Mistakes Shall Not Go Unposted!

Siiigh. Okey dokey. So although Sweet Dead Lion provided me with a hilarious and wonderful brew-day, it produced a less-than-wonderful brew. I’m actually going to toss part of the batch. And I feel downright embarrassed that, in my excitement, I shared it with a few friends before a true and honest taste test.

I don’t like drinking it and neither does well, anyone! It was bound to happen, there was so much drinking and laughing going on on brewing day, hahahaha. Shout out to Jen! Next time we’ll nail it.

My assessment of the brew is as follows:

  1. Look: So pretty! Rich black with a nice thick and long lasting caramel colored head. promising, but deceiving.
  2. Smell: Not terrible. a little sweet. At this point I’m starting to get molasses and (icky!) pecan indications.
  3. Taste: This is where things go downhill. It’s just a few ticks too sweet, and then I am immediately overwhelmed by a bitter burnt flavor (not a nice hop bitterness). Ugh. I can distinctly taste the (too) strong black molasses and the seriously icky pecan extract. Fakey fake!
  4. Feel: Here it’s not so great either. Kinda syrupy. Carbonation is ok.
  5. Overall: FAIL! What good is a beer that doesn’t taste good!?

So what went wrong? From what I can tell, these were my major major mistakes.

  • I remember thinking that maybe we’d not stirred often and early enough after we added the extract and molasses. We laughed and wondered if we’d burned the batch but forged ahead! This would definitely account for the burnt flavor.
  • Too much molasses. Definitely. Less would have been great for a more subtle flavor and sweetness.
  • Pecan ick. I will never use a strong extract like that again! Next time (oh yes, there WILL be a next time!) I will simply roast the pecans and dunk them using a nylon bag for the last few minutes.

How sad, this one never even got a label.

I post this in honour (British spelling) of my dear sweet sister, who posts her mishaps proudly.

On to the next!


She Brews, She Bakes: It’s all about the “Yeastie Beasties”

Last weekend my friend Jen came over to help brew a batch of porter (Sweet Dead Lion), and we were reading from the best brewing book of all time, just admiring the way that Charlie Papazian respects the life of each individual yeast. Jen referred to the little guys as “Yeastie Beasties.” We decided to make a few loaves of bread while we were at it, and they turned out great (hope the porter turns out as great!) She asked me to share the recipe, so here it is:

Yeastie Beastie Rosemary Bread
Makes 2 big loaves

1. In a large ceramic bowl, combine without mixing:

  • 3 c warm water (body temp)
  • 1.5 Tbsp dry bread yeast(ie beasties)
  • 1/4 c olive oil
  • 1/4 c honey

2. Sift together in another bowl:

  • 5 c bread flour
  • 1.5 c all purpose flour
  • 1.5 Tbsp sea salt
  • 1/4 c flax seed meal, cornmeal, or wheat bran (optional)
  • a handful of rosemary

3. Gently stir the wet ingredients, then pour the dry into the wet while mixing with a wooden spoon.

4. Fold the mixture together until combined into a large “shaggy” looking ball.

5. Cover loosely with plastic wrap or a damp kitchen towel and let sit (away from drafts) for 1.5 – 2 hours.

6. Once it’s doubled in size, sprinkle the dough with flour, flour hands, and cut in two with a sharp knife on a floured board. “Cloak” each loaf by holding in one hand and tucking the overhanging dough to the bottom a few times.

7. Line a cookie sheet with parchment (or place a baking stone in the cool oven).

8. Pre-heat oven to 400ºF.

9. Place the loaves on the cookie sheet (or on a pizza paddle dusted with plenty of cornmeal). Let sit for 40 min under plastic or a damp kitchen towel.

10. Before placing in the oven, sprinkle each loaf with coarse salt, dust with flour, and slash the tops 1/4″ deep with a serrated knife.

11. Place in the middle rack of the hot oven, with 1 c of hot water in a tray below.

12. Bake with steam for 45 min or until tops are golden.  The loaves should have a very hard exterior (this will soften as they cool).

(lucky) 13. Cool on a rack before slicing, and enjoy!

*Tip! You can put any kind of herb in this recipe in place of or in addition to the rosemary.

*Another Tip! And for a sweeter breakfast style loaf, try leaving out the rosemary and adding a few Tbsp of melted butter, a little molasses, and some chopped nuts to the mix.

Sweet Dead Lion (a.k.a. “Southern ‘Gent”)

What’s better than making a fantastic batch of porter all by yourself? Making a fantastic batch of porter with a great friend, of course! Last week, my friend Jen came over and we had many a home brew while we cooked up a (soon to be) lovely porter.

This one was inspired by my better half, Mudcat. He’s a southern gentlemen from south Mississippi. So for this brew, we added two of his favorite southern ingredients, pecans and molasses. I’d been dreaming of making this batch “The Southern ‘Gent” for some time.

But of course, the spontaneous fun of brewing day took on a life of its own, and this crazy porter developed an alias! As I mentioned, Jen and I were having several  home brews, and maybe a few research porters. We started examining all the ingredients on the counter (after all, this is the only activity I get to do that involves a test tube!).

Well, the packaging on the Scottish molasses just had us baffled. It was a tin of Lyle’s Black Treacle. The picture and message were just so mysterious! A drawing of a sleeping (dead?) lion with flies all around, and under the lion it reads “Out of the strong came forth sweetness.”

Gross! We suspected this was some kind of sick decomposition reference.

The beer immediately became our little “Sweet Dead Lion.” Hilarious! (To us).

But the label just continued to intrigue us… and I finally got to the bottom of it by reading this blog. The lion IS indeed dead! Woah, I had kinda hoped he was just sleeping there. But the flies are actually bees. The whole thing is a biblical reference, from the story of Samson.

So there we have it. The batch has bubbled away and is almost read to rack. I’m a little sad not to not call it “Southern ‘Gent,” I was attached to the name… but come on! “Sweet Dead Lion” has just the right mix of demented bizarre hilarity and ring-to-the-ear. Maybe I’ll make art on the label look like a southern gentleman and still name it Sweet Dead Lion for no explicable reason.

Highlights of brewing the first batch of Sweet Dead Lion:

  1. Jen is an experienced lady brewer… she started brewing when she was super young (… ahem… 21 of course) and is just a super gal. We had a really great time gabbing, adding this and that, drinking, stirring the vat of brew in the bathtub. Brew with a friend, it’s awesome!
  2. We strayed from the recipe and added that crazy molasses! This made the mixture more dense, (it had a starting gravity of 1.074 instead of 1.053). I honestly have no worries about how it will change the batch. I think it could be 1) more alcoholic and 2) sweeter. No complaints there.
  3. We added true Texas hill country pecans from Leakey, TX. I think that’s really going to do a lot for the beer. I might still add the pecan extract before brewing, as directed in the recipe. But I’ve got to believe that  the real nuts will provide real… nuts… to the beer. A few pieces were not strained out but I think we can avoid getting them in the secondary fermenter.