Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Relatively Wordless Wednesday

Believe it or not…wait, who am I kidding?  Believe it: a 2 pound bone-in ribeye.

Relatively Wordless Wednesday

Served, of course, with a stellar beer:

Epic Brewing IPA

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Backyard Brewing Society: The Logo

Although contrary to the name, The Backyard Brewing Society actually started in a garage at Drew's house.  Drew and I had a mutual love of drinking and making beer.  So, we got together to brew beer.  Period.  Sometime there after, like rabbits in a high school science class, our group started to multiply.  We moved to my backyard, Drew's backyard, Dave's front yard, our local's bier garden and once, a church's parking lot.  We added in more brewers and tackled the art of home brewing in every season and under every condition.  Things grew.

When Drew and I first got together to brew I think we may have had one beer...that we shared.  Well that changed too and so has the food.  We quickly realized our brewing sessions with "periodic" beer "tastings" on empty stomachs was a bad thing, so we added a BBQ feast to the end of the day.  After someone lost an iPhone in a toilet and we about burned my garage down, we added food to the start of the day, too.

These beer making food adventures also earned a name: Brew Day.  They were more than marks on a calendar, they were social events.  As the frequency of our events started to increase and our numbers grew, we also added a name.  In fact, it wasn't just a name, it was a society, The Backyard Brewing Society.  We had full members, those who brew, and associate members, those who helped brew.  In full disclosure, when we talked about having a group name, Eric joked about calling us "The Butterflies".  He wasn't serious…well, let me rephrase that.  He was serious, but just thought it was extremely funny to call a group of guys who get together to brew beer, grill meat and socialize, butterflies.  It's been a running joke ever since…and an uphill battle to keep him from introducing butterflies into everything we do.

Enter Simon.

For the last few years we've had the name, we have talked about getting an emblem, crest or logo.  It just seemed the proper thing to do.  We are a society after all.  Last year, my friend Simon gave me a shout out through a post at Spoke Magazine.  Simon is a Christchurch, New Zealand based bicycle builder, mountain biker, Weber griller, designer and 1/4 of the homebrew collective known as Crafternoon.  He's basically my kiwi counterpart, but with loads more talent.  Simon's full-time job is with the advertising and design firm Deflux.

If Simon's interests don't spell out the kind of amazing work he is capable of producing, check out the Deflux website.  It's phenomenal.  For an understanding of why I can't wait to share a beer with Simon and the rest of his Deflux/Crafternoon crew, check out their Careers page.  I believe our humor is in the same orbit, or toilet bowl, as the case may be.

Without turning this into War & Peace, I sent Simon an email asking about putting together an idea for a Backyard Brewing Society Logo.  He immediately took me up on the idea and created this, the official logo of The Backyard Brewing Society:


Words cannot begin to describe how amazed/excited/stoked we are about Simon's work.  It's stellar.  I think we all had ideas on what it would be, but needless to say Simon torched them all in a charcoal chimney.  The emblem is all there: the backyard, the fermenters, the grill…even the motto, which is really what we are: Beer, BBQ & Brothers.  It's a special group and a special society and thankfully, not a butterfly is to be seen.  I think.  I need to zoom in a little.  In this regard, Eric and Simon could have hatched a plan...

Yes, I know this post is a lot of sentimental dribble, but there are several things to understand.  First, I have an amazing group of talented friends who enjoy getting together to do something…to learn something.  None of us, well none except maybe Drew, are "great" brewers.  We continually improve, we learn from our mistakes and more importantly, we brew beer we enjoy.  We also grill food we enjoy, too.  Remember, we have to eat.  Second, the Internet makes a lot of cool shit happen.  I know my "Internet Friends" is a running joke, but in reality, it's no joke.  Thanks to this blog, I have had the amazing fortune of making and meeting new friends I would have never met before I decided taking pictures of food was cool.  In reality, Simon and his New Zealand crew are really a spitting image of ourselves.  Just watching their Instagram photos makes me long for when I can actually raise a glass with them, instead of a virtual glass thousands of miles away.  The killer logo Simon designed for a bunch of guys he has never met, but completely understands, is a testimony to what this Society is, and more.

