Sunday, May 29, 2011

What's on the Grill #218: Newcastle Brown Ale Edition

I have typically stayed away from reviewing free products passed on from PR companies.  It's not that I have a problem with the process, it is just that the things offered to me in the past never interested me.  However, when the fine folks at Newcastle Brown Ale asked if I would like to try one of their Draughtkegs, I couldn't say yes fast enough!  It was an easy decision.  Beer interests me.

I have seen the Draughtkeg from Heineken the last couple years and was unaware you could buy Newcastle Brown Ale the same way.  Seeing Heineken and Carlsberg bought Newcastle a few years ago, it is not surprising the Newcastle Draughtkeg found its way to store shelves.

I always have kegged beer in the house, but it's always homebrew.  I was intrigued about having a commercial beer in quasi keg form.

Dual Use

The Draughtkeg, once properly chilled, can be dispensed either from it's own tap, or the Beertender system from Krups.  I was using the built-in tap, which was in two pieces.  The handle:


and the nozzle:


Lift the handle up and voila, you have beer:

Lift & Pour

A few weeks ago, we (meaning the Backyard Brewers) were discussing ways of transporting kegged beers to parties and get togethers.  While a lot of times we may want our own homebrew, other times we may have to please a wider crowd of tastes.  A system like the Draughtkeg make perfect sense.  It makes the decision even better knowing it's Newcastle, a beer I happen to like quite a bit.

Not only can a DraughtKeg of Newcastle be conviently located in the main fridge for quick drinking access, it is also quite handy for cooking and grilling.

Move over milk

One of the features of the Draughtkeg is its ability to stay good for 30 days after opening.  That's quite a feat, but sadly one I will not be able to test out.  In fact, the only way I could even remotely evaluate this feature is if I were to take a 27 day vacation immediately after opening it.


Beer makes a great marinade, especially a malty brown ale like Newcastle.  While grilling flank steaks last week, the Draughtkeg came in quite handy.

Beer in

While I was out tackling lawn work, I marinaded a flank steak in a cup of Newcastle, with a mixture of minced garlic, brown sugar, crushed black pepper and salt.

Spice in

About 4 hours later, I cleaned off the marinade from the meat, making sure I dried it thoroughly, and threw it on the grill.

Grill Marks

About 10 minutes later, I had dinner.

Grilled Flank Steak

Last night, I used the Newcastle to brine some swordfish steaks that were eventually smoked.  They were fabulous.

Newcastle's DraughtKeg

I'm not just shilling here. I would definitely pick up a Draughtkeg of Newcastle again.  In fact, I have several standing reservations for friends who want to help drink it.  I love the ability to have it close to me in the kitchen and in my glass by the grills.  In fact, next time we head out to meet up with friend's, I'll probably bring one with me.  Its convenient, fun and like my wife, imported from England.

On the go...

Disclaimer: I was provided this Draughtkeg of NewCastle Brown Ale free of charge for evaluation purposes.  For the record, it has been well evaluated.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Happy Memorial Day Weekend!

Here's to a fabulous weekend of hot grills, cold beer and great weather.  Have a wonderful Memorial Day Weekend!

Happy Memorial Day Weekend!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Around the Web

Peaking in...
Here a few things to check out while strolling the interwebs:
Serious Eats
Josh of The Meatwave has a great writeup on smoking with the Weber kettle. I understand this process all too well.  As usual, Josh does a great job in documenting the steps and has the most amazing photos to round it out.
Food in Jars
Marisa has a incredibly informative post on splitting and scrapping a vanilla bean.  Although I don't have an immediate canning need for it, I do have a future brew need.  She's got a great video to go with it.
Dad Cooks Dinner
My fellow Ohioan, Mike, put up a touching post about cooking with his kids.  No matter what the age, kids are never too young to start playing, errr, working in the kitchen.  I remember my first time (in the kitchen) you remember yours?
Slim Pickin's Pork
Andrew is on the planking bandwagon and has some great looking salmon!  He also has some incredibly intriguing grilled caramelized oranges that I need to try.
Not Exactly Bento
Jenn has the most amazing picture of a crawfish boil which instantly made me very, very hungry.  It gives me a solid idea of a meal for our next Brew Day.  Also, I'm very humbled by Jenn's post naming me as one of her Fab 5 Bloggers.  Thanks, Jenn!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

What's on the Grill #217: Feta & Herb Planked Portabellos

This is one of those recipes that has legs.  Not literally, as I've never seen a mushroom run, but figuratively, yes. I find this odd, as I've never ever really been a mushroom guy.  I may "allow" mushrooms on pizza, diced into a soup or obliterated into a sauce, but pop a solitary mushroom into my mouth?  Never.

