Tag Archives: beer

Cucumber in beer? Of course!

When I first started typing this post, I did so while drinking a glass of Coolcumber (made by the fine folks at Wicked Weed) which is brewed with, you guessed it, cucumber. Yes, cucumber and beer can apparently happily marry and also included in this particular brew was basil and juniper berries. That may sound more like the ingredients of some healthy gourmet side dish but the result is a unique and wonderful oddball beer – the sort of drinkable creation that inspired me to try my hand at home brewing!. For now, I’m still sticking with recipes that have been declared newbie friendly but I look forward to the day when I’m sipping from a glass with my own beer brewed with cucumber. Or chocolate and cherries. Or chili peppers. Or maybe something like the mango and habanero double IPA currently in the fridge.

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A sampling of what waits for me on our fridge bottom shelf…the mango and habanero one is the Terrapin in the middle (between an ale inspired by Star Trek and a chocolate stout, what else?). The Coolcumber was devoured before this countertop photograph session.

That all being said, there is such a thing as getting too creative with ingredients and there are admittedly some downright bizarre concoctions out there. Beer brewed with goat brains anyone? Mmmmm…no. Strangely (sadly?) I’m not making that example up. Here’s a link to beerconnoisseur.com’s post from a while back with some outlandish brews that have the more adventurous stomach in mind (including the goat brain one): https://beerconnoisseur.com/articles/strange-brews-10-weirdest-beer-ingredients. I originally thought it easy to say that I’d never consider anything more than mundane additions until the idea of adding catnip to future brews entered my mind. Yes catnip. I have my beloved husband to blame for the notion.

You see, my husband has a wonderful mind that mixes creativity with business and this led him to suggesting that I name future beers after our many cats. Did I mention we have four cats? Well, two according to our lease and two other homeless ones that adopted me. (Plus one or two extra kitties that know where to find a bowl of water and dry food outside when in need). So, since I’m well on my way to becoming the crazy cat lady and have an interest in home brewing, my dear hubby has been encouraging me to combine the two loves. This is a wonderful idea and, once I’ve made a few more beginner batches, I aim to do so. But you see, I have a mind that does not combine creativity with business quite as well. So as I drove home from work today, I began having visions of how to take my nine lives brew to a truly cat-tastic level and this included thought processes such as Oh, what if I put a tiny dose of catnip in the beer? I’m sure it only affects cats…doesn’t it? Of course it does, it would just be another herb, like throwing in mint but cooler and…cattyier. Oh, oh, and I could do a cream soda as a non-alcoholic option because cats love cream…beer idea win, yeah!

This happy eureka lasted only until I started studying up a bit more on how catnip actually affects non-cats (a.k.a. humans). According to WebMD.com’s wisdom under the side effects tab: “Catnip is POSSIBLY SAFE for most adults when taken by mouth in small amounts. Cupful amounts of catnip tea have been consumed without serious side effects. However, catnip is POSSIBLY UNSAFE when smoked or taken by mouth in high doses (many cups of catnip tea, for example)…It can cause headaches, vomiting, and a feeling of being ill…Because catnip can cause menstruation, it might make heavy menstrual periods worse…”

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Say whaaaat?

Well…goodbye to that idea. I seriously thought catnip only gave furry felines the crazies but it can apparently cause a lot of bad news for us. Plus, catnip “seems to be able to slow down the central nervous system, causing sleepiness and other effects.” That…is…not…a good addition for anything alcohol. 

So, I’m guilty of at least understanding the aspirations of brewers who push the envelope a little too far. But, with the knowledge I’ve gained, I think we should all just say no to catnip.

And goat brains.

And poo (not kidding, if you haven’t checked out the beerconnoisseur.com link yet, there’s a brew made with that too).

 

 

 

 

 

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Our closet smelled like beer – and that’s a good thing!

