Sunday, December 4, 2011

Bottled Michigan: Short's Ginger in the Rye

It's really too bad that so much crumby stuff is a lot of fun sometimes. --J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye

The Ginger in the Rye is a high alcohol (~7%) beer that Joe Short came up with in 2007. It's important to note that this beer is not being marketed as a ginger beer, making it fundamentally different than Schmohz's Zingiberene or Left Hand's Good Juju. Ginger in the Rye is an experimental ale brewed with rye and Munich malt but fermented with the Weihenstephan yeast strain, giving it elements of a German wheat beer. Indeed, Beer Advocate refers to this beer as a hefeweizen, although I find that label inaccurate as well.

Ginger in the Rye pours a deep golden color with a shy, white head that dissipates quickly. A few lonely bubbles make their way lazily to the surface. The beer has the aroma expected in a ginger beer: the zing of fresh ginger is foremost in the smell, mixing with a pepper spice that comes from the copious amount of rye.

The smell, however, belies the complexity of this beer. Upon tasting, the first thing I noticed was the mouthfeel; this is a smooth, thick, almost viscous feeling beer that lubricates the mouth and throat without being cloying. It contrasts sharply with the spicy ginger and pepper that accompany the flavor. There is a slight citrus quality that, until acclimating myself to the beer, came across as slightly astringent. Clove flavors dance with the ginger and pepper, and the faint taste of banana – likely from the yeast used – haunt the palate, reminding you that this is not a traditional ginger beer. Citrus and honey again appear upon the exhale. This is a complex beer.

If you don't like ginger, don't drink this beer. If you love ginger beer, don't expect this beer to be traditional by any means. And if you think the quote I picked at the beginning of this post was a poor choice, then you're a phony, for cryin' out loud.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Spent Grain Bread

If you are a home brewer and are interested in how to put some of that spent grain to good use, I highly recommend trying this recipe.  It took about 30 hours from start to finish, but man, was the end result worth the wait.  The tender inside of the bread makes it great for sandwiches or spreads, and the sweet and malty spent grain really shines.  If you are not a home brewer, find a friend that is, and go ask them for some of their spent grain.  Seriously.  Right now. 

*Note that you can freeze spent grain, and then thaw it out again before using in this recipe. It’s best to bring it up to room temperature before you start baking.

1/2 tsp active dry yeast (not rapid rise)
3/4 c water (room temperature)
3/4 c spent grain from brewing, still damp and at room temperature
1 1/2 c bread flour

4 cups bread flour
1 cup water (room temperature)
2 tbsp honey
2 tsp salt

For the Sponge:
Mix the yeast into the water in a medium bowl until it’s dissolved. Mix into the flour and spent grain with a spatula and create stiff, wet dough. Cover and let the sponge sit at room temperature for at least five hours, if not overnight. I let mine sit for 24 hours.

24 hours later

For the Dough:
1. Mix the water, honey, flour, and the sponge in the bowl of a mixer, using a spatula. Mix the dough with your dough hook attachment on a slow speed for about 12 minutes, then add the salt. Continue mixing with the dough hook for another 3 minutes.

During the course of this process, the dough should be sticking to the bottom of the bowl, but easily clearing the sides. Check about halfway through by pushing the dough off the hook and seeing how it sticks to the bowl. If it’s really gluey and damp, add more flour in 1/8th cup increments, mixing between each addition. You want a dough that’s smooth and tacky but not actually glue-like.

2. Transfer your dough to a big lightly oiled bowl, and cover it with plastic wrap that’s been greased. Let it rise about two to four hours, until it has roughly tripled in size.


After about 3 hours

3. Grease three 9 x 5 inch loaf pans. Put your dough on a lightly floured surface. Working with floured hands, press it out into a rectangle, and use a bench knife to divide it into three equally sized pieces. Roll each piece of dough into a tight 9-inch cylinder and pinch the seam closed. Place the loaves, seam side down, in the prepared pans. Set each loaf into a greased 9 x 5-inch loaf pan. Cover loosely with a cloth or greased piece of aluminum foil and let the dough rise until it almost doubles in size, about 45 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, put a deep metal pan or cast-iron skillet on the lowest shelf of the oven. Heat your oven up to 450 degrees F. Heat up two cups of water (not quite to boiling) and keep it on hand for your baking cycle.