So, if you have any design work that needs carried out, please seek out Deflux.  Yes, they are half way around the world, but Simons' work is second to none.  Unless of course he has included a hidden butterfly I've yet to discover.

Coming soon, t-shirts, stickers…and maybe, lab coats.  The Backyard Brewing Society is now even more official.  After all, we have a logo.

The Backyard Brewing Society


The GangThe Backyard BrewersThe Backyard Brewing AssocationThe Backyard BrewersThe AssociatoinThe Backyard Brewing Society


The Spring Cleaning Grill Workout

Whether grilling is a year long pursuit, or a Memorial Day to Labor Day treat, the spring is a great time to clean, tune up and inspect your outdoor cooking apparatus.  After a long winter, both dormant and active grills require a little love to keep them fired up through another season.  Don't wait until the last minute.  Grab a warm afternoon, a cold beer and get ready for a little tender loving grill care.

Gas Grils

Here is my big offender and often times, the grill most in need of a good scrub and clean.  Although on the Weber, the flavorizer bars do a great job of helping grease burn off, they do nothing for the pounds of asparagus and eggplant I lose through the grates.  To remedy, I disassemble everything.  Start by shutting off and disconnecting the gas supply.

Grill Autopsy

Burner Tubes

At the minimum, clean the burner tubes with a stainless steel wire brush.


If it has been some time since the burner tubes have been removed and cleaned, it might be a good idea to consider it.  If you have observed inconsistent, or nonexistent, burner flame, there may be blockage.  Spiders and other bugs are known to crawl inside and make homes and thus block the gas/air flow.  Consult your owner's manual for how to do this.

With the tubes cleaned, work on down towards the fire box and drip pan.

Fire Box/Drip Pan

Below Deck

The tool of choice here is a putty knife.  For the most part, a good scrape will remove most of the crud.  The fire box and drip pan should be kept relatively "clean".  Excessive food and grease build up could lead to a fire.


Also, one of the most important parts to check on the gas grill is just that, the gas.  Whether using propane or natural gas, it's always a good idea to check the connections.  Several years ago during one of my spring cleanings, I found a damaged gas connection.  Cookout turned fiery explosion is a pretty good way of ruining a night.

To test the connections, turn the gas on and use soapy water and a brush to "paint" the joints.  A leaky joint will "blow bubbles".  A solid connection will not.  The joint below is solid and air tight.

Soaping the connections


On the Summit, I find the stainless steel grates very easy to keep clean through pre-heating, brushing and pre-meal oiling.  However, when I had my old Broilmaster, the porcelain coated grates were horrible and a bit more of a challenge.  There are several over the counter cleaners available for grate cleaning, but more often than not soapy water should do the trick.  Realistically, a good grilling regiment each time you cook should almost eliminate any extra grate cleaning.


Stainless steel is nice, but it can be tricky to keep super clean and shiny.  Properly covering the grill after use is the first line of defense.  Granted, I have been known to forget this rule from time to time...

Usually, soap and water works for most grime.  For a shine, use Bar Keepers Friend.  In fact, when it comes to putting some serious sparkle back in stainless, BKF works great.


Now when I have a massive mess, I turn to the big gun: Greased Lightning degreaser.  For difficult stains, nothing works better.  No matter what you use, be sure it is not abrasive.  Stainless steel can easily scratch and scratches can lead to rust.

Greased Lightning

Charcoal Grills

A charcoal grill is easy to keep running in tip top shape.  My Performer is 13 years old and although still going strong, has needed the occasional part.

Usually the charcoal grate, which is the grate the coals sit on, needs replaced.  This year it looked pretty good.

Charcoal Grate

However, after removing the charcoal grate I knew I had a problem.

Ash Non-Removal

Although the burner tube looks rough, it still works.  The ash movers, or whatever their official name is, were a different story.  There are supposed to be three, not two.  Fortunately, Weber makes it incredibly easy to order replacement parts, even if your grill is older.   Thanks to a quick web order, I had a new cleaning system in no time.

