testing testing

As previously posted I will be supplimenting my all-grain brewing with some quick extract batches in the hopes that I can experiment more often. Well, after a friend (one of the few Mexicans in Belgium) handed me a bag of Chipotle peppers straight from the mother land, I knew my first experiment had to be a Chipotle pale ale. Chipotle peppers are not exactly common here in Belgium so I was very happy to receive these. I know I’m not the first brewer to throw some peppers in a beer but I’ve never done it and thought it was time to try it myself. Time for the innaugural “Test Pilot” brew!

The things I want to test with this 10 liter (2.6 US gallons) batch are:
  • the handling and amount of peppers to use in a beer
  • the combo of Nelson Sauvin and firey spice
  • smoke (from the smoked peppers) in a pale ale
  • only using late hop additions (30 min or less in boil)
  • chipotle peppers and hops

    I kept the malt extremely simple. I did however use some old extract I had in the cupboard as a portion of the total DME bill…. hmmm, maybe that wasn’t the best idea though. A touch of chocolate malt was steeped in the kettle before adding the malt extract and boiling. The roasted malt will hopefully support the smoke and give a touch of earthiness. Since extract has already had the snot boiled out of it in it’s creation, a full 60 minute boil is not needed, and since I was only adding late hops I only boiled for 30 minutes. I added the small amount of chipotle peppers with 5 min to go in boil and let the wort sit for 20 minutes before cooling. The sample I tasted did show a very low spice level in the back of the throat and a nice level of smoke. We’ll see what the yeast does with this. If the final flavor and spice level seem to be a going in the right direction than I do plan on brewing a more “serious” all-grain version. Man, I really hope that old DME won’t get in the way too much. Damn my cheapness!

    seduced by meat

    Pork Loin and I have always shared a special bond, but lately my friend has been getting a little jealous. You see, this summer I spent a lot of time with another cut, the flirtatious Rack of Lamb. Except for the fact that Mrs Smokey doesn’t eat lamb (minor detail) everyone in the greater Smokey family circle has been getting quite friendly with this beauty. I still love my pork loins but I am now quite infatuated with these fancily trimmed meat popsicles. So easy to cook, yet so satisfying. A succulent treat that can be plated up and taken to the ball or just grabbed by the bone and taken advantage of. Dressed up or dressed down a rack of lamb always knows how to please you.

    A dash of fresh ground black pepper and some good chunky sea salt is all a nice rack needs. If you do want to get a little fancy you can sprinkle on some rosemary, brush them with a little mustard and honey, encrust them in herbs and bread-crumbs, or throw some grape-vine wood on the fire for a smokey touch… But that is just more to get through when it comes down to the moment. I say leave it nude (the meat, not you), dim the lights, put on some music, pour yourself a nice beer and enjoy the show.

    Sorry, no recipe or fun cooking technique here… Just a post by a man who has been love-struck by a piece of meat. Is that so bad?

    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 go-to recipe

    While I always like to try out new things there is one dish that gets cooked more than any other… beer and honey marinated Pork Tenderloin. Simple and crowd pleasing.

    Grab yourself a good sized pork tenderloin between 700-900g (1.5-2lbs). Smaller is ok if you can’t find a big one. Throw it into a zip-lock bag (a bowl works too but you’ll have to use more marinade). Mix together one bottle of a good dark beer (stay away from anything too bitter) and a couple tablespoons of honey. Add that too the zip-lock bag and chuck it in the fridge for a couple hours, or 45 minutes at room temp if you forgot to plan well (yeah, thats usually the route I take). If you went the cold route then make sure your pork has come back up to room temp before cooking. Set up your grill for indirect cooking. Pull the pork out of the bag and pat dry. Here you can add a dash of rub if you like, or just season with some sea salt and black pepper. Quickly sear the pork loin over the coals and then cook indirect until desired doneness. Depending on the size of the piece the total cook time should be about 35 minutes. Let it rest for 10 minutes under tinfoil before you slice it up.

    This works out nicely for hungry groups because you can pack quite a few of these on the grill. You can also really play around with this by switching up the beer you use, adding a rub, mopping during the cook, different type of honey or sugar, or adding a sauce.

    Care to share your go-to dish in a comment below?

