weevil. He was that important to me as a character.

Team Weevil, anyone?
I’m confused about why Thomas decided to use a supporting character (Carrie Bishop) as the lynchpin that held this plot together, knowing that Leighton Meester couldn’t play her. Why not use a supporting character that could actually come back to play a bigger role? The actress who played Susan Knight, for instance?

Kristen: If I learned anything from the making of this movie, it’s that I was not alone in my desire to see what had become of my beloved Veronica Mars in the years since the show was cancelled. It was pretty neat to be a part of movie making AND kickstarter history and I hope that other franchises will take note and give their fans the same opportunity.

Ariana: Overall, I liked the movie. I second Kristen here, though: I LOVED being a backer. They gave us on-set updates and teasers as well as cast-to-fan videos and T-shirts. I got a fun VM sticker that is currently plastered on my laptop, forever showing my Veronica Mars fandom. I’d back other TV-turned movie projects. After how amazing this experience was, I’d even venture out and back other media projects for new shows or movies. I liked the rewards and getting the inside scoop? Pretty neat.

Liz here.
You’re probably wondering “Who the frick is this Liz character?” I’m Kristen’s fetching younger sister and I know my movies. I’ve been graciously recruited to this blog solely for my witty and intuitive commentary on films.

Me and my "fetching", "younger" "sister".
We *might* be related.

As far as the Veronica Mars movie goes, I was actually quite satisfied with my experience. Unfortunately, I did not contribute to the Kickstarter that allowed the film to (finally!) be made, mainly because I am a college student who can barely afford to satisfy my appetite, let alone make a movie. But I was impressed by how quickly the Kickstarter filled up with donations from devoted fans and backers, proving that Veronica Mars is not forgotten.

One of the biggest satisfactions I found with the film was the amount of returning characters, which was very much due to the comradery of the cast. The show created one big sassy, dysfunctional family who were all willing to come back together after 6 years and make this movie. One particular return that I enjoyed was Max Greenfield (New Girl) reprising his role as Leo D’Amato, Veronica’s easily-seduced inside man to numerous cases. His short appearance was stocked with saucy exchanges and smug adorableness that I love love LOVE about Greenfield. Basically he’s just super cute and funny okay?

I agree with dear Kristen when she says the film seemed to move along too quickly. That is not to say that the film wasn’t filled with staple Mars-ian characteristics, but I felt like there wasn’t enough of it. And maybe that’s because it’s been too damn long since we (“we” being the die hard fanatics) have seen Mars and we’re simply thirsting for the nostalgia. I for one nearly shit my pants when Mac (Tina Majorino) and Wallace (Percy Daggs III) showed up on Keith Mars’ (Enrico Colantoni) front porch, surprising Veronica and falling back into the swing of their friendship, cheeky as ever. Mac was one of my favorite characters in the show, if not my all time favorite, and I was so very happy when she showed up.

Honestly, my all-time favorite line in the movie was probably when Veronica is on the phone, impersonating Martina Vasquez (the Latina bombshell news anchor). Veronica, as Miss Vasquez, is trying to get the inside scoop on a big case by flirting her little heart out with the sleazy Sheriff Lamb. While on the phone, Veronica’s dad strolls into the room and hears her in the midst of her seduction, in a sultry Spanish accent, mind you.

A father-daughter bond full of snark.
Listening briefly to the conversation, he stops and says, “Would you say I was a good parent?” However simple the line was, it was a killer for no reason other than the back story behind the movie. No matter how chaotic either of their lives got, how much trouble Veronica would get herself into, or how humiliated Keith was amongst the entire Neptune community, the father-daughter duo never lost respect or admiration for each other. And amid that respect, there was always an abundance of snarky and hilarious conversation, which continued into this movie.

All in all, I was utterly and completely satisfied with the film if for no other reason than waiting SEVEN YEARS to see it. The abundance of returning characters, the continuity of gags and fallbacks from the series, and the undeniable chemistry between Logan and Veronica all rang true in the long-awaited, and well-received, film.

KRISTEN: 4 out of 5 (-1 for not enough storytelling and moving too quickly)

ARIANA: 4 out of 5(Overall Movie +2, Fandom +2, Characters +1, Small Gripes -1.)
LIZ: 4 out of 5 (-1 for having to break little Piz’s heart)

(But 4 + 4 + 4 = 12...)

