Monthly Archives: April 2011

Bluebeard’s Cellar

Whenever I mention that I have beer in my cellar, people generally just make up excuses to stop talking to me.  Unlike when my mom suddenly remembers that she promised a friend she’d help them sort their button collection, I can pretend that people actually made it past those words word of this paragraph without walking away.

Now, those lucky few who I imagine are reading this may be asking themselves, “aside from the fact that beer geeks feel compelled to try and prove to everyone they know that beer is as sophisticated a booze as wine, why would anyone cellar beer”

The simple answer is: It changes the flavor. Sometimes that’s a good thing, sometimes it’s a bad thing. The key is not just spending a year throwing away money by picking beers where that change is a good thing. Generally, that means a big complex beer. Bottle Conditioning (having yeast in the bottle) is also a big plus. Oh, and most beers funky and\or Belgian get funkier and Belgianier.

So without further ado, here is what’s in my cellar.

1.2007 J.W. Lees Harvest Ale aged in Port casks.

2.Boulevard Brewing Company Harvest Dance

3. Boulevard Brewing Company Chocolate Ale

4. Great Divide Hades Tripel

5. Widmere Brothers w’11 KGB Imperial Stout.



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One Bourbon, One Scotch, and One Beer

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you John Lee Hooker


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Sourdough Rye

Now, I want everyone to think of rye bread. Think of all the things that go with it: caraway, maybe a nice roast beef sandwich with hot mustard and horseradish, maybe a Reuben on a marbled loaf with the light and dark swirling around each other, definitely a pickle spear.  Got it? Good.

This is different. This has a nice subtle rye flavor (no caraway to get in the way), plus a nice bit of tang from the sourdough starter, and a complex sweetness from the beer.  It’s my variation on a traditional bread made in Normandy (you know, France). The original recipe (in Nancy Silverton’s Breads from the LeBrea Bakery) uses hard cider. Well, one day I wanted to make the bread, but the liquor store nearby was out of cider, but not Maredsous Tripel. I’m sure any Tripel or Golden Strong would do just as well.

I need to make a couple of disclaimers before we get started. The first is, I have no idea what condition your sourdough starter is in. So, I can only guess at how much flour you’ll need. If you’ve got a particularly wet starter, you’ll need more flour.

Which brings me to the second; I have no idea what condition your sourdough starter is in. Lots of things are going to have an impact on how sour your bread is. Here’s a quick list of the ones you can easily control: how wet the starter is. A thinner soupy starter is going to have more tang than a thicker starter; how long ago you’ve fed the starter, the longer between the last time you fed the starter and when you started this bread, the more sour your bread will be. Here’s a somewhat longer list of things you can’t: Where you live, different regions have different wild thingies floating around, how warm it is outside, how humid it is, the nearest High Jewish Holiday; etc.; etc.; etc.

Without getting into too much detail about sourdough, on which several books have been written. Let me just say, you should at the very least feed your sourdough the day before starting the bread, and then once more 4-6 hours before. It gets the yeast out of hibernation mode and into eating\burping\reproducing mode. It also makes sure you have enough starter to set some aside (which you’ll want to do before adding anything other than flour and water).

O.k. on to the recipe. Which takes two days, this first day you’re making what’s known as a sponge.

Day one:

1 C water (room temp)

1 Tbsp Molasses

1 1/2 C starter

3/4 C Flour

1 C Rye Flour

Mix it all together, cover, and let sit overnight (if it’s a particularly hot day, move it to the fridge about halfway through).

Day two:

Sponge from Day 1

1 C Water (room temp.)

1 C Tripel or Golden Strong (room temp.)

6-7  C flour

3/4 C Rye flour

1 Tbsp Kosher Salt.

Mix together everything except salt. Let sit for 20 min. Add Salt and kneed for 8-10 min (be careful, you can actually over kneed rye breads do to the lower gluten content). The dough will be soft and sticky. Let rise in a oiled bowl until almost doubled, about 2 hours (again, be careful breads made with rye are not as forgiving as those with wheat). Deflate dough and divide into 2 equal portions.

Shape into boules (round loaf). Here is a video on how to do that. Preheat oven to 450 degrees and let rise for 1-2 hours. Slash your bread with a sharp knife (there’s a variety of patterns you can do, but a simple # will do the trick). Put bread in oven (if you’ve got a baking stone, by all means use it, if not a cookie sheet with parchment paper and a dusting of semolina or corn meal works fine). Place on middle shelf in the oven and bake for 20-35 min. rotating halfway through if necessary. The crust should be pretty dark and the loaf should sound hollow when tapped. Put on a baking rack to cool, and let cool ALL THE WAY (it’ll effect the texture otherwise)





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