flight of the Night Owl

Last saturday at Den Proefzolder the Night Owl took her first flight. This beer had only been in the bottle for about 10 days so I was a little worried about what I would find in such a stong but young beer.

Taking my nose to the glass I was hit with caramel covered apples and pears. Molasses and a touch of licqourice show up as well. Luikse siroop (a popular pear and apple based thick syrup that Belgians spread on bread) would be a good descriptor. Surprisingly there was no real trace of the quite generous East Kent Goldings dry-hopping, just a faint unidentified herbal note that faded in and out under the fruit.

Flavor-wise it is much the same story. Big bold fruit (Luikse siroop), some licqorice and caramel notes. Perhaps a touch of butterscotch too. There is enough herbal and lightly spicy bitterness to keep the beer from becoming too sweet. I also get a slight roast character in the very back. The beer does feel quite balanced and the alcohol is well-hidden. You do get a good swoosh of sweet alcohols but you have the impression that this is a 8-9% ABV beer, not almost 15%. That makes it a dangerous brew, so like it says on the bottle “Don’t turn your back on this one.” Overall I am very happy with where this beer is going.

The label did not turn out as well as I had hoped. Somehow the printer had taken my vector files and managed to create a low resolution print. Everything is pixelated! That isn’t too bad for the main image on the label but the finer text on the right is barely legible. After taking a few sips of the beer you won’t be able to hold the bottle still enough to read it at all. Oh well, like I tell myself every morning, it’s what’s on the inside that counts, right?

Once this beer has some age on it I will do a proper evaluation. Its just too young for such a massive beer. I am sure that that will be the consensus when this beer is served at the Borefts Beer Festival at Brouwerij De Molen in a couple weeks. We’ll see what all those Ratebeerians think (now that makes me nervous!). Night Owl should start to show her true colors around christmas time, and therefore help to make the holidays warm and merry!

and finally (recipes)

Ok, this is the last post about the Nocturnal Brew n’ Que at Alvinne. I have had several requests for recipes, so here you go. Recipes for almost everything we served! If you are a homebrewer and would like to look at the recipe we brewed that day, I scaled it down in my previous post.

For European readers 1 cup = 237ml Other useful conversion can be found with this link, or this one

Guacamole:

  • 3 ripe avocados
  • juice of 1 large lime
  • 1/2 – 1 hot red pepper, finely chopped
  • small handful of coriander leaves (cilantro), roughly chopped
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt (optional)
  • 1/2 small red onion finely chopped

Scoop the flesh out of the avocados and coarsely mash with a fork. To maximize the juice from the lime you should place it on your work surface and push down on it with the palm of your had. Now roll it around while pressing. You can then cut it in half and squeeze out that lovely juice. Mix in the remaining ingredients and serve with tortilla chips. It’s best if you let the quacamole rest in the fridge a couple hours before serving.

Salsa:

  • 1 cup seeded and finely diced tomato
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped red onion
  • 1 hot red pepper
  • juice of 1 large lime
  • small handful of coriander (cilantro) leaves, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 3 tablespoons Alvinne Morpheus Tripel
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

Mix together, chill for a couple hours. Serve with tortilla chips.

Alvinno Shrimp:

Simply shrimp marinated in 2-3 parts Alvinno, 1 part olive oil and a dash of Piet Huysentruyt honey-mustard seasoning. Marinate for a couple of hours and then impale them on some skewers. Cook over direct heat on your charcoal grill.

Ribs:

marinade:

  • 70% Alvinne Wild (Rodenbach is an easy to find substitute if you can’t get a hold of the Wild)
  • 30% apple juice

rub: (This makes more than you need but you can store it for a long time)

  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup sweet paprika
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons ground pepper
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons sea salt
  • 1/2 tablespoon pilli pilli
  • 3/4 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoons cayenne
  • 1 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger

Marinate overnight in the fridge with enough liquid to cover all the ribs (if you marinate the ribs in zip-lock bags you don’t need as much marinade). 45 minutes to an hour before placing in the smoker, remove the ribs from the marinade, pat them dry, liberally cover with your favorite rub and let them come up to room temperature. Smoke between 100-120C (210-250F) till done (around 5 hours) with a combination of cherry and pecan wood chunks. Don’t go too high with the temp because the sugar in the rub will burn.