Hello dear ones, there will be no story snippet tomorrow – or rather later today as it will no doubt be in the wee hours by the time I post this. To be both honest and blunt, I’m working both Saturday and Sunday and have an interview on the latter (wish me luck!) so this weekend is just too filled to the brim for me to even think about trying to write and illustrate. But since a picture is worth a thousand words, this is probably a perfect time to share my adventures in home brewing thus far…

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Ingredients for my first attempt at home brewing – I used a True Brew kit for a pale ale (supposedly one of the easiest types of beer to brew).

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Time to brew some tea…er, grains!

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Looking pretty!

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I wonder if the squirrels and birds will find a bag full of brewed grains tasty?

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After adding the malt extract and wonderful, wonderful hops (and sanitizing my equipment like crazy) the wort went into my primary fermenter with a packet of yeast. With the help of my husband, the bucket made its way to our bedroom closet because it was the warmest place in the condo and I feared fermentation wasn’t actually happening after only seeing a few measly bubbles show up in the airlock. After sitting in the closet a few days, my husband complained our closet smelled like a brewery. Good sign!

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After taking a 2nd gravity reading and confirming that my little yeast friends did in fact do their job, it came time to siphon the wort future beer into my glass carboy for second fermentation (not actually a necessary extra step according to some folks but I’m sticking to the recipe steps on this first try). The carboy now resides in our laundry room since that’s an even warmer spot and will sit there, covered up with black tarp and a cloth, for another week before it’s time for the next step – bottling! Unfortunately that will be followed by more waiting but that just gives me time to start planning out my next recipe choice while waiting to drink the fruits of my labor!

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Happy Birthday to Me!

So today is my birthday and I am officially a certain digit between 1 and 1000 that shall remain nameless aside for the fact that it is certainly not 33.  Of course, I did the usual celebratory things of going out to dinner, eating something sweet and yummy (a chocolate covered orange rather than cake today), and enjoyed a lovely birthday beer. Okay, perhaps that last one is not so usual, but La Fin du Monde from Unibroue is certainly a brew worthy of any reason to celebrate. Or, hey, drink it with Monday night pizza if you wish.  Either way, yummers!  http://www.unibroue.com/en/beers/la_fin_du_monde/ (Yes, I know the name translates as The End of the World. Ignore that fact and enjoy).

Though my husband did bring up a good point earlier – why does anyone make a big deal out of birthdays at all? Why can’t the other 364 days of the year be just as special? It brings back to mind the time off  I took from work not too long ago (“mental heath days” I believe is the trendy thing the kids are calling it these days). I made a point of doing at least one special/out-of-the-ordinary thing each one of those wonderful, blessed days – even if the something special was just taking a walk somewhere off the beaten path. And while that’s all well and good, the question can still be rightfully posed: why can’t everyday have a little bit of awesome added to it? Making the day special doesn’t have to be expensive or anything over-the-top. My walk didn’t cost me dime and probably wouldn’t be considered amazing (now if the squirrels I passed by starting doing a song and dance number upon my arrival, I suppose that would have been amazing. But alas, there were squirrels but no singing or dancing.)

The point I’m meandering to is that each day is special if we let it be. Yes, I know that comes off sounding rather ABC Special-esque, but it’s true nonetheless. Like I said, it doesn’t have to be anything super amazing, just something that adds a little extra memory to the 24 hour period that otherwise just includes working, eating, errands, showering, and sleeping. And by adding just a little spice to the regular and mundane, we can make everyday a birthday.

Make a wish!   🙂

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A Few Tasty Days Off

Today I’m actually blogging in the more typical sense. I know, shock, horror! Actually, one reason this blog tends to get the once-a-week post is that’s usually all I have time or mental energy for. Buuuut I’ve had a wonderful dose of extra time by taking last Friday though Tuesday off from work. I have about a billion vacation and personal days and I decided it was high time to actually use some of those.  No worries for anyone following along with Once, there will still be another post devoted to that tale on Sunday.

