Febrewary Homebrew Crawl 2013 – preparations

A good bunch of my friends (including Me and Dan) like to brew our own beer.

The past two years in February, we had our own home brew competition. We all came together and set up a brew crawl across the town of Lancaster. A majority of the participants live in Lancaster city so it was pretty easy to hop from house to house. Brewers that don’t live in town just match up with someone who does, giving us a lot of brews to taste!

I’ll post some of the past years beers in a few days, but for now I just wanted to share some of this year’s preparations from Dan and Marisa’s House!

We tried to brew a brown ale this year. It turned out to be a not-quite-brown-ale. Brewing got a little interesting as we discovered we did not have a pot large enough to hold this all grain batch. We rigged something up and got it done… we steeped it in the cooler… monk was a little worried about it. I wrote a post about brewing this batch back in November – check it out for the dog biscuit recipe.

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If you have been reading this blog you probably know that I love to make pickles. I’ve been playing with the idea of making pickles with hops in them for a while now. I tried several batches with different hops. I finally found one that is AWESOME! I used cascade hops steeped in the brine.

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I believe they came out quite delicious. I can not wait for the home brew crawlers to try them!

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I will even admit, the cascade hops were so good steeped in the pickle brine that I ate a few right out of the pot. I can not say the same for some of the other varieties of hops.

I also had this idea to pickle some carrots in the hop brine… it was a great idea.

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I ended up with two pickle varieties for the brew crawl:

Cascade Garlic Hop Pickles

Centennial Dill and Garlic Hop Pickles

I haven’t tried the dill batch yet so I hope they are good!

I also made a new soda…

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Wild Huckleberry Honey Ginger Ale

I used wild huckleberry creamed honey that I found at a beautiful winery in California and fresh ginger. I am fermenting it with champagne yeast so it’s nice and bubbly. I know it’s not beer but I really like to experiment and make new things like this… it is fermented so I think it fits… and when else am I going to get to test it out on this many tasters?

I’ll let you know how the 3rd annual home brew crawl goes. I am sure there will be some awesome home brews. There are two ribbons awarded: one chosen by the official judge and one chosen by the voting crawlers.

Walking around town in the crisp febreway air, tasting good beer, all in good company… I think everyone is a winner during this event!

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Make your own soda

I’ve made my own ginger ale a few times now. It’s surprisingly easy to make your home-made soda.

Before you start, you’ll want to make sure you have some proper bottles to put your soda in. You could bottle the soda in regular beer bottles if you have the equipment.You’ll need clean beer bottles, caps and a capper that you can get at your local home brew shop. If you’re in the Lancaster area try Mr. Steve’s Homebrew or Lancaster Homebrew. There are also tons of places online to get home brewing supplies.

I like to use swing top bottles that have a rubber seal. It’s easier than bottling using caps and the bottles that I use are clear so you can see the soda.

The first step is to make a ginger syrup:

12 oz. fresh ginger root

1 cup organic cane sugar

1 cup water

Remove the skin from the ginger root, cut it in small pieces, place it in a food processor and shred the ginger until it is very finely ground up. Place the ground up ginger root, 1 cup of sugar, and 1 cup of water in a small sauce pot and bring to a boil. Allow the mixture to boil until the sugar has dissolved, turn the heat off, cover the pot and allow to steep for one hour.

After an hour, the syrup should be cool enough to handle. Use a piece of cheese cloth to strain the syrup into a clean jar. Squeeze any juice out of the left over pulp that you can by twisting it in the cheese cloth.

You can use this syrup for more than just the soda. You could mix a little bit into your maple syrup to serve on top of waffles. It’s nice to add a little on top of vanilla or honey ice cream, or if you have an ice cream maker… you can use it to make your own ginger ice cream. Mixing it into fruit salad can add a new twist to a simple dessert. You can use it in anything where you would use simple syrup, great for cocktails!

To make the soda:

To a clean 1 liter bottle, add 6 oz. of the ginger syrup and a pinch (about 20 granules) of champagne yeast. You can find champagne yeast at the home brew store for pretty cheap, you can also use bread yeast if you really can’t find it but I do not think it works as well.