Mop the ribs with some of the marinade a few times during the cook.

Salmon

Simply brush your salmon filet with olive oil, sprinkle with some dill and slap it on the grill.

Pork loin:

  • 1 well-trimmed pork loin (about 1kg or 2lbs.)

marinade:

  • 1 bottle Alvinne Wild (Rodenbach is an easy to find substitute if you can’t get a hold of the Wild)
  • 1/4 cup apple juice
  • 2 tablespoons honey

rub:

  • see rib rub above or use your favorite spice rub

Marinate the pork loin with the Alvinne Wild, apple juice and honey for 2-3 hours in the fridge. about 30-45 minutes before cooking, take the pork out of the marinade, pat dry, dust it with the rub and let it come up to room temperature. Place in your smoker (or grill set up for indirect cooking) at a temperature of around 120-140C (250-280F) with some Cherry and Pecan wood chunks for that smokey goodness (apple, pear, hickory, cherry, and pecan all work well with this). It should take about 60-75 minutes depending on the size of the loin and the temperature. Use a thermometer and take the pork out of the smoker at 65-67C, loosely cover in foil and let rest for 10 minutes. Slice and serve with a touch of Honey-mustard Beercream sauce.

Honey-mustard beercream sauce: (this is a bit of an approximation since I usually don’t measure stuff out when I make sauces)

  • 1/2 small yellow onion
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 bottle Alvinne Wild
  • 1/4 cup apple juice
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons grain mustard
  • 2 dl  (3/4-1cup) heavy cream
  • thickener if needed

Sautee the onion in the butter until translucent and then add the beer, apple juice and honey (you can use the marinade here but then you will need to skim off the “fatty foam” that will appear during cooking). Cook this down to about half the volume. Addthe mustard and cream and continue cooking for 5-10 minutes. If you desire a thicker sauce then use your tickener of choice (corn starch, maizena, etc.)

Cornbread:

  • 1 cup flour
  • 3/4 cup corn meal
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil

Preheat the oven to 200C (400F). Mix the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Add the butter to a baking dish/pan and set in the oven. In a separate bowl mix the eggs, milk and oil. When ready, add the wet ingredients all at once to the dry ingredients and stir together, but don’t over-mix. Just make sure there are no lumps. Take the pan out of the oven and swirl the butter around. Pour the mixture into the hot dish/pan and bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until lightly golden brown on top. Test with a toothpick for doneness.

Coleslaw:

  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups shredded green cabbage (roughly half a cabbage)
  • 1 cup shredded red cabbage
  • 1 cup shredded carrot
  • 1/4 finely chopped green onion

Mix the mayonnaise, vinegar, sugar and salt in a large bowl. Then mix in the cabbage, carrots and onion. Refridgerate for at least two hours.

Melon Mint and Feta salad:

  • 1/2 each of 3 different melons (watermelon, gavia, and cavaillon were used here)
  • half a small block of feta (roughly 50 grams)
  • a small handfull of fresh mint leaves
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • dash of pepper

Use a melon baller and scoop out the three melon halves. Break or cut the feta into small bits and add to the melon. Take the mint leaves, stack them, roll into a cigar, finely slice and add to the salad. Just before serving add the oil, vinegar and pepper and toss.

Mocha Bomb Sabayon:

  • 4 egg yolks
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 4 tablespoons Imperial stout (Struise Black Damnation Mocha Bomb works great!) but it apparently you have to use beer that is above 10%abv

Simply add all ingredients to a pan. Now comes the hard part. Over a very low fire you need to start whipping the mixture with a whisk. Pretend your life depended on it. Oh, and this will take a while. If you stop too soon then your egg mixture will quickly separate. If you have the fire too high, whisk too slow, or cook too long then you will end up with bits of omlette in your sabayon. If you manage to do that right then serve the creamy smooth and frothy mixture with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. This recipe should be good for 4 servings.