One Touch Cleaning System

After a little bit of work getting the old system off, the new system installed in under a minute.  Just like new.

New Cleaners

As with the gas grill, I cleaned the outside of the grill primarily with soap and water.  In no time it was ready to go.

No matter what type of grill you have, check the owner's manual.  If the manual has gone the way of the trash, most brands can be found with a quick Google search.

A little bit of preventative time in the spring can go a long way to make this summer's grilling safer and the life expectancy of your grill last a little longer.  Plus, nothing says happiness like a clean grill.  Now where's that beer...

Almost New

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Palate Wrecker

Last Friday, a surprise tapping took place of Green Flash Brewing Company's Palate Wrecker at Boston's.  I'm not one to pass by an Imperial IPA without trying a pint and I'm glad I did.  It was excellent.  Oddly enough, and no sooner than an hour later, we were cruising through the grocery picking up dinner for the grill.  There on the "better beer" wall of Kroger was Palate Wrecker.  Once by chance, twice by fate.  I picked up a bottle.

Palate Wrecker

By the numbers, Palate Wrecker clocks in at 9.5% ABV and has a 100 plus IBU rating.  The hops were readily apparent in the nose.  I got a lot of pine.  It was probably just a few trees short of a forest.  My first taste was full of more hoppy pine, bread and then sweet malt.  The hops faded out nicely at the finish and then a bit of nuttiness appeared and hung on a bit longer.  I never would have known it, but apparently I like having my palate wrecked.  Thanks to chance and fate for making it happen.  You guys are swell.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Relatively Wordless Wednesday

The magic of smoked bacon:


Monday, April 16, 2012

What's on the Grill #242: Summer Ale Grilled Chicken

Yes, I could identify the change in seasons by walking outside.  However, walking down the craft beer aisle and scoping out the latest seasonal releases is more fun.

Based upon my latest stroll, I'd say it's summer, as Sam Adams Summer Ale is on the shelves.

Summer Ale

I'm a huge fan of wheat ales, which is probably why Summer Ale is one of my favorite warm weather beers.  Besides the "occasional" pint to consume, Summer Ale's spicy profile also lends itself grilling.  It's my kind of combo.

In celebration of Summer Ale's release, Samuel Adams tapped Chef David Burke to put together a Summer Ale chicken marinade, which I immediately put to use on the grill.

Grilled Summer Ale Chicken
Based on the marinade by Chef David Burke

2 bottles of Samuel Adams Summer Ale
1 T salt
2 T sugar
juice of half a lemon
handful of fresh herbs
1 whole chicken 4-5 pounds

Grilling with Beer

The hardest part of the recipe is deploying two bottles of Summer Ale that are not for consumption.  This is precisely why I grab three bottles out of the fridge.

When it comes to marinading a whole chicken, the marinading vessel is key.  For the most part, a one gallon zip lock bag will work perfectly.  If the chicken is really big, up it to the elusive 2 gallon bag.  These bigger bag are a little harder to find, but quite valuable to keep on hand.

First, add the beer to the bag.

In the bag

Next, add the salt, sugar and lemon and mix.

Salt & Sugar

Add the chicken to the bag and allow to marinade at least six hours.  Ideally, marinade the chicken the night before, or first thing in the morning.

Although the bag makes a great container for marinading, protect the contents of the fridge by placing the bag in a bowl or plastic tub.

Bag Protection

It only takes one small hole to make a leaky poultry mess in the fridge.  Please, practice safe marinading.

Once the marinading is complete, remove the chicken from the bag and pat dry.  Pitch the marinade.

Stuff the chicken cavity with fresh herbs, season with salt & pepper and truss.  Prep the grill for indirect medium.

Speaking of grills, I needed to give some much needed love to the Performer.  Since I've been going to the Saffire almost every time I grill, I could no longer ignore the guilt coming towards me from the the corner of the deck.  I don't know if it was the sad face coming form the ash catcher, or what, but I had a kettle that needed some heat…which is why I prepped it for indirect medium.