Fill the bottle up to the bottom of the neck with filtered water. It’s important to leave a little space so you don’t have too much pressure build up in the bottle. Once the yeast starts working, carbon dioxide gas will be produced. Leave the bottles at room temperature for 48 hours. After 48 hours you can place your bottles in the refrigerator. The refrigeration will stop the yeast from producing carbon dioxide.

I have read a lot of warnings that bottles can explode if you add too much yeast, leave it at room temperature for too long, or fill the bottle too much. I have never had this happen to me, but just be aware that it is a possibility.

You could make a great Dark and Stormy with your home-made ginger ale or a very simple ginger and whiskey cocktail.

Just add 1 oz of good quality whiskey to 8 oz of ginger ale -simple and delicious.

If you like the rooster glass, they came from  pier one imports.  I don’t think they have them any more but you could find similar ones here.  I received my rooster glasses for my birthday one year from one of my very good friends. They are a perfect size for making a small mixed drink or serving up your morning glass of OJ.

Skydiving Sandwich

Yesterday we went skydiving with Skydive Philadelphia! It was one of the coolest things I have ever done. I actually set everything up for Dan’s 30th birthday last year but we never cashed in the certificates. After almost a year, and one failed attempt because of clouds, yesterday was finally our day. We drove up to the tiny town of Perkasie, Pa to make the leap.

We still have to wait for the video and pictures from the skydive company. I can’t wait to see them, I am sure we probably both look kind of crazy. I yelled the almost the whole way down…not because I was scared, but because it was awesome!

Dan went out of the plane first. I was watching him get ready to go, scoot to the edge, and get ready next to the door… one second I was looking at him and not even a second later he was gone. It was like he got sucked out and went straight down. I didn’t see him again until I was almost landing. Here he is getting closer to the ground:

I thought the free fall felt like plunging through water. It was so exciting to see the ground below me and not be in an airplane. I thought I would be scared but I felt like I was floating and not scared at all. It was like the very first little part of the hill on a roller coaster but it lasted a lot longer.

Once the parachute opened it really felt like I was floating. I could see the Philadelphia skyline from where we were, which was pretty cool because we were about an hour away from there. It was also pretty surreal floating above houses, rivers, and a lake getting closer and closer to it all and then being on the ground before you know it. I think it’s the closest I’ll ever be to being a bird in the sky. That’s me landing in the photo above.

We survived and had a really great time!  After all of that jumping out of airplanes and free falling we worked up quite an appetite. We went to this really great breakfast/lunch place called The Down to Earth Cafe. We it found last time we were in Perkasie about a month ago. We attempted to skydive last month but there was a thunderstorm in the morning and the clouds never cleared, so we didn’t get to jump… but we had a great lunch.

The first time we ate here we both got the special panini made with ham and brie. It was really good and made with very fresh and high quality ingredients. The Down to Earth Cafe uses as many local, organic ingredients as they can. You can tell they really pay attention to quality. They also have a list of daily specials that use in-season ingredients. I wish I could come here of breakfast because all of the breakfast choices looked amazing. They also have a lot of really great drink choices that are made with real sugar and interesting ingredients. I tried this sipp ginger drink that was really good.

This time Dan ordered the fish tacos (one of the signature dishes). They looked nicely put together with flour tortillas, House-made red cabbage cole slaw, deep fried seasonal fish fillets, and slices of tomato and avocado. I actually didn’t taste them, which is weird for me because I always want to taste everything… I must have still been over excited from the fall and wasn’t thinking. Dan said they were really good so I’ll have to trust him.

I got the panini special again. This time it was sautéed spinach, white beans, feta cheese and grilled artichoke hearts all squished between two slices of rye bread. It was a really nice combination. I only added a little bit of salt and pepper. It also came with a side of red potato salad, which was one of the best potato salads I have ever had. The potatoes were cooked perfectly and the dressing was just right, not overly seasoned and not too heavy of the mayonnaise, just a little bit ( I really hate when there is too much mayo on food, I think the consistency is gross).

I also got a side of sesame noodles because I didn’t know I was getting a side of potato salad. The sesame noodles were also really good, with just the right amount of dressing and seasoning to coat the noodles.

Overall, this place is great! I would go back here in a minute if I am ever in Perkasie again. If you find your self in upper Bucks County, it is definitely worth a stop.