Nov 142013
 

In my earlier post, Putting Jolly Ranchers in a Beer, I mentioned that we brewed a grape Jolly Rancher Belgian tripel for this year’s Iron Brewer in Grand Ledge, MI.  Judging for this competition took place this past Tuesday and our beer won.  All of the beers presented were well done.  Some were delicious beers that lacked a Jolly Rancher character.  Others tasted like delicious desserts or wine coolers.  The idea behind the Red Salamander’s Iron Brewer competition is to make something that showcases the “secret ingredient” while still being a beer.  This year the judges felt that our entry was best at walking that line.

Myself and Karl from The Red Salamander

Myself and Karl from The Red Salamander

Tom Payne Sr. - Jolly Rancher Unwrapper Extraordinaire

Tom Payne Sr. – Jolly Rancher Unwrapper Extraordinaire

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s the recipe for 5 Gallons: Continue reading »

 Posted by at 8:15 am
Nov 062013
 

I published this article last year before I started posting regularly.  Since I’m making my pumpkin ale this Sunday and plan to post the recipe I thought that it would be worth revisiting.  Enjoy!

I was fascinated by the idea of making some kind of a pumpkin ale for a number of years.  Interestingly enough I don’t think I’ve ever had a commercial one that really embodied what I envisioned.  The result of my experimentation was my Black Pumpkin Ale.  This recipe continues to be a favorite among those who frequent my basement pub.  I try to make it at least once a year and I think it’s definitely worth focusing on in a future post.

I try to use fresh ingredients in my beer whenever possible.  I love the flavor from fresh whole leaf hops, fresh spices, and fresh fruits and vegetables.  When I started tailoring my pumpkin ale recipe years ago many of the examples I looked at used canned pumpkin.  I knew that wasn’t what I wanted.  I wanted to add freshly harvested pumpkin to the mash.  So I went to the local farmer’s market, selected two bowling ball sized pie pumpkins and brought them home.  I’ve done this almost every year since. Continue reading »

 Posted by at 10:13 am
Oct 142013
 

Last Saturday was the annual Red Ledge Brewers Iron Brewer competition hosted by The Red Salamander in Grand Ledge, MI.  Each year Karl, the owner of The Red Salamander, selects a secret ingredient and unveils it on the day of the competition.  Then one by one each team is allowed to go into the shop and collect ingredients for the beer that they will make to showcase that ingredient. After that, we brew.

Individually wrapped

Individually wrapped

Almost Enough Adjuncts

Almost Enough Adjuncts

The morning was sunny and temperatures were to climb into the 70s.  A front was moving in and rain was predicted for later in the day but no precipitation would fall on this brew day.  Several minor pieces of equipment had been left in Grand Rapids but we had the grill and sausages to throw on it so all was well.  We brought along any adjunct ingredients we might need.  Nutmeg…check.  Orange peel…check.  Bay leaves…we had almost a pound.  We were ready.

 

The secret ingredient was announced at 10 am.  This year it was Jolly Ranchers.  Yes.  That’s right.  It was Jolly Ranchers.  I was horrified for the briefest of moments and then it all became clear.  At the same time, Tom and I said, “Purple Nurple.”  It was done.  We were going to make a Belgian Tripel.

We had a few of the members of our team sort out and unwrap about two pounds of grape Jolly Ranchers for the ten gallon batch we were going to make.  Tom and I went inside and collected our ingredients.  Our recipe consisted of pilsner malt, cara pils, and German opal hops.  Additionally we planned on throwing in some orange peel, cardamom, and coriander.  We used our Jolly Ranchers and some cane sugar that I brought in place of Belgian candy sugar and topped it all off with some Abbey Ale yeast.

Just about the right amount of sugar.

Just about the right amount of sugar.

Aside from the difficulties of dissolving two pounds of fake grape flavored corn syrup this 1.081 monstrosity of a beer came together well.  We may have also partially melted an auto siphon into something roughly banana shaped  but we’ve decided to try to forget about that.  At this point either the five gallons of head space in the fermenter is enough or there is grape flavored yeast crawling across the floor of Tom’s dining room as I’m writing this.

Next month we take our beers in for judging.  The team that makes the best beer wins the coveted Iron Brewer trophy.  Then we’ll see how this thing turns out.

What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever put into a beer?

 

 Posted by at 6:56 am
Sep 292012
 
Roasted Pumpkins

I was fascinated by the idea of making some kind of a pumpkin ale for a number of years.  Interestingly enough I don’t think I’ve ever had a commercial one that really embodied what I envisioned.  The result of my experimentation was my Black Pumpkin Ale.  This recipe continues to be a favorite among those who frequent my basement pub.  I try to make it at least once a year and I think it’s definitely worth focusing on in a future post.

I try to use fresh ingredients in my beer whenever possible.  I love the flavor from fresh whole leaf hops, fresh spices, and fresh fruits and vegetables.  When I started tailoring my pumpkin ale recipe years ago many of the examples I looked at used canned pumpkin.  I knew that wasn’t what I wanted.  I wanted to add freshly harvested pumpkin to the mash.  So I went to the local farmer’s market, selected two bowling ball sized pie pumpkins and brought them home.  I’ve done this almost every year since.

To prepare the pumpkins I start out by halving them and cleaning out the seeds.  If you want to you can save the seeds and roast them later.  They make a tasty snack.

After cleaning the seeds out of the pumpkins the next step is to spice them.  In my recipe I heavily spice them with grated cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and allspice.  The fresher the spices are the better.  Then I pour some water into a cookie sheet or baking stone, place the pumpkin halves skin side up on the cookie sheets and put them in a 350 degree oven and wait.

Roasting the pumpkins takes about 90 to 120 minutes.  The goal is to cook them long enough so that they are cooked all the way through and the skins come off easily.  The skins will start to look deflated and turn dark in color.

Once they’re cooked take them out and let them cool until they can be handled.  At that point you start cutting.  You want to end up with skinless pumpkin cubes that you can throw in your mash tun with your grains.  I’ve also heard of extract brewers steeping their pumpkin like they would specialty grains and my friend Tom prefers to just throw his in the boil.  There’s plenty of room for experimentation.

Once my wort is in the fermentor and the yeast is pitched I’ll typically pick some of it out of the spent grains, rinse it off, and freeze it.  There is still plenty of goodness left for pies, coffee cake, soup, or whatever else you are interested in.

Enjoy!

 Posted by at 11:01 pm