So, what have I done with this sanity reclaiming time? Well, nothing extremely exciting actually…but I’m okay with that. Still, each day has had at least one something special going on:

Friday: Made a day trip to Wake Forest (it was only a half-hour trek in the car so I’m not sure that counts as “day tripping”) and stopped by the Storyteller’s Bookstore.  The actual visit left me feeling a little disenchanted – a much smaller store than envisioned for sure. Not a bad bookstore mind you and if you happen to live in or near the area, it’s worth checking out.  This was just one of those cases where the expected experience in my head did not match up with the one in real life.  But onward I went and ended up grabbing some tea and a scone with devonshire cream at a The Olde English Tea Room just down the block. If you are a fan of tea and delectable yummies, I highly recommend seeking out the nearest tea room in your area!

Saturday: This was mostly a lazy day but I did make it out to tour at the Triangle Brewing Company in Durham with one of my writer groups. Yes, our writer group did a brewery tour. Now granted, writing and beer are not two things one might normally associate with each other but as, one person pointed out, Tolkien and C. S. Lewis met at a pub (Oxford’s Eagle and Child Pub to be exact). Awesome time – got to sample two yummy glasses of the product and chatted with new friends about everything from writing to organic farming.  Though I will say this: after learning more about the beer making process,  I will certainly stick to purchasing rather than trying to make it myself. What the fine people at actual breweries can produce is far better than anything I could ever make. I say this with confidence after trying my hand at making ginger beer a couple months ago. I’m not entirely sure what the brownish, face-puckering concoction I made actually was, but it was far from drinkable.

Sunday: Not much to write home about for this day – except that I did actually get a small amount of writing done. Consumed caffeinated goodness at the Starbucks in ye olde Barnes and Noble (putting that coffee shop inside a bookstore was absolute genius on someone’s part) and parked myself at a table to dot down in the ending of a revised chapter add in for Future Memories. And yes, that was sans laptop – paper and pen were merrily put to use.  Now I’m (obviously) not against using the computer and technology – but there’s just something about going old school and writing things out. You can cross out sentences that aren’t working, write little notes for a sudden eureka that might be handy later, draw arrows to connect things. I don’t know why, the physical act of writing is part of the fun to me even though it means needing to go through the extra work of having to transcribe all those scribblings onto the computer. Yep, call me crazy.

Monday: I will sum today’s events up with the library and bread.

I know trekking to the library likely sounds as exciting an activity aspiration as cleaning the bathroom but I tell you, I was quite pleased with the idea. And even though I’ve been living in Raleigh for over three years, I’d had yet to actually get my Wake County library card. Strangely much like doing a load of laundry, completing this simple task gave off a satisfying feel of accomplishment. Hooray for simple victories!

Today was also when I tried making homemade bread for the third time – though I’m not entirely sure if I would say the loaf I created was a success. My first two attempts were so scrumptious, they nearly had me thinking bread making must be some secret gift I never knew I had. Until today. This loaf was very moist and dense (I would actually call it “yeasty” though it is baked fully and was hollow when I tapped to check it). After reading trouble shooting tips on the Web, I’ve determined my impatient self just didn’t give the poor thing enough rising time or my kitchen was a little too cold during that last hour when you let the dough sit all by its lonesome in the pan. However, I’ve happily discovered that even when the bread you home bake has some glaring character flaws, it can still toast up quite nicely. I added a little butter to my rescued slice and chomped through most of it while drinking a Blue Moon. I would have eaten the whole slice had it not been for this chain of events: placed plate with yummy toast on bed to fiddle faddle on the the computer, cat daughter Patches did her duty in the litter box and scratched around in it for a short eternity like a bull hopelessly waiting for a matador to appear, cat daughter hopped up on the bed immediately afterward to her new napping spot and mashed one of her kitty paws smack dab in the middle of the buttered toast. Ewwww.  Good thing homemade bread is cheap – that fact helps create less guilt after you’ve yelled at your cat daughter and find yourself tossing the formerly edible toast into the depths of the trash.

Hmmm. Tea, beer, coffee, and bread. I just realized I’ve managed to make food a bit a centerpiece both in this post and during my days off.  I suppose there could be worse things to tie a few lazy days together. Makes me wonder what Tuesday’s food celebrity will be (which since it’s officially a little after midnight, is actually today). Right now, my money’s on scrambled eggs.

Whether you’re working or have the day off – find something tasty to munch on during your travels!

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