Friday, April 25, 2008

Hobo Dinner & Goose Island IPA

Fun with Photoshop filters! I liked this one because the food looks like those silly painted styrofoam chunks they used as "alien" food on Star Trek: TOS.

Over the past few years, we've gone camping with our lovely friends, The Beaumonts, every Spring and Fall. This Spring, we are too busy opening a brewery to go camping. Bummer, but... yay! Brewery!

Anyway, in honor of the Great Camping Trip Loss of 2008, we decided to cook our favorite camping dinner at home tonight. We paired it with one of our favorite camping beers, natch.

Goose Island India Pale Ale
Chicago, IL
5.9% ABV, 58 IBUs

-- paired with --

Hobo Dinner @ Home

For reference, the way you make hobo dinners whilst camping:
lay flat a piece of foil, about 18"x18" and then layer...
little olive oil or a pat or 2 of butter
potatoes cut into 1" chunks
Morningstar Farms® Meal Starters™ Grillers® Recipe Crumbles™
chopped onions
chopped garlic
spices, pretty much whatever you want
chopped zucchini
chopped red and green bell peppers
any other chopped veggies, one of the many joys of camping is a comfortable lack of rules
shredded cheese of any kind

Then, fold the whole thing into a pocket and toss'er onto the grate over the campfire. The edge of the fire ring, inside the stones, is also a great place to slow-cook your hobo dinner. No offense to hobos, by the way.

Okay, so here's how we made hobo dinners at home. Preheat the oven to 350°. Spray olive oil to coat the bottom of a baking dish. Then, layer...
potatoes, chopped into 1" chunks
cold Morningstar Farms® Meal Starters™ Chik'n Strips (we had some left over, hanging out in the fridge)
4 strips of Morning Star Farms® Veggie Bacon Strips (we fondly refer to it as "facon")
Morningstar Farms® Meal Starters™ Grillers® Recipe Crumbles™ (spray just a little more olive oil onto the recipe crumbles)
chopped onions
diced roasted garlic (my clever scheme for roasting garlic is below)
shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese
salt & pepper
ancho chili powder, or any other kind of chili powder
Tabasco Chipotle Pepper Sauce
chopped Portobello mushrooms
chopped zucchini
chopped red & green bell peppers
shredded Parmesan cheese

Cover the baking dish and bake for about 40 minutes.

To roast garlic: preheat a toaster oven to 400°. Slice the tops off of a complete head of garlic, but try not to pull the cloves apart. Spray the tops with a little olive oil. Wrap the head in foil, keeping in mind that you'll check its progress by peeking at the tops of the cloves. Bake them in the toaster oven for about 50 minutes. Once the tops of the cloves are browned, you're in business.

Onto the feasting and drinking.

Hop aroma abounds in the IPA. The head is just slightly off-white, thick, and tasty. You can tell right from the start that there is going to be lacing on the glass. Plenty of flowery hop flavor, of course. The mouthfeel is smooth and light. A malty sweetness greets you first, but then drops off. Randy Mosher wrote in his article "What's On Your Menu?: Dazzle Them with Beer & Food Pairings," (The New Brewer, Vol. 25 No. 1) that hop bitterness emphasizes spiciness. The Dugg's damn-near-professional spicing skills were requested for this particular dish. He fiendishly leaned over the baking dish for quite some time, shaking this jar, taking pinches from that jar, and blopping copious amounts of Tabasco sauce to and fro. Call it a premonition, but I think our palates are about to be spanked.

Indeed, the combination of the beer and food allows the spices to linger in the mouth for a long, long time. That's right, quench the spice heat with nice cold beer. Oh boy. Good thing we aren't going anywhere tonight.

The multitude of flavors in the dish are rinsed clear with the beer. Spices are tasted throughout the entire experience, but the veggie flavors are fresh and clean every time after sipping the beer.

Head-bobbing to a new-found band, Fu Manchu, we lapsed into a silence and enjoyed our dinner. The Dugg uttered the first word after many long minutes: "more."