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Mom's Grilled Cheese: A Mother's Day Recipe

Since it's Mother's Day and I'm thinking fondly of my mother, I thought it might be a good time to share the recipe for the best thing I know how to make, courtesy of, you guessed it, my mom.

I've been making this since I was 7 or 8.  I was an extremely picky eater and I think that sometimes it was easier for my parents to just give in to my stubbornness than slowly watch me starve myself if I didn't get my way. You can say it, it's OK. I was a brat.

My mom traditionally has made her grilled cheese with Mayo, an ingredient that I will hate forever, no matter how it is disguised. (Aioli, huh?) However, due to my constant pestering and refusal to eat the sandwich her way, she would give in and make it with butter instead.

The result? Perfection. Since that day, I have yet to eat a grilled cheese sandwich that I like more than her  butter method. It's simple, but it's perfect.

I recently got a free voucher for Sargento's Ultra Thin cheese through the Influenster program. Kristen and I have both been participants for about 4 years (maybe more in her case) and it's a pretty cool way to test out new products. This go around, Sargento sent me an adorable lunch bag and the voucher for free cheese. Pretty much as soon as they asked me to test out the cheese, I knew what I was going to make to test it out:

Mom's Grilled Cheese. 

Maybe I shouldn't be this passionate about melted cheese on bread but whatever. I do what I want. 

You'd think something so simple wouldn't need a recipe but you'd be surprised at how many people mess up this classic. So, here you go:

1. Turn on the over to low heat. Wait patiently until the pan is hot enough to make butter melt, but not brown. 
2. Please the cheese on one piece of bread and, before you stick on the top, butter the top of the bread. This is where things can get dicy. Too much butter and you're looking at a greesy, soggy sandwich. Too little, and you don't get that delicious, even brown color.

For my sandwich this go around, I used 3 slices of the ultra thin sharp cheddar. 

3. Put the sandwich in the pan, butter side down. If you hear a loud sizzle, it's too hot. Don't do that to yourself. That's just asking for a burnt, half-melted sandwich that isn't any good. 
4. While side one is cooking, butter the top of the sandwich. By the time you are done, you should flip. Allow the other side a similar amount of cooking time. 
Even, delicious browness. 

5. The end step is simple: Continue flipping the sandwich until you achieve optimal golden brown on both sides. If you notice that you've got white bits, it means you were slacking on your butter step. 
Do you see the poorly applied butter evidence?! I'm a disgrace.

6. Enjoy with a Lilikoi Lemon Drop. (Because they're delicious and also because life is short.) 

Ok, so maybe I didn't actually have this drink with my grilled cheese.
I just wanted to show off my mom's lemon squeezing abilities. 

So there you have it. Grilled cheese, my favorite beloved sandwich from my favorite beloved mother.

Thar' she blows!

Oh, and for those that think grilled cheese is the ultimate high-calorie food, it isn't! In total, it's less than 400 calories (using 4 of the Sargento thin slices like I did), including all that luscious butter.

Happy Mother's Day to my own mom and all the other mom's out there!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

A Day on Oahu

It's been a while since I've done a trip blog, and my recent weekend in Oahu made me realize how much I missed going on and writing about my various excursions. The focus on this particular blog is a 3-day weekend in Oahu. It isn't very foreign or exotic, but if I'm being honest I was in need of some serious shopping time and the sweet smell of luxury items, people with too much money, and air pollution.

Day 1: History Lessons and the Usefulness of Social Media

The flight left at 7:15 AM from Hilo and we were in Honolulu and outside the airport waiting for the bus by 8:30 AM. The flight was so short, I didn't even fall asleep and that's saying something. I'm usually passed out before the place even leaves the tarmac. We opted for the bus this trip because we didn't want to pay exorbitant taxi fees and renting a car seemed like a huge headache when everything I wanted to do Sunday was within walking distance. The bus is $2.50 and you have 2 hours to transfer to your final destination.

The first order of business was dropping our bags off at our hotel, the Sheraton Princess Kaiulani.  I got our room off Priceline.com and I used the "Name Your Own Price" feature for the first time. While it was definitely significantly cheaper than the list price and we certainly got way more than we paid for in such a popular tourist destination, I'm not sure I'll use the service again and this is why: Priceline doesn't include resort fee costs in the price.  That means that while you might have signed up to pay $120 a night, you're actually paying $120 a night PLUS a $24 per night resort fee. Lovely, right? That's an additional $50 for a weekend trip and, in my opinion, isn't worth the "low price" I got from Priceline. Next time I plan a weekend away it's a hostel for sure!