On the kettle, indirect heat means putting the food over a drip pan, with the charcoal pushed to either side.  This way, the heat source is….indirect.

Center Grill

With the grill at about 350 F, I dropped the chicken and closed the lid.  Figure on a cook time of approximately 1 hour and fifteen minutes, or until the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 180 F.

Grilled Chicken

Not only is the beer aisle telling me it's summer, so is the grill.  I don't care what the calendar says.  I'm ready.  Happy Summer Grilling everybody.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Relatively Wordless Wednesday


Medium Rare

and Sword...

Strip & Sword

Monday, April 09, 2012

What's on the Grill: 73rd Birthday Edition

Last Friday was my Dad's 73rd Birthday.  In order to keep him on his toes, or more realistically, speed up his next cardiologist appointment, his four siblings flew into town to surprise him.  Wow, that sounds so simple and sweet…which, it was, once the surprise was sprung.  The lead up, however, was tricky.

Dinner was on again and off again at least 3 times.  The plan was for Zoë and me to take Mom and Dad to dinner and then surprise them with 6 extra dinner guests.  However, Dad got sick, Mom got sick, reservations were on, reservations were off and then finally, I applied something I learned when I was three: guilt.

With both Mom & Dad on antibiotics and my application of a few gentle heart string tugs involving a theme of already purchased sea bass and a precious cake, the venue was changed to our house and the dinner was on.


More Reactions

It has been two years since all of Dad's brothers and sisters have been together.  For a big family, they are a close knit bunch, even though they live all across the country.  I can certainly relate their feelings to what I share with my own siblings.

Speaking of, as they made the rounds, Dad wondered if my bothers and sister were there too.  Nope, sorry Dad. We only surprise you on even numbered birthdays.

The family was great in helping us get ready. For starts, we had a couple hours of head start which led to a little beer tasting.  Although, I'm still trying to forget my non-beer loving Aunt's homebrew critique…"it's not as bad as that other one I tried".  My beer loving Uncle was quite pleased.  I'll take that as a win.

Admittedly, it was a little intimidating trying to feed 10 people.  Especially when the meal consisted solely of fish.

Mingling on the Deck

I had to activate all of the grills and while the gang mingled, we went to work.  When I say "we", I meant Zoë and me.  The rest of the group just proved that any age group can be corny in our backyard.

Still Corny…after all these years

Here was the menu: Grilled Chilean Sea Bass with Red Chile, Allspice and Orange Glaze, Ultimate Planked Swordfish, Parmesan Breaded Scallops and mixed grilled vegetables.

The swordfish was a variation of a planked salmon I've done.  I opted to plank it, because it gave me a little bit more leeway while I worked everything else.

Swordfish, waiting for the heat

The scallops I've also done before, but instead of planking, I grilled them right on the grate.  The newest addition was the glaze for the sea bass.  I find sea bass really easy to grill and incredibly forgiving.  However, I wanted something more than just a quick hit of heat and the resulting tender flesh.

Prepped Sea Bass

For the glaze, I went to Bobby Flay's Boy Gets Grill.  Although originally paired with tuna, I felt it worked really well with the sea bass.  It's definitely on the "do again" list.

Red Chile, Allspice and Orange Glaze
Adapted from Bobby Flay's Boy Gets Grill

3 cups orange juice
1 T rice vinegar
2 t ground allspice
1 T ancho chili powder
1/2 cup canola oil
salt and pepper

Pour the orange juice into a medium saucepan.  Heat and reduce until left with 1/2 cup.

Transfer the orange juice reduction, vinegar, allspice and chili powder to a blender.  Combine.  Run the mixer and slowly add the canola oil until emulsified.  Salt and pepper to taste.

The key to all of this was timing.  I placed the vegetables on first.  Since I used potatoes that were not parboiled, I needed the extra time to ensure they cooked properly.

Vegged Up

The planked swordfish took the longest, so for the remaining fish, I used it as my benchmark: 20 minutes.

At the T-15 mark I added the sea bass.

