In their books, accomplished homebrewers often advise the reader to keep notes on how the character of a brew evolves over time. A brewer who has insight into how flavors and aromas lent by malt, hops, and yeast evolve over time can adjust the recipes and technique to make a beer ready for consumption sooner or improve its longevity by trying to achieve stable characteristics. With this in mind, I’ve waited over a month to review my session ale, but I’ve found that over that month the only thing that’s changed are my perceptions and opinions of the beer, while the characteristics of the beer itself have not.
In one week’s time I’ll be headed off for England, and either this blog will go on hiatus or its nature will have to change. I’ve got plenty of adventures planned for my time abroad, quite a few of them even beer related (probably not many pizza related; I don’t know what I’ll do for pizza oh no I’ll probably have to make some!). I’ll be sampling many cask ales in the pubs, taking cycling and train trips to old English breweries, tracking down hop farms on the isle and the continent, and chasing lambics and Trappist brews in Belgium. But for now, tasting notes on my last brew until I’m back.
I’ve been baking more bread lately, and most often I will make my dough ala Jim Lahey’s no-knead method with a 24-hour fermentation that develops the gluten and contributes full flavor. However, sometimes I won’t be able to bake bread 24 hours after I assemble the dough and require quicker turnaround. One trick for faking the flavor of a well-fermented bread is to use another fermented product: beer! And I have had plenty of beer on hand that I was in no rush to drink (namely the peanut porter).
After a healthy fermentation with repitched yeast from my pomegranate saison, something seemed to go a bit agly with my honey saison. The beer that went into the bottles tasted like the same as my pomegranate saison before priming, but the beer that came out was changed. It developed more acidity, and I thought I spotted small pellicles in some of the bottles. I tried to snap a photo, but (fortunately) those brown glass bottles are very effective at blocking light.
To clear things up right off, there is no ham on this pizza. All of my pizzas are vegetarian. The smoked summer ham actually refers to my rauchbier, which has an undeniable meatiness bound to the smoky malt. Colleen and I are fans of Futurama, so as I was describing the beer to her, I joked that the beer was “fresh as a summer ham.”
While thinking of toppings with complimentary flavors, my failed attempt at a smoky seitan pizza stuck in my mind as something to avoid repeating. Then I remembered seeing a recipe on SeriousEats for stuffed poblano peppers in a cashew-chipotle sauce that I had been curious to try my hand at. It struck me that it would be very easy to adapt this recipe to a pizza, using the cashew-chipotle sauce to replace the traditional tomato sauce and simply turning the stuffed peppers into toppings.
Yesterday Joshua Bernstein, author of the recently released The Complete Beer Course, brought about 25 beer geeks, homebrewers, and curious travelers to my apartment to sample some homebrew and pick my brain. Besides making some cool cash, it was also exciting to get to share my beers with many people all at once who were interested in discussing it and noting what they tasted and enjoyed.
I had high aspirations with this beer. From my reading it seemed like although it could be difficult to get a definite peanut butter flavor, many people had found success. I approached this brew with confidence from my success with my experience adding pomegranate to a saison, and opted for the higher end of the amount of peanut butter that other brewers had successfully used. However, somewhere along the line, either with the peanut butter or the cacao nibs or with my sanitation, something seems to have gone wrong.