I suppose it all started about a month ago when my good friend, Gregg, made this super secret stuffed portabello mushroom appetizer.  At first, I thought I was just really hungry.  It was later I learned I actually enjoyed it.  A lot.

So, when Zoe suggested these planked and stuffed portabellos from "you know where", I jumped.

Prepped Shrooms

The portabellos are really a great vessel for about any type of stuffing you can imagine.  In this case, include a drizzle of olive oil, along with 4 cloves of minced garlic, 8 ounces of your favorite cheese (we choose feta), some toasted pine nuts and chopped basil.  Spread the ingredients out equally between the portabellos (2, 4, 6...just increase or decrease your toppings) and place on a soaked plank.

Portabellos on Plank

Over indirect heat, place the plank directly over the coals.  Grill for about 7-10 minutes, or until the cheese has melted.  Remove and serve.

Basil & Feta Topped Portabellos

These make a great appetizer.  They are incredibly easy and in the end, you may happen to convert a mushroom non-believer.  All, miraculously enough, before the main course.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

What's on the Grill #216: Planked Filets with Porcini Slather

In my book, eating a beef tenderloin filet without any kind of sauce or accouterment is a fairly boring experience.  Even with a sauce, a filet can still be boring.  This lack of a "wow" factor is why I rarely grill them.  I like fat and flavor and the filet usually just doesn't do it for me.

Oddly enough, the wonderful world of planking has surprised me yet again and with a filet, no less.  I was so blown away by how this meal came together, it is now on my "do again" list.  For a filet to be included here is a pretty impressive feat...of course the fact it included, grilling, planking and smoking may have something to do with it.

Inspiration again comes from Techniques for Planking. I cannot plug this book enough.  Perhaps because it is so small, I feel compelled to "cook the book".  Whatever the reason, every time I put it away, it finds its way back to the counter.

The filet planking process is straightforward.  First, soak your plank for at least an hour.  (I ebb and flow on soaking, but since my plank was really thin, I opted for the water bath).   We were grilling corn in the husk too, so there was a whole lot of soaking going on in the kitchen.

The Soak

Prep the grill for a two zone medium fire (coals on one side and nothing on the other).  The slather in this recipe consists of porcini mushrooms, sugar, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, garlic and olive oil.

With the grill at temperature, grill one side of the filets for approximately 3-5 minutes.  With one side done, move the filets to the soaked plank, grilled side up.

Filets to the Plank

Cover the filets with the slather and return the plank to the grill over the side without coals.


At this point you can also add wood chips to the fire to increase the smokiness.  I, of course, opted the smoke route and piled in a handful of whiskey barrel chips.

Kicking out some smoke

Continue to grill the filets with the lid down for another 20 minutes, or until the meat is cooked till your liking.  Because I started my filets at different times on the initial sear, I ended up with one filet medium rare (mine) and one well done (not mine).

Top Filets on the Plank

The end result was killer.  The meat had a wonderful crust from the initial sear and then a double hit of smoke from the plank and chips.  The mushroom garlic slather packed a little bit of heat and served as the perfect addition to a meal we really enjoyed.  Perhaps I need to look at the filet in a different light, or perhaps I just need to remember I enjoy it best covered in a slather and packed full of smoke.

Boston Lager

Blog Cleaning

If you clicked through over the weekend, you might have noticed a slightly different layout at APP. Sadly, I am married to Google's Blogger. Even though I would love to leave, I am too afraid I would screw up all of my links and search engine standings. Since I'm stuck, the old, over edited and slightly screwed up template I started with five years ago needed a serious refresh, so I updated to a newer template in hopes to solve some of my slow load times and intermittent Disqus connection issues. So far, so good.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Hop Trellis

A couple months ago, Drew walked into my office to announce he was growing hops.  Which is a good thing, as we when he usually makes unannounced proclamations, I'm always a little worried where he is headed.