Grilled Sea Bass

Normally, the sea bass takes under 10 minutes.  However, this was two pounds of Chilean greatness.  The first side took about 6 minutes, and was then flipped to the position above to finish off (skin side down).  I applied the glaze frequently.

Finally, I dropped the scallops down at about T-10.

Breaded Scallops

Amazingly, every thing came off together and was cooked perfectly.  OK, tell a lie, I would have preferred to have pulled the swordfish off just a tad sooner, but it was still good.

Easy Grilled Mix Veg

As Zoë and I regulated ourselves to the "kids table", we watched on with delight as all of the other "kids" and their spouses laughed and told stories of their youth.  It was a pretty amazing evening and we were excited to be a part of it.

Earlier in the day, we had picked up a cake.  Besides Dad's birthday, my Aunt and Uncle also had close proximity birthdays, so we commemorated all three.  When having the cake decorated, I made sure to point out to the bakery that font size was important. One of the birthday recipients was in his seventies and I wanted him to read it.  Thankfully, I didn't have to up the cake size to make it happen.

The Birthday Cake

What a weekend.  Happy Birthday, Dad.  You are an amazing father and role model.  You also inspired my love of grilling.  That's double points, in case you were counting.

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Brew Day(s): The Recap

Although I have been too slow to post about it, we have been brewing like crazy the last couple months.  In fact, I would say we should brew again, but I have a feeling empty kegs and carboys are pretty scarce.  Even though some time has passed since our last two brew days, there are a few moments I would be remiss not to go over.


We welcomed two new brewers in February: Zach & Greg.

Double Checking

Zach & Greg's involvement with the Backyard Brewing Society has also created an inadvertent rule: members can now only have 4 letter names.  We like to keep it simple.  Especially late in the day.

First Batch

Even though late February was still really warm, we ended up in the garage.

Packing them in

The side door also stayed open a good bit, which was good.  Bryan and Brad's new burners could have sucked up half of the Oxygen in the garage in no time.  I had burner envy…and thankfully, a good CO detector.

Burner Envy

February's brew marked more of a pot luck food adventure, too.

Hitting the Links

Bryan started off with sausages on the grill, which worked great with the wings, chili, salsas and brie we all chowed on throughout the night.  Although we love to feast on BBQ, the whole pot luck thing really worked.

Measuring success

Fast forward to March and we were at it again.  What used to be a solid Saturday event, has now morphed into anytime but Saturday.  Take a Sunday morning for instance.  In keeping with the morning brew, Dave thought it best we eat breakfast sausage to start out.  By far the best snack food we have ever had.

Grilling Sausage

Only four of us brewed, but most of the guys came by to just hang out.

Heating Water

On the equipment front, Drew was quick to show off his new mash tun.


Instead of the old toilet supply line, he opted for a stainless steel boil screen.  Over the last several batches, Drew had a difficult time with stuck sparges.  His new screen, angled down to the bottom of the cooler, worked like a charm.


We worked our way through venison chili and enjoyed an early taste of Drew's Chocolate Mead.  It was great.

Opening the Mead

Brew Days are always a time for sharing.  A special batch, a special brew, everyone always has something to pass around.  Many times, it is just as much about the fellowship as it is the brewing.

For instance, these two guys sharing a candid moment…crystalizing a memory.


Actually, they were looking at an iPhone 3D astronomy app.  Since they just happened to look like a couple of 14 year old girls positing a picture to their Tumblr account, I took my own picture and posted it on the Internet.  That's what friends are for.

Catching Runnings

Although Sunday mornings work great, I think everyone was running slightly slower than usual.  Perhaps it was because of the close proximity to Saturday night.  Queue picture of Brian:

Brian at the Ready

Even at 3/4 speed, we had plenty of time to get our work in.

Hop Bag

I can't being to explain how fun and informative it is to brew with friends.  Every time we get together, it is more than a good time, it's a learning experience.  Yes, simple measuring conversions continue to give us grief, but overall I've learned more during the last couple years from my friends than I ever did on my own.

Deploying the Starter

With spring in the air and summer around the corner, there is plenty more brewing on the horizon….just maybe not on Sunday mornings.