If you want to see someone making Sabayon check out this video (ignore the ingredients… just watch the process).

Moink balls à la Alvinne:

Take 1 kg (2.2 lbs) “gehakt met kruiden” (ground veal and pork mixture with some herbs that everyone here uses anytime ground meat is needed) and roll into bite-size balls. Ours were perhaps a bit on the large side. Then wrap each with a strip of proscuitto. Secure with a toothpick. Dust with your favorite spice rub or seasoning (we used the above mentioned rub). Place on the smoker and cook for an hour or so. As with the other dishes, we used Cherry and Pecan wood for the smoke. Lastly slather each one with a good amount of BBQ sauce, jam or jelly and cook for another 15 minutes or so. We sort of threw together our own beer based BBQ sauce but no one remembers what exactly was put into it. The recipe will remain a mystery forever.

the more the merrier – part 2 (brew)

The Nocturnal brew session at Alvinne was not just about barbecue. As the name suggests it was also about brewing beer. Glenn, Davy and Marc (the Alvinne three) had been toying around with the idea of doing a night time brew-fest for quite a while, but they didn’t have a recipe. I suggested a big ass barleywine since they needed a big beer to test the alcohol tolerance of their new house yeast. Normally I prefer more sessionable brews but I thought that this could be a fun challenge. Davy asked if I wanted to come up with an idea for the recipe so I promptly got to work in Beer Alchemy. To my surprise the Alvinne boys agreed to brew it as is. Not only were they going to brew it, but they wanted to release it as a “collaboration” beer with Birdsong Brewery (that’s me). To make the beer complete, I was also asked to design the label. I am not a graphic designer but I do like to play one in the brewery. As you may have figured out from the image above, the beer is called Night Owl. That is not the actual label but rather the design direction that the Alvinne crew chose from some quick ideas I showed them.

We’re calling it a Belgian Barleywine. Now I am certainly no fan of “beer styles” and I don’t like to try to pigeon hole beers, however, beer styles can be useful when coming up with ideas for beers, or when describing beers. For Night Owl I basically started with the idea of an English barleywine and twisted it into a truly dark Belgian beast of a beer. It won’t be a Belgian Dark Strong, it won’t be a Quadrupel… it will be a Belgian Barleywine, whatever that is.

3.5 hectoliters of Night Owl were brewed but I adapted the recipe here for homebrew scale, 20 liters (5.3 gallons). You may need to adjust the recipe for your brewhouse efficiency:

Night Owl:
Wort Volume After Boil: 20.00 l
Expected OG: 1.134 SG (including sugar addition during fermentation)
edit: above SG was our target.. we actually were just a touch lower. About 1.130
Expected FG: 1.020 SG
Expected ABV: 15.6 %
Expected IBU (using Rager): 77
Expected Color: 112 EBC (43 SRM)
Boil Duration: 75 mins


fermentables:
  • 52% Belgian Pale – 5.7kg (12.6 lbs)
  • 21% Munich – 2.27kg (5 lbs)
  • 4% Biscuit – 450g (1 lbs)
  • 4% Special B – 450g (1 lbs)
  • 2% Dehusked chocolate (800EBC) – 225g (.5 lbs)
  • 17% Dark Candi Syrup (200 EBC) – 1.8kg (4 lbs) – added a few days after fermentation begins
hops:
  • 28g (1 oz)East Kent Goldings – first wort hopping
  • 28g (1 oz) Magnum (just a touch of Pioneer was added at Alvinne since we ran out of magnum) – 60 minutes from the end
  • 28g (1 oz) East Kent Goldings at flameout
  • we will most likely be dry hopping this beer with the equivalent of 56g (2 oz) East Kent Goldings

single infusion mash at 67-68C for 90 minutes

relatively hard West Flanders water

yeast:

Use the newly introduced Morpheus yeast from Alvinne. Culture this from a bottle of Alvinne beer but make sure the bottle says “Morpheus yeast inside.” You can read about the yeast here, if you can read dutch. This yeast is pretty clean for a belgian yeast and highly attenuative. It can produce a slight apple note. Its not as clean as the California Ale yeast but that may actually be a good starting point. If I was really trying to mimic this yeast then I may try a mix of California Ale yeast and the Duvel strain.