Drew's motivation appeared to be less of a "sustainable hop usage" approach and more of a "I have a huge pergola in backyard I'm going to fill with hops" kind of thing.  Either way, I was intrigued.

Mr. Goldings

Following Drew's lead, I immediately checked out Freshops and made my own order.  Although I don't have a huge beautiful pergola in the backyard, I do know a great idea when I see it and better yet, I know how to get to The Home Depot.

Hop Rhizomes

I ordered four hop rhizomes, or root stems: 2 Fuggle, 1 Chinook and 1 Golding.  For reasons that are pretty obvious, I went all English.

Push 'n Plant

As soon as the rhizomes arrived, I planted them in pots.  Seeing it was early April, I wanted to make sure I was past the last frost before planting them in the ground.  I also needed to build my trellis.

Potted Hops

I would like to thank my friend, Devicenak, on Flickr.  His own hop trellis , with several successful years of harvesting, gave me the inspiration for mine.

Hops, like our federal deficit, can really grow.  Drew is lucky enough to run his hops horizontally across his pergola.  I don't have the same option, so I followed Devicenak's vertical trellis idea.


Using a 16 foot 4x4, I dado'd a 6 foot 4x4 about 1 foot from the top.  I attached 4 eyelets to the underside of the horizontal cross bar and since the dado provided plenty of strength, I was able to forgo any additional supports.

Hops require a lot of sun.  Although there are plenty of places in the backyard which meet this requirement, there are only a few which would allow me to erect a wooden monument and not get a complaint.  I finally opted on a spot behind the garage, which outside of the visibility of low flying airplanes, is mostly out of view.

In turns out site placement was only part of my problem.  While digging the hole for the post, I discovered where all of the fill from a previous driveway/septic tank project ended up...under my hop garden.  After some steady shoveling intertwined with underground pick axe asphalt removal, I had a hole, which, unless tragedy strikes and anyone asks, is plenty deep to support this tall structure.


Freshops recommended 2 runs of coir yarn per hop plant, which, like Jenn from Not Exactly Bento pointed out, made my trellis look like I was running electrical lines to the garage.

13 Feet Up

With some help from Zoe, I hoisted the monstrosity into the air and suddenly realized just how visible this thing was from the front yard.  At this point it is a toss up as to what exactly the neighbors think.

The Hop Trellis

Although it may be tall, I am thrilled with it.  I edged the area with a plastic border, mulched and then transplanted the hops, which had already started to grow like wildfire.

Starting Out

Typically, the hops will not flower till their second year, so although I have laid the groundwork now, the effort will not pay off till much later.  Nonetheless, i will be excited to watch their vertical progress and look forward to smelling their wonderful oils.  My first batch of homebrew from my hop garden will not only be memorable, but thanks to my new trellis and inspiration from others, a little cheaper too.

Hop Vine

Sunday, May 15, 2011


There are some great homebrew supply stores online.  However, when brew day is only hours away and you find yourself missing an important ingredient or part, not even the fastest UPS shipping can save you.  Your local homebrew store, fortunately, can.

For this reason alone, it is incredibly important to support your "local".


Our local, Brewtensils, is located in the Belmont neighborhood of Dayton, Ohio and emerged from the back of the area's premiere craft beer store: Belmont Party Supply.  Forced to only occupy several shelves and some refrigerator space in the rear of the store, it was still the only true local destination for homebrew supplies.

Belmont Party Supply

A few years ago, Brewtensils "left the nest" and now commands its own store front next to the Party Supply.  Under the guiding hand of owner, Mike Schwartz and manager, Darren Link, Brewtensils has grown into a full fledged homebrew superstore.

Homebrew Heaven

In fact, it seems every time I'm in the store I find something else Darren has added to the inventory.  It drives me nuts, because my "I want" list just continues to grow.  Burners, air manifolds, glassware, it's all there.

Bulk Grain Buy

Beyond beer, Brewtensils also has wine and cheese making supplies for those who gravitate towards the other fermentable hobbies.  Although I wouldn't mind taking a shot at cheese, making wine isn't high up on my "to do" list.  But, if it suits your fancy, they have you covered.


Outside of the retail aspect of the store, Brewtensils runs education classes, sponsors outdoor brew outs and plays host to DRAFT, Dayton's local homebrew club.  Whether you are picking up grain for your next batch or wanting to learn the basic aspects of brewing, there is something at Brewtensils for everyone.