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

“They sell Bud — we sell Weed.”

... an excellent point by brewer Vaune Dillmann of Mt. Shasta Brewing Company, home of Weed Ales and Lagers. Their slogan, "Try Legal Weed" is on the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau's no-fly list. Dillmann faces sanctions or fines for using it on his bottle caps. The bottle caps also sport the slogan "A friend in Weed is a friend indeed."

Weed, CA was founded by Abner Weed when he started a lumber mill there in 1897. They were probably having fun with the name from day one... "I trust that fellow, after all, he did introduce me to Weed." A traveler can stumble up to the city's signpost, pose for a snapshot while making the "I'm pinching a joint" symbol with their fingers, and then purchase a “High on Weed, CA” t-shirt at a nearby gas station. Mt. Shasta Brewing Company has a beer named "Shastafarian Porter."

No doubt, the pot jokes abound in a city named Weed. A Californian city named Weed.

Now, as people making nice with the local TTB, we wouldn't dare question their judgment. However, we do submit that the slogans are funny. And they're on products made exclusively for adults. We don't even need to think of the children, because you know, they aren't supposed to be drinking beer anyway.

Couldn't the TTB just aim high? Give us the benefit of the doubt; that we adult consumers know how to pass the doob jokes without coughing? We are stone serious, roll this one up and forget about it. Wait... what were we talking about?

Thanks to The Full Pint Dot Com for a repost of the article by Ryan Sabalow.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Honk if you're sad

Early warning rumblings gave way to the sad truth this week: Goose Island will be closing it's pub at North/Clybourn here in Chicago.

Click here to read the Chicago Trib article.

Now, I've always been bummed about the fact that the place closes down so early on Friday and Saturday nights. 11:oo pm hits and we always manage to find ourselves surrounded by chairs propped on top of the tables and mop-wielding staff who are clearly eager to split. But that isn't to say that GI-North/Clybourn isn't one of our favorite places to be.

The beer is excellent. Say whatever you want about the relationship with Widmer, the beer in the glass is what counts. We've been proud to hold countless business meetings at GI-North/Clybourn because the beer is so reliably tasty.

The Siebel Institute of Technology has called GI-North/Clybourn its classroom home since 2003. The Dugg earned his diploma in Brewing Technology at this pub. The Illinois Craft Brewers Guild has held meetings and festivals here. When I think about it, we've spent a lot of time at this place. No wonder I'm so thirsty right now.

Goose Island is one of the very few places in that shopping district that is truly Chicago. Depending on your direction, you walk past Best Buy; Bed, Bath & Beyond; Trader Joe's; Whole Foods; CVS; Crate & Barrel; The Gap; Circuit City; and Patagonia to get to the pub. If it weren't for Sam's Wines & Spirits, we would probably never step foot in that area again.

I will run in circles sobbing like a child if a Chili's moves in.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

The Hops are in da Haus!

Starting a brewery during a hops crisis requires us to keep our proverbial ears to the ground (eyes to the interwebs) and pounce on opportunities like a cat on nip. So, when we heard about some available hops, the very hops The Dugg desires, we made one of our very first Huge Purchases. People paying attention know that we're still searching for Metro's home, so we had the hops shipped to our apartment. All 300 lbs of them.

We've never seen the UPS guy so pissed.

At our Top Secret Metro Hidden Headquarters, our bounty is safely stored. The protective measures taken are too numerous and Top Secret to list here.

Plenty of guile

Our friends at the Drinking and Writing Brewery took some time out to talk with us at this year's Rockfest, held at Rock Bottom - Chicago and hosted by head brewer Pete Crowley. Behold! Our very first official interview with the media. Well, very casual media. Guerrilla media. Media that drinks and swears.

Click here to hear the interview portion of the radio show. About 10 minutes long.

Click here to hear the entire radio show from April, 2008. Enjoy the frenetic, hilarious madness that Neofuturists channel with uncanny ease.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Randy = Biggest Beer Nut in Chicago!