That's my snobby tea face. 
Our hotel let us stash our bags without a fee and then we went in search of the closest, biggest breakfast we could find. That turned out to be Jimmy Buffet's at the Beachcomber with an all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet for $14. Normally I would have turned my nose up at such a franchise but we had a big day ahead of us and I was already starting to get crabby from lack of food.  The buffet was what you'd expect in Hawaii - lots of starches, meats, miso soup, and fruit. It wasn't remarkable but it kept me full until dinner so it ended up being a pretty good deal. We left the restaurant and got on the bus headed toward Pearl Harbor and, lucky for us, our bus transfer ticket was still good so we scored that ride for free.
My breakfast companion!

I was completely unprepared for Pearl Harbor. First, the prices are way higher than I've ever paid at any park or attraction with the exception of maybe Angkor Wat. . . for 3 days.  After some serious debating, we settled on the $28 package that let you see the Pacific Aviation Museum and tour the USS Bowfin.  I would have loved to see the Missouri (Battleship) but the cost just wasn't justified.  Something else worth noting is the ban on all backpacks, purses, and anything tote-like. They have a bag check and it's required - at $3 per bag.
Inside the USS Bowfin,

The second thing I was unprepared for was how much of my WWI and WWII history I had forgotten. My trip here might have been a lot more informative if I had brushed up a bit on the sequence of events leading to the war and some of the immediate repercussions of the Pearl Harbor attack. Even if you don't remember high school US History, the audio tour for the USS Bowfin is well organized and interesting. You pick up the headset and audio device at a kiosk in front of the submarine and listen to the tour at your leisure. If you're taking your time and exploring, you can expect the walk through of the Bowfin and the corresponding museum to take around 2-3 hours.
They let you climb in some of the aircraft they're restoring!

The Pacific Aviation Museum is a bus ride away over the bridge on to the naval base. If you've never seen aircraft up close before, this museum is impressive. However, if you've been to the National Naval Aviationmuseum in Pensacola or the Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC, you're going to find the PAM a bit lacking and tired looking.
As we wandered we found part of the museum where they stored
reclaimed items or things they hadn't gotten around the restoring.
Something tells me they don't have a maid. 

We took the bus back to Waikiki to check in and put our bags down in the room before venturing out to find dinner. I was in the mood for seafood, and after looking at all the lines, the shortest one we found was at Atlantis Steak and Seafood.  Prices weren't awful for dining on the main drag, but the food wasn't super memorable. What was memorable was the fact that I checked in on Yelp (my preferred method of finding restaurants while traveling) and finding out my check-in got me a free calamari appetizer! The appetizer may have been the best part of the meal, actually.

After dinner, we did a lazy stroll back to the hotel and promptly fell asleep. I hear the nightlife in Honolulu is pretty amazing but I wouldn't know anything about that.

FYI: This post was actually from quite a while ago. It's part of a 3 day adventure but I never actually posted it up. It's a shame to let it go to waste, so here is one day. That's it!

I have not forgotten you.

Hello lovely blog.

I love you and I have not forgotten you. I've been busy. I could tell you about it, if you'd like.

While I've been gone, quite a bit has happened. I got into a graduate program, for instance.

I found myself working two jobs which is better for my paychecks, but awful for my free time. I loved free time. It gave me so many opportunities to write in you that I squandered away by napping or watching Netflix.

I've been reading more.

I've been applying for health insurance and doing taxes and pretending that I'm an adult.

I cultivated new friendships and found a group of great people in Hawaii who have a wide range of interests and hobbies.

But, perhaps the most realistic reason I've been gone is because. . .I had no idea what to write about.

After reading quite a few blogs and finding some favorites, I'm trying to do a bit more writing every day. I'm documenting lifestyle things on my own personal blog, but this one is still special to me. It's one I share with Kristen and I feel like it isn't limited to any one thing. Some day I might want to do a post where I discuss every single neato picture I pinned on Pinterest that day and you know what? I CAN DO IT HERE. I can post fashion failures (which I started a Pinterest for, while we're on the subject) and I can take snaps of offensively bad spelling errors on signs.