    Early Bird

    In the last post I mentioned that I want to brew up a stout. It’s been a while since I’ve brewed a stout and the last one was a big boozy Belgian Imperial Stout fermented with Wyeast 3787 Trappist yeast (Westmalle yeast). It clocked in at almost 12%ABV. This time round I am looking for something more sessionable; something under 5%ABV.

    I have some oat malt laying around and have been looking for an excuse to use it so I am going to brew up an Oatmeal Stout and substitute a portion of the flaked oats with the oat malt. Apparently Oat malt adds a lot more oat flavor than flaked oats. Some say it is too pungent but I am thinking that some real oat flavor may work out well here. This is what I am thinking of brewing:

    expected OG 1.050
    expected FG 1.013
    4.8%ABV
    30.5 IBU (rager formula)
    expected color 27.3 SRM (71 EBC)
    boil duration 60 minutes

    60% Pale Ale malt
    12% Munich malt
    8% Flaked Oats
    6% Oat malt
    5% Roasted Barley
    5% Chocolate malt
    4% Biscuit malt

    East Kent Goldings at 60min

    Single infusion mash at 68C for 60 minutes

    I am hoping that the biscuit will lend a nice toasty edge to the oat malt. I know a lot of people like to toast their flaked oats in the oven before using but if the biscuit works out well I think this could be more consistent than toasting my oats. Since I can’t leave well enough alone I have been thinking about what other flavors would go well with the chocolate, coffee, and hopefully oatiness of this beer. Raisins immediately popped in my head. Heck, a handful of raisins is my favorite addition to a nice hot bowl of oatmeal. Together with a large cup ‘o joe and you have a satisfying breakfast! Now I just need to figure out exactly how I want to add the raisins. I could puree them with a little wort and add that to the boil during the last 10 minutes, or I could just dump some raisins into secondary. Anybody out there have any experience using raisins?

    Of course I feel I have to experiment with some non-traditional fermentation. So here is the plan… I will brew the base beer and then split it between two fermenters. One fermenter (most of the batch) will get Safale S04 English ale yeast (possibly Wyeast 1968 London Ale) and the other fermenter will receive only Brettanomyces Bruxellensis. After everything has fermented I may play with blending the two and age that with some medium toast French Oak chips. Some of the two separate batches would get bottled before blending so I can compare  all three and see what’s going on, but I really like the idea of a light musty, bretty oak note in the back of a nice smooth oatmeal stout.

    If you have any ideas/input I’d like to hear it.

    Recipe for “A Good Year”

    All you need to have a wonderful 2010 is a good recipe. I happen to have one I’d like to share with you. Feel free to make some substitutions, but don’t stray too far from the original recipe:







    A Good Year
    – 1 good charcoal grill (you can add more if you really like fire)
    – 1 or more sources for great craft beer (Oerbier Reserva is a must)
    – 1 quality butcher
    – a couple of good beer glasses (you don’t need one for every style of beer!)
    – a good green grocer with local produce
    – local brewery or homebrewer (or your own brewing passion)
    – large handful of friends
    – patch of green for you and your friends to rub your toes in
    – a supportive partner
    – A fresh child who is intrigued in everything you do (teenagers may be past their prime)

    Simply stir these ingredients together and marinate yourself in the mixture for 365 days. Thats it! The trick with this recipe is balance. You may have to alter the amount of devotion/obsession placed on each of the individual ingredients until a harmonious mixture is obtained. This is something I myself am still working on.

    I also threw together some random photos from this past year that were never posted here. You can find them by clicking on the snow covered grills above.

    Happy new year everyone!

    pull my pork!

    Good pulled pork has to be one of the most satisfying meat dishes in the world. I often find myself dreaming of those beautiful strands of juicy, smokey pork mixed with bits of spicy “bark.” Beautiful moutainscapes of steaming pulled pork topped with coleslaw snow-caps. A place where North-Carolina style red sauce flows like a river…. mmmmm. After living in North Carolina for a while I really fell in love with pulled pork. Some of my fondest food memories were had in small BBQ shacks around Gastonia and Charlotte. I recommend that every teenager should move to NC for high-school because pulled-pork sandwiches go perfect with reckless-abandon. Ah, those were the days!

