Tag Archives: beer

tips for the home brewer (or, how I’m pretty sure I messed up my brother’s beer)

My brother and I recently brewed beer.  As novice brewers, we used a kit and followed all the instructions carefully, but we still encountered road blocks and ended up learning more about how to mess up beer than how to make it.  If brewing beer is an art — nay, a craft — then we’re pretty sure that what we made is the beer equivalent of a finger-painting.

I’ll let my brother, the beer enthusiast, post instructions and illustrative photos on how to home-brew beer.  To compliment his post, here are my tips for the aspiring home brewers:

1.  It’s important to keep sterile everything that will come in contact with the beer after it is cooked and before it begins the fermenting process.  That being said, you will quickly realize how unsterile you and your home environment are.  What, you sterilized all the tubing, spoons, thermometers, etc., in a big bucket of sterilizing solution?  That’s great, but what will you do when (a) your natural tendency is to put the spoon down on the counter (dammit!), (b) you forget that you’re not supposed to put the spoon on the counter and do it again (dammit!), (c) you touch the end of the spoon with your unsterile hand (dammit!!!), (d) you need both hands and now you gotta put the spoon down somewhere (DAMMIT!!!) . . . you get the idea.  Keep a big bowl of sterilizing solution on hand to dump the tools in as you work so that you can keep them sterile and resterilize them when you inevitably “contaminate” them (over and over again).

2.  If your plan is to cool the pot of boiled wort in a kitchen sink filled with ice water, make sure your brother’s roommate did not throw out the stopper for the sink.  Just saying.

3.  Don’t touch the inside of the fermenter bucket with your unsterile hands.  Don’t touch the inside of the wort pot while the wort is cooling.  Don’t touch the bottom of the fermenter stopper just before your brother plugs it into the fermenter.  You know what, either sterilize your hands or just keep back already, Carrie!!

4.  Watch the heat and stir the wort frequently if you’re using a pot made of a super-conductive material like aluminum.  Alternatively, tout your finished product as having “smokey” qualities, certainly not a scorched flavor . . .

5.  Set your expectations low for the final product, which you won’t get to taste until the beer finishes the four-week fermenting process.  Plan to try your beer on a Friday night so that if it makes you sick you will have two days to recover.  Actually, go ahead and put in for a day off the following Monday.


chicken, sweet potato and peach skewers

My little brother, Chad, has a new blog that he has largely devoted to beer and bar reviews.  We decided to try new recipes and beers together and make coordinated blog posts regarding the food and beer pairings.  This post concerns our first such effort.

Summer is here, and it’s time to GRILL!  I prepared chicken skewers and Chad brought two beers to pair with the dinner, including Erdinger Weissbrau Hefe-Weizen Dark and Lagunitas Wilco Tango Foxtrot.  These beers were much darker in color than what I usually drink (when I drink beer and not wine), but I enjoyed them very much with these chicken skewers.  Chad does a good job of describing the flavors and documenting the nerdy beer statistics (e.g., bitterness, alcohol content) on his corresponding blog post, here.

chicken, sweet potato and peach skewers

serves 4

[ adapted from Fine Cooking, June/July 2011, p. 71 ]


2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 16 pieces

1 medium sweet potato or yam, peeled and cut into 16 pieces

4 small ripe peaches or apricots, quartered and pitted

1 small sweet onion (such as Walla Walla), cut into 16 chunks

1 cup balsamic vinegar

1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon honey

2 tablespoons canola oil

kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup pecans or walnuts, coarsely chopped

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

4 ounces goat cheese, brought to room temperature and crumbled

8 12-inch wooden skewers, soaked in water (to prevent burning on the grill)


Prepare a medium gas or charcoal grill fire.  Soak the wooden skewers in water (a tall glass or water bottle works well for this).

Prepare the skewers:  Steam the sweet potato pieces until nearly cooked but still a bit firm, about 10 minutes.  Remove from heat to cool.  Cut up the chicken, peaches and onion.  Thread the onion, chicken, peaches and sweet potato onto the skewers so that there are two of each ingredient on each skewer.  Arrange the skewers in a single layer on a platter and set aside.

Prepare the glaze/sauce:  Combine the vinegar, honey, oil, a pinch of salt and several cranks of black pepper in a small saucepan.  Bring the mixture to a boil and then reduce the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is thickened, about 15 minutes.  Brush half the mixture over the skewers; reserve the remaining mixture.

Prepare the spiced nuts:  Combine the nuts, spices (cumin through nutmeg) and 3 tablespoons of the reserved sauce in a small bowl.  Toss to coat.  Toast the nuts in a toaster oven (or put them under the broiler) until the coating caramelizes.  (Be careful not to burn the nuts!)  Put the spiced nuts and remaining sauce in separate serving bowls and set aside.

Grill the skewers, rotating once or twice during cooking, until grill marks appear and the chicken is cooked through.  Remove the grilled skewers to a clean platter.

To serve:  Place two skewers on each of four plates and drizzle them with the warm sauce.  Sprinkle the skewers evenly with the nuts and crumbled goat cheese.  Serve the skewers with wild rice or another cooked whole grain. . . and try the beers mentioned in this and my brother’s post!  🙂