5. Cut two or three slashes on top of each loaf using a sharp serrated knife. Cut almost parallel to the top of loaf, not very deep, and without sawing or tearing. Put your loaves in the oven. Pour two cups of hot water into your pre-heated pan or skillet, to create steam.

6. Bake for 15 minutes, then, if the loaves are browning unevenly, rotate each loaf 180 degrees. Bake for another 5-10 minutes (or until tops of loaves turn dark brown) and test the temperature with an instant read thermometer — 205-210 degrees F is perfect.

7. Take your pans out, let them cool 10 minutes, then put loaves on a cooling rack for an hour or two. Voila! Serve with local honey and/or butter, or make delicious little sandwiches.

*Adapted from a recipe from The Heavy Table.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Bacon Wrapped Stuffed Jumbo Shrimp with Golden Cap Dipping Sauce

Sadly, I cannot take credit for the creation of this recipe. I found it at and made it for a quick dinner last week with no intentions of sharing it, but it went over so well that I just had to post it. The original recipe was created by Larry Bennett of Brewery Ommegang for Café Milano in Cooperstown, NY and uses Hennepin, a saison-style ale from Ommegang. I swapped the Hennepin out for New Holland's Golden Cap Saison and wrapped half of my shrimp in bacon and the other half in pancetta. Seth preferred the bacon wrapped shrimp, while I favored the pancetta, so what you use is really up to your own personal preference. You could also use Gruyere cheese in place of the Swiss or get creative and try some other meat and cheese combinations. The world is your oyster..shrimp.

Jumbo shrimp (16-20 count or larger, about 15-20 of them) peeled (leave tails on)
Swiss cheese, grated (about 1 cup)
Bacon or pancetta to wrap each shrimp
½ bottle (6 oz) New Holland Golden Cap Saison
2 tablespoons hot water
1 tablespoon butter
½ tablespoon mayonnaise
½ cup Dijon mustard
½ lemon, juiced
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground white pepper

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Cook bacon or pancetta about halfway and allow to cool.  

Butterfly each shrimp and fill with 1 tablespoon Swiss cheese. Close shrimp around stuffing and wrap with 1 strip bacon each. Bake in oven until golden. 

Allow carbonation of the beer to mellow. Combine in large pot or saucepan: butter, oil, beer, water, mayonnaise and Dijon mustard and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Allow to condense to a creamy consistency. Add lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Detroit Lager Arroz con Pollo


Arroz con pollo, or "rice with chicken," is a classic dish of Spain and Latin America.  There are many different ways to prepare it, unique to various countries.  What follows is a basic arroz con pollo recipe inspired by a dish from Smitten Kitchen that is typical to what you might find prepared in Cuba.  It can be adjusted depending on the level of spice you like and what you have on hand. It's an easy, stove-top, one pot dish, that is great for family meals.

Serves 8

6 large garlic cloves
2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
2 teaspoons dried oregano, crushed
4 chicken breast halves with bone, halved crosswise
4 chicken drumsticks
4 chicken thighs

1/2-1 pound bulk chorizo sausage
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
6 large garlic cloves, chopped
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 1/2 teaspoons paprika, preferably the hot stuff, plus more to taste
2 Turkish bay leaves or 1 California
1 lb. tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 12-ounce. bottle Detroit Lager from Detroit Brewing Co.
1 1/2 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
2 cups long-grain white rice (14 ounces)
1/4 cup drained rinsed bottled pimiento or roasted red pepper strips
Extra chopped green pepper for garnish (optional)

Marinate chicken: Mince and mash garlic to a paste with 2 teaspoons salt, then transfer to a large bowl. Stir in vinegar and oregano.

Remove skin and excess fat from chicken, then toss chicken with marinade until coated and marinate, covered and chilled, at least 1 hour.

Cook chicken and rice: – Cook chorizo in olive oil in a 6- to 7-quart heavy pot (12 inches wide) over medium-high heat, stirring, until some fat is rendered, 2 to 3 minutes.

Add onions, bell pepper, and garlic and cook, stirring until softened, about 5 minutes.

Add cumin, oregano, paprika, 1 1/4 teaspoons salt, and bay leaves and cook, stirring, 1 minute.  Add chicken with marinade to chorizo mixture and cook, uncovered, over medium heat, stirring frequently, 10 minutes.