Kristen and I have both seen the Veronica Mars movie that was birthed, in part, from our contributions to the Kickstarter. We've talked about doing a movie review blog together. We're working on that, along with other topics to put up new content. Believe it or not, this bad boy has 60+ posts already. Who would have guessed?

Anyway, my perfect, wonderful Super Clear Tape. That's what's up with me, your recently MIA contributor. I love you, I miss you, and I want you back.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Saturday, January 11, 2014

A beer making adventure!

It’s funny how life intersects sometimes.

While on my recent trip to Oregon, my boyfriend and I helped my step dad make a batch of beer. It involved culturing yeast and making media for the yeast to eat….but instead of data, it yields beer. Delicious beer. Or at least, that’s what we are hoping for....

The first step in our beer making, was to hit the home brew store. We went to a store in Medford, OR called Grains, Beans and Things and they were extremely helpful and knowledgeable. The recipe we had pulled off the internet turned out to be a little unrealistic, especially in the amounts of ingredients used, so with the help of the staff, we were able to put together an adjusted recipe. 

Go yeast, go! Look at all that CO2
 getting made..
Our adapted recipe is as follows:

  • 1 package beer yeast
  • 2 lbs flaked oats
  • 4 lbs wheat malt extract
  • 2 lbs wheat dry malt
  • 16 oz candied sugar
  • 1 oz bittering hops
  • 1 oz flavoring hops
  • 1.5 oz coriander
  • 1.5 oz seeds of paradise
  • 1 oz bitter orange peel
  • 4 oz strawberry extract

Typically, you want to active your yeast before hand, but it depends on what you are working with. We used a smack pack, so we started it the night before so that our yeast were nice and active the next morning.

Beer making?
Or just a really complicated way to
make oatmeal?
You need 3 separate pots for this recipe. Because we are working out of a normal home kitchen, we make a concentrated wort, which is then watered down, so we don't have to work with the large volume that we want (because we want to make enough beer to share, right?).

The first pot gets 1/2 gallon of cold water. The flaked oats go in to a boil bag that is tied with enough room for the oats to absorb some water. Place these in the pot with the 1/2 gallon of water and heat to between 148 and 154 degrees and maintain this temperature range for 30 minutes.

The second pot gets 1 gallon of water. Bring the temperature to around 150 degrees. This is the water you will use to sarge the oats. Keep it as this temperature until you are ready to sarge.
Grinding things the old fashioned

While these are heating, you can coarsely grind your coriander and seeds of paradise. These means crack 'em open and stop. These, along with the bitter orange peel, go into your herb bag. This is another, smaller boil bag that's tied up.

Unless your name is Neil
Strauss, this is what
sarging looks like.
The third pot is your brew pot. Place the bag of oats in a strainer over your brew pot. Pour the water the oats were boiled in through the strainer as well, then pour your gallon of 150 degree water over the oats and through the strainer as well.

Get rid of the oats and add the malt, both the extract and the dry. This is also when you add the candied sugar and the pack of bittering hops to the brew pot. Bring this to a boil. This is now your wort. Add the herb bag and 1/4 of the bag of flavoring hops. Keep at a rolling boil for 45 minutes.
We used German Spalt for our bittering hops and Czech Saaz
for our flavoring hops.

The yeast is slowly converting all
that sugar to alcohol for us.
That is just so nice.

Remove from heat, drain and discard the spice bag.

Cool the wort and transfer to your carboy for fermenting. Add the 4 oz of strawberry extract and enough water to end up with 5 gallons of liquid. Stir to ensure complete mixing. Add the actively bubbling yeast culture and mix. Seal with an air lock.

Primary Fermentation: 7 days

Secondary Fermentation: 5 days

As our trip wasn't long enough to allow us to help with bottling, you don't get to hear about that part of the process. Deal with it.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Happy 2014!

The end of 2013 seemed to pass by so quickly; I can't believe it's January already.

I'm back in Oregon, visiting family and friends and taking my boyfriend, who's never been this far west, on a whirlwind tour of the state and as many of its breweries as possible. Since I still have a few weeks before classes start back up at the end of January, I am hoping that means I'll have the free time to actually write a few blogs. That means YOU can look forward to a blog or two about our beer drinking and making escapades while out here on the left coast.

Yeah, that's right. I said beer MAKING. Awwwwww yisss.