Although we have all been dancing around the idea of buying a "group" mill for the Backyard Brewer's, I typically grind away at Brewtensils using their mill.  The new triple roller they have installed works great.  A little grinding action also gives me the chance to stand around and talk a little's almost a conversation piece.


Outside of the steady front door business, Darren has set up Brewtensils as an online store too.  With the continued increase in inventory and his expanding outreach, Brewtensils is exhibiting, in my opinion, staying power.  Over Christmas, I commented on how many starter homebrew kits were stockpiled at the front of the store.  After the holidays, they were almost all gone.  I imagine there were a lot of happy future brewers on Christmas morning.

20 years ago, Dayton didn't exactly demonstrate a strong populist support of craft beer.  The area's only brewpup shuttered 10 years ago and only micro brewery, 11 years ago.  However, amongst a certain demographic of the region, the love of craft beer is strong and growing.  The number of area pubs and bars serving good beer, tapping casks, filling growlers and hosting tastings is a strong testament to this surge.  The expansion and success of Brewtensils is another.


So, next time you are planning to brew, plan ahead and visit your local.  For my needs, Brewtensils is always on my list.  This is a local resource too important to not support and a savior for last minute brew day trips.  Stop in and check them out. You will be glad you did.

Miami Valley BrewTensils
2617 South Smithville Rd.
Dayton, OH 45420
(937) 252-4724


Monday, May 09, 2011

A new addition...

This month I am starting a new venture...
Wheeling in
and part of it involves getting a new grill:

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Brew Day: First of May Edition

We very rarely set brew days on a Sunday.  Brew days tend to be fairly...physical.  All of that standing, sitting, stirring, eating and uh, tasting, tends to lend itself to a day of rest afterwards.  However, when we discovered the annual arrival of the 1st of May was on a Sunday, we tossed tradition aside and opted to mark the occasion by brewing.  Now what exactly is the 1st of May, you ask?  For the answer, I suggest you check out the great (and highly NSFW) song by geek soft rocker Jonathan Coulton. We sang it several times through out the day.  Much, I'm sure, to the utter shock of the neighbors.

As regular readers of this blog know, brew days consist of at least three constants.  Homebrew:

Sharing the Mead

A fatty:

Fatty w/ a cheese rupture

and great times:

We've learned to use chairs

This brew day was certainly true to form.  Between four of us, we brewed 35 gallons of beer.  Eric did two different batches and Drew and I brewed double batches, both of us opting to use the same grain bill with two different yeasts.  I brewed a hefeweizen and Drew a Belgian.  I wish I could say I thought of the idea, but I blantanty stole it from Drew.  He has good ideas.

Mash, Sparge, Sparge

Although spring was knocking on the door, rain forced us back into the garage.  Even with the less than stellar weather, we have really gotten into a brewing grove.  So much so, we found ourselves sitting down...a lot.  Very rarely do we "camp out" and the fact we were still heating our mash water and sitting down, says something.

Sitting 'n Brewing

A special highlight of the day was the uncorking of Drew's mead.  Drew brewed it at one of our earlier brew days and brought a bottle along for tasting.  It was absolutely fabulous.  Although still rather young, Drew is going to cellar the rest and hopefully treat us with some more late in the year.

Popping the cork

On the food front, which is really the fourth leg of brew day, we turned towards the fryer.  Typically frying is a little too involved, but with some associate members present, we had plenty of help to get the job done.  I'm glad too.  Drew whipped up some fried Haddock, which was exceptional.

Fried Haddock

Mike arrived and helped with the chips and hush puppies.

Checking the grease

He has earned the title "Master Fryer" for a reason.


Of course since we were frying, it would not have been complete if we didn't include an onion loaf.  There is just something magical about deep fried onion rings compacted together in a thick batter.

Onion Loaf

At the end of the day, we had full fermenters and full bellies.  The rain, although inconvenient, didn't  hurt our day one bit and although Eric offered to bring a partner for our 1st of May brew day, we opted to keep everything legal.

Filling the carboy

Truthfully, I really can't imagine what Mother Nature could throw at us to knock one of our brew days off.  We can pretty much make a good time out of any situation...especially when we have a steady supply of food, good beer and great friends.

The Gang