Stir in tomatoes, beer, broth, and rice and bring to a boil, making sure rice is submerged. I would suggest that you use tongs to temporarily remove the chicken from the pot, mix the rice in with the other ingredients in the pot, and then replace the chicken, pressing it into the broth a bit before going onto the next step, otherwise it might be difficult to keep the rice submerged to cook evenly.

Reduce heat to medium-low, then cover mixture directly with a round of parchment or wax paper and cover pot with a tight fitting lid. Cook, stirring once or twice, until rice is tender, 30 to 40 minutes.

Remove from heat and let stand, covered, 5 minutes. Discard parchment paper and bay leaves, then scatter pimiento or red pepper strips over rice.

Do ahead: Chicken can be marinated up to 2 hours in advance.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Brewery Vivant Wood-Aged Beer Celebration - October 22, 2011

Brewery Vivant, a Belgian/French inspired restaurant and brewery located in the East Hills Neighborhood, will literally be rolling out the barrels for its customers in what’s sure to be one of the season’s most anticipated beer celebrations. Many of these brews have been aging for months, and will include a myriad of styles for every palette. In addition, Chef Drew Turnipseed will be pairing up his delicious wares, including sauerkraut and homemade sausages.

Barrel-aged beers can take on many forms, and Vivant is not afraid to jump outside of the box on any beers that they make. Belgian Sours are a much anticipated favorite, a brew that is purposely spiked with healthy bacteria that gives the brew a slightly tart flavor. All of these take an expert eye to make, and because of the unique nature of each individual oak cask, Brewmaster Jacob Derylo insists that “The beer will tell you when it’s ready.”

This year’s the celebration will fall on Saturday, October 22nd, from 1pm to 9pm. Admission is free to the public, and tokens will be available to purchase for beers during the celebration.

Brewery Vivant was founded in December, 2010 by former New Holland Brewing Co. founder Jason Spaulding and his wife Kris. It’s held in an old funeral chapel that was constructed in 1915. The establishment focuses on French and Belgian styles of brewing, paired with excellently matched food in an amazing environment.

Brewery Vivant is located at:
925 Cherry St. SE
Grand Rapids, MI 49506

More info can be found at, or on their Facebook page.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Great Baraboo

I’ve already written ad nauseum about my theory that I can categorize most Michigan Beer pubs as either breweries that serve food, or restaurants that make beer (with the delicious center of that Venn Diagram being places like Bastone, Brewery Vivant, and Jolly Pumpkin Ann Arbor that offer the epitome of both).  Apparently, I’ve missed one category: “breweries that really want to be a chain restaurant.” 

The Great Baraboo Brewing Company is housed in a gigantic, warehouse shaped building in Clinton Township, Michigan, right in that murky half moon shape of suburbs where the residents say they’re from Detroit, but really they’re not. While I am far from qualified to make judgments on an entire town based on a few hours of exploration, in many ways it reminded me of Portage, Michigan – where the primary public business zones were just huge, five lane roads bisecting acres of chain stores, malls, and fast food joints. It’s very possible I missed a quaint, adorable neighborhood in Clinton Township, but my point is that perhaps the Great Baraboo is trying so hard to look like a chain restaurant because that’s the competition it’s up against.

Inside, the Great Baraboo is cavernous and confusing, the copious sports memorabilia competing for attention with Keno screens. There was a Jagermeister St. sign hanging from the window into the (admittedly quite beautiful) brewing facility. I don’t think the genius interior designers at Applebees could’ve done a better rendition of barely controlled wall-art-cacophony. For people used to chain grill restaurants (and be honest, every family has a few), this place feels like home.
We were seated by a very polite hostess. She allowed us to sit outside in their covered patio area, letting us watch the rain drizzle down while being protected from the elements. Here, we were served by an attentive and knowledgeable waitress. The service was superb.

The menu itself suffers from the same problem that many chain restaurants endure; that is, in an attempt to offer a personality for everyone, they end up with no real personality at all. I counted a phenomenal 13 appetizers, 9 soup/salad options, 23 sandwiches and burgers, and 13 entrees, running from traditional pub food to Mexican flair to Italian cuisine. Again I will say: this is a tried and true recipe for success. Chain restaurants make a lot of money using this strategy, so while it is not my preference, I can’t fault a restaurant from using it. Assuming, of course, they can delivery on quality.