This beer was brewed at night. By the time it was chilled and pumped to the fermentation tank it was around 2am. By 9am when we looked into the brewery we saw that the Morpheus yeast had certainly been busy. For more photos of the brewing of Night Owl (intertwined with photos of barbecue), click on the photo above.

Keep your fingers crossed and pray that this beer turns out fantastic or no brewer will ever trust me again.

the more the merrier – part 1 (smoke)

Friday July 2nd was a busy day for the Smoking Bottle. Picobrouwerij Alvinne was having their first (hopefully annual) Nocturnal Brew Session. 30+ friends were invited to join them while they brew a special night brew, opened up a collection of beer from around the world  and served some tasty BBQ. The reason it was so busy for me is because I was asked to provide the beer based BBQ (and more, but thats for Part 2).

the production line and some chips, salsa and guacamole

The prep/cooking started at 10am up in De Proefzolder (The Tasting Attic). An attic is usually not the best place to be on a very hot day, however we pushed on and proceeded to slice, dice, bake, marinate, mix and clean up before guests started arriving at 6pm. Once they did they found themselves greeted by cold beer and tortilla chips with freshly made Salsa and Guacamole. The salsa was very nice and had a touch of Alvinne Tripel thrown in for an extra twist. The Guacamole was also a hit. I’ve been on a mission lately to show the Belgian folk what guacamole is supposed to look and taste like. The jars of radioactive goo that people buy here is a disgrace. It doesn’t even taste like guacamole. The fresh stuff was almost a revelation for some people.

the "outdoor kitchen" and ribs in the smoker

Next we threw Alvinno and olive oil marinated shrimp onto the grill. The tasty shrimp were able to tide people over until the ribs were ready. Almost as fast as I could get the 15 racks of ribs out of the WSM they disappeared. I barley had a taste of them. To be honest I wasn’t all that happy with them but everyone else seemed to like them quite a bit. I think they needed just a little more time on the smoker and less sugar in the rub.

Abracadavre steaming up the attic and pork smoking up outside

After a great performance by brewery friends Abracadavre it was time to for the main course, smoked pork loins. This is basically my go-to grilling recipe but done on the smoker. After being marinated and then smoked for an hour and a quarter (until 66-67C internal temp) with a combination of Cherry and Pecan wood, the pork was served with a honey-mustard-beer-cream sauce, good old Coleslaw, Cornbread, potatoes, and a melon salad with mint and feta. It all turned out really nice. I heard someone say “I didn’t know barbecue could be so good.” Mission accomplished.

Glenn whipping up some Sabayon and Moink balls doing their thing

To finish all that meat off, Glenn made his world famous Sabayon with De Struise Brouwers Mocha Bomb. Sabayon is one of my absolute favorite deserts and the Mocha Bomb suits it so wonderfully. Excellent stuff! But thats not the end. To further feed our caveman like urge for meat and fire we threw together an interesting “Belgianized” version of Moink balls as a late snack. I think that was around 2am… or was it 3am?

I am certainly not used to cooking for large groups, and I tend to over analyze everything, but at the end of the day it was an enjoyable cooking session with great people. If only my wife and baby girl would have been there then It would have been perfect. Fire-cooked food, great beer and good people… what else do you need?

click on the photos above to see more.

Sorry that this was just a bit of a run down of events, but I will post all the recipes soon. I don’t want to have a 3000 word post… no one wants to read that. I sure ain’t no good writer.

