There being so many farms in Norfolk, one might wonder just what they’re growing. After my own heart, the farmers of Norfolk produce much of the barley Crisp turns into high quality English malts that I’ve used in my own beers in Brooklyn. Branthill Farms supplies over a dozen brewers in Norfolk with Maris Otter malt and operates The Real Ale Shop and solar-powered Branthill Micro Maltings. Naturally, to better get a taste for Norfolk, I made finding the shop a high priority.
Even before I stepped off the S-Bahn into central Berlin and was struck by the pervasive graffiti and street art, I saw a shocking sight. Two men chatting on the train, drinking beer. And more people drinking beer walking up and down the streets, or waiting for food at a truck. Jonas (a friend of a friend) told me that beer is regarded as a basic food in the German diet, and while there are special taxes on alcohol as in many other countries, the legal and cultural attitude towards beer is as relaxed as towards bread.
And many of my outings in Berlin were accompanied by beer. In Germany it is nearly impossible to escape lagers, which made me a bit uncertain about how happy I would be with my beverages, but I found them to be skillfully brewed and more interesting than I expected. I did eventually also manage to try some of Germany’s distinctive ale styles. But among the pils, helles, schwarzbier, weizen, and kolsch, one style stands apart as totally unique, sharing little in common with most well-known German styles (although somewhat similar to the obscure gose style), and the style calls Berlin its home. The Berliner weiße, a style I brewed before I’d even tried it, was the one beer I was determined to drink during my stay.
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.