And they did deliver! Because we brought along two extra hungry stomachs, Laura and I were able to sample four dishes. Laura’s steak and gorgonzola salad was very good, with crisp lettuce and steak cooked to her satisfaction. My Bleu Cheese burger was cooked just the way I like it, with a generous helping of bleu cheese served on the never healthy but always delicious pretzel bun with perfectly crispy waffle fries. We also tried the spicy Black Jack Burger with Cajun spice and pepperjack cheese. The star of the night, however, was the Buffalo chicken salad. I’m not sure if they use a special house mix for the buffalo sauce or if I was just really in the mood for Frank’s Red Hot, but the chicken was perfectly spicy and the creamy blue cheese dressing highlighted not only the contrast with the spicy chicken, but also the crispy lettuce. I’ve had several buffalo chicken salads, and this was definitely one of the best.

The beer, unfortunately, left a bit to be desired. As I can always find at least one beer that’s worth a second pint, I would recommend the Shark Tooth Golden Ale. This is the Great Baraboo’s fill in for the “what’s the lightest beer you have” request, and as a Blonde ale it gets the job done, with more flavor than some Blonde Ales without being so aggressive as to scare off the recent convert to craft beer. The emphasis at the Great Baraboo is clearly on the food. I suppose the fact that the waitress offered me their special on bottles of Bud Light should have tipped me off to that conclusion, though. 

So is the Great Baraboo worth driving from Oregon to visit? Admittedly, no. The food and service are maybe slightly better than chain restaurants you can find down the street or across the nation. The beer they make isn’t really newsworthy. However: this is a brewery and restaurant owned by someone who lives right in Michigan, and even if you can’t find a single craft beer served to suit your palate, they have hundreds of other options, from macro beer to liquor. If the choice is between a corporate owned monolith and a local grill, why wouldn’t you spend your money at a Michigan business?

As always, more photos can be found at our Facebook Page.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

2nd Annual Weko Beach Brewers Festival

This past Saturday, the Michigan Beer Blog made its maiden voyage to Bridgman, MI to drop in on the second annual Weko Beach Brewers Festival.  Despite some strong winds, it was a perfect fall day to spend on picturesque Lake Michigan  -- a welcome change after just enduring over a week straight of gloomy, damp, rainy days across southwest Michigan.

With Alligator Blackbird, Top Secret Band, and Mr. Blotto offering their melodic sounds throughout the festival, and the smell of grilled brats and pulled pork sandwiches wafting through the air, thirteen brewers offered tastings of a few of their mainstays and fall seasonal beers.  Unlike a good portion of the beer festivals we attend, this festival had a completely different vibe, with most attendees just looking to relax and enjoy the afternoon on the beach with some music, food, and craft beer, meaning the brewers left their fancy, experimental stuff at home for this one.

One brewery in particular caught the attention of many festival attendees, though: Greenbush Brewing Co. in Sawyer, which has only been open since July.  They took a different approach to the festival than the other breweries, rotating beer taps throughout the event to keep people coming back for more. We were fortunate to get a taste of the 1825, which blew in only 20 minutes after being tapped, and it wasn't difficult to see why.  It's a Belgian strong ale that is fruity, spicy, yeasty, and a little sugary but not over the top sweet or cloying -- a really fresh example of the style.  My only question was where the 9.3% abv was hiding.  That beer could certainly be dangerous!  
1825 from Greenbush
Another Greenbush beer that was generating quite a bit of buzz was the Distorter Porter, a "ball of confusion" (their words, not mine) that really blurs the lines with its heftier stout cousins.  It's rich, chocolately, creamy, and complex, and blends a creamy chocolate malt profile with a slightly bitter roasted malt profile.  Hands down, the best beer I had all day.  Our other two favorites of the day were Odd Side's Dutch Chocolate Coffee Stout and Round Barn's Black Raspberry Cocoa Stout.  I guess the chillier air had us in the mood for some good stouts and porters!
Laura Porter with her Distorter Porter from Greenbush
Seth with Atwater's Blocktoberfest
If you’ve been hesitant to attend the Weko Beach Brewers Festival the past two years, hopefully this picture collection will change your mind for next year.  And if you spot yourself in one of them, give us a shout!  Cheers! 

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