Alvinne homebrewfest 2009

On the 7th of november was the Alvinne homebrew gathering. 12 homebrewers (myself included) served 20-something beers. This is the event I mentioned that I brewed the two versions of Hop-Nest IPA for. The event was a smashing success! The tasting room at Alvinne was quite full of thirsty homebrewers and non-brewing-beer-lovers. I didn’t know what to expect from the event so I was pleasantly surprised to see such a good crowd.

There were many good beers there, so my taste-buds were happy. Glenn also whipped up some great soup. Romanesco-Cauliflower soup with Melchior, mussels and a touch of pesto drizzled on top. You can find the recipe here. Back to the beer though. The highlights for me had to be Uli’s geuzes. If you don’t know who Uli is, he is one of the most passionate and creative beer lovers you’ll ever meet. He spends much of his time roaming the pajottenland buying up lambic from the different produces. The rest of the time he is back in Germany blending these lambics into wonderful geuze or aging them with different fruits, dry-hops, or other interesting ingredients. Perhaps my favorite of the day was a geuze dry-hopped with East Kent Goldings. Really spectacular! Uli said he also dry-hopped a geuze with Nelson Sauvin hops for a bar in Italy, but forgot to save any bottles for himself. I sure hope he does that again as NS is now my favorite hop.

Speaking of Nelson Sauvin, Hop-Nest was very well received. It was nice to hear people commenting positively about the beer, not knowing that it was mine. Its a great feeling when someone says “hey, you gotta try this beer” and you can say “thanks. I brewed that.” The Brettanomyces Clausenii version was not as well received as its more normal brother. On its own I think that it is quite nice, but when stacked up next to the regular version, it pales in comparison. Its hard to pin-point, but it seems to be missing something. It will be very interesting to see how it progresses though.

Thanks to all the homebrewers who participated in the event and all the enthousiastic beer drinkers who consumed our brews. Of course Glenn and Davy deserve a big thanks for putting this event on and putting homebrewing in the spotlight, something that doesn’t happen too often here.

If you are interested in knowing more about some of the beers that were served and seeing many more photos (including one of me with way too much hair and apparently no chin) check out William Roelens blog (in dutch only)

and the winner is…

glenn_barell090829There is something nice about waking up early, getting into a car and setting off on a day of beer discovery. The world just seems a little brighter, friendlier and tastier. First I was off to Heule, near Kortijk, for the “introduction day” for the 2009-2010 brewing class at Brouwerij Alvinne. I think more educational institutions need to cater to the needs of the humble student like Glenn does. No sooner had I walked in the room than I was handed a beer. 9am is not too early is it?. We had a thorough tour of the delightfully small brewery and then got down to the serious business, tasting a range of Alvinne beers. Now don’t get the wrong idea, we will be learning the intricacies of the brewing process, but for this first lesson we had to learn what Brouwerij Alvinne is about, and that needs to be tasted.

Off to my next destination, Kessel-lo (near Leuven). Today was the first gathering of the Vlaamse Hobbybrouwers Forum. Organizer Marc put together a well planned event. Again, the beer samples were tasty and the beer talk flowed freely. Unfortunately I had missed all of the early activities since Heule and Kessel-lo really aren’t close to eachother. This event also included a homebrew competition which I had entered. The judges were locked away in a tent in the corner of the yard, away from prying eyes. We knew that the beers must have been good because it seemed to be taking the judges longer than planned. So, who ending up winning? Well, the winner of the first “Flemish Homebrewer’s Forum” homebrew competition was an American, me! The winning beer VHM090829was Hop Nest which you will be familiar with if you follow this blog. Besides the obvious prestige, I won a 6-pack of Westvleteren (always nice to have) and a stack of good looking beer books to add to my library.  Unfortunately I had to then immediately leave. It would have been nice to stick around and get to know everyone and their beers a little better, but the timing just wasn’t right and I wanted to get back to see my baby. Many thanks to Marc and everyone who helped put together a wonderful event.

I have to say that today was a very good day.