Okay, this is a couple of years old now (2006), but it contains so many familiar faces, I just had to post it anyway. Some of the most well-known and loved beer Illuminati in Chicago - Randy Mosher, Jason Beaumont, Jeff Sparrow, Scott Mikros, Pete Crowley, Lyn Kruger, Jonathan Cutler, and many more - make an appearance on the Chicago episode of Beer Nutz. Even The Dugg can be seen enjoying a quaff or two near the end. Choosing the biggest Beer Nut in Chicago is a task we wouldn't dare attempt, but the fellas made a choice we find completely reasonable and logical.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Brewer's Etiquette

I read somewhere that "brewers should always be seen drinking a beer, but never be seen drunk."

Heh. Whoops.

Drinking from the Firehose

Our "pre-production" phase officially began April 1st. This refers to the 6-month period during which we are allowed to spend our time pulling together all of the various aspects of starting a brewery, but aren't expected to actually sell any beer. We both officially work full-time for Metro now. Of course, I've been doing so since October 1st and Doug since March 21st. The difference is that now, we get paid for it.

I've never needed a nap so badly in my life.

Every day begins early. We typically schedule appointments beginning at 8 or 9am with one of our six Realtors to drive all over Chicagotarnation looking at possible spaces. I'm not going to say that we've seen it all, because that would be exaggerating. But we have seen a space that was too lovely, oh so perfect and out of our budget; a warehouse space with "place rodent trap here" drawn in marker on the wall; a barn-like space that would have worked nicely but for the sagging and chipping roof; and a space that might work once the dollar-store merchandise has been liquidated. How do you put stuff that costs $1 on sale?

Last week, we took a field trip up to The Great Dane at Hilldale in Madison, WI. The brewhouse (the tanks in which you brew beer) at this location is the prototype of the system we intend to buy. The brewer was incredibly hospitable, allowing us to brew a batch of his Oktoberfest with him from start to finish. The entire 15 bbl system made us feel like really little kids in a normal-sized toy store. The hoses were big...
The mash rake in the mash tun was big...

And the amount of spent grain needing to be raked out of the mash tun was big...
And apparently, we need to brush up on our Cantonese in order to use the equipment.
We've been asked to give a talk at the Siebel Institute of Technology (this is the school where The Dugg earned his diploma in Brewing Technology) here in Chicago next week during a 3-day seminar named "Start Your Own Brewery Course." I guess we've actually gone through many of the paces necessary to open a brewery, and I suppose we do have some wisdom to pass along. But we don't feel like experts and we desperately hope that no one sitting in the course holds us to such standards. However, we are looking forward to sharing some of our experiences and even took some time to pull together a snazzy PowerPoint presentation in order to look more official-like. Our mantra: learn from your mistakes. Hell, learn from others' mistakes too, if you can help it.

The past few weeks have also involved numerous meetings with our accountants, lawyer, insurance agent, and banker. Oh my! Now, each person involved is lovely and has helped us tremendously, but like the back of a thong on a 20-something, our inexperience is showing to the embarrassment of everyone involved. We were soundly scolded for mixing up our personal and business financials. A situation that is now remedied... but we do often "buy gifts" for Metro with our own money. Sorry, we love our kid and can't help but spoil it.

And we're waiting with bated breath for the appointment wherein a nurse (PortaMedic... hee!) comes to our home to take urine and blood samples. These, along with an interview that grills us for our health information will finally be distilled into a number for each of us. This number will be stamped on the life insurance policy - and our checkbook annually - required by our bank in order to obtain our bank loan.

A high point of our meetings with professionals involve our graphic designer. He is probably one of the strongest members of our team. He's a genius of graphic design, brewing, and marketing and we're relieved he saw fit to help us along our way. This week, he showed us a nearly-final version of our first beer label. Behold...

We're happy to be nursing our newborn through the first few months of life. But they say new parents are often surprised by the amount of work and attention their larvae-like offspring requires. We're no different in this respect. Fortunately, if we screw up too badly, no one dies.

And to think... we haven't even begun to apply for our licenses yet...