    I may really love this delicacy but I don’t get to enjoy it very often. Those BBQ-shacks seem to be hiding from me on this side of the ocean. So left with no other choice I set out to make my own. First problem, what the heck do I ask for at the butcher? Cuts of meat are different in pretty much every land. I wanted a Butt (no, it doesn’t come from that end of the pig) but the butcher had no idea what that was. Thankfully Picnic was something that they know here. To my surprise they are typically about 6 kg. Pigs must be bigger here. I thought that was a bit big for my first try, especially since I don’t have a freezer to hold any leftovers. I ended up ordering a nicely trimmed and de-boned half picnic, weighing in at 2.2kg (4.85 lbs.)

    For the first cook I decided to pretty much stick to some standard recipes out of Smoke and Spice. It was time to say hello to “the Renowned Mr. Brown.” I slightly altered the Southern Succor rub in the recipe by adding some onion powder and garlic powder.

    Brasschaat Succor rub (altered Southern Succor rub recipe):
    • 1/4 cup black pepper (fresh ground)
    • 1/4 cup mild paprika
    • 1/4 cup brown sugar
    • 2 tbsp salt
    • 2 tsp mustard powder
    • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
    • 1 tsp onion powder
    • 1 tsp garlic powder

    The pork was well rubbed with this mixture and placed in a ziplock bag. He hung out in the fridge overnight with the hops and yeast. The next day I started the fire (Minion method fire with a 3/4 full ring of briquettes) around 8am and took the meat out of the fridge. After another roll around in the rub I let the pig rest until the smoker was up to temp.

    The swine went on the smoker at 9:10 am and in typical fashion it started to rain. Not wanting to get too wet, I decided to quickly take the burning smoker apart and move it under the awning at the back door. From there on out it was a pretty simple cook. One of the big questions with this kind of barbecue is, to mop or not? Seeing as I was using the water pan in the smoker with water (as opposed to dry, or with sand or terra-cotta pot coasters as some recommend) I did not need to use a mop to add moisture, but I did want to use it to help add flavor. So I only mopped the meat a few times starting a couple hours into the cook.


    mop (altered Southern sop recipe):
    • 1 cup cider vinegar
    • 1 tbsp black pepper (fresh ground)
    • 1 tbsp salt
    • 1 tbsp worcestershire sauce
    • 1/2 tbsp paprika
    • 1/2 tbsp cayenne
    • 2 tbsp remaining rub

    Since this was a somewhat small hunk of meat by pulled pork standards, I took a rough guess that it would be on the smoker for about 7-8 hours until it reached the magic “pullable” tenderness. Seeing that dinner was planned for 7:30 pm this seemed like ample time. Unfortunately I suck at these types of estimations. As we approached dinner time I ramped up the smoker temperature from the 110-120C range (230-250F) up to the 140-150C range (280-300F) to try to finish the pork faster. After 10.5 hours of cooking I had to take the meat off the smoker.  Now I was aiming for an internal temp of around 87-93C (190-200F), but I had to pull the meat off at 84C (183F). The real test isn’t the internal temp but taking your temp probe or a skewer and seeing that it slides into the meat easily, like butter. Mine was almost right there, but I couldn’t wait another 45 minutes or so. Fortunately the pork did pull apart very nicely and easily.

    To accompany the meat I whipped up some coleslaw, some cornbread, and a salad. The coleslaw was also a first for me. I was so used to buying it back in the US that I never bothered trying to make it before. I have to say that is was quite tasty! The cornbread was again baked on the OTP. This time I was able to improve the cooking technique and get a very nice browned top on the cornbread, however the new recipe I tried out was not so great. It was just too darn dense. Next time I will use the recipe I used the first time and just cut back on the sugar… and perhaps use a touch more cornmeal.

    Of course I also had to make up some Carolina red sauce. I used the recipe straight from the Smoke & Spice cookbook. I have to say though that I remember most sauces in North Carolina being just a touch thicker and spicier, but that was a long time ago.

    The final accent to the meal was a bottle of Hop Nest IPA. The hops were able to cut through the spice, vinegar and smoke and really worked out nicely.

    Of course I didn’t take any good photos of the final product, so you’ll have to put up with a slightly blurry photo of some of the leftovers.

    All in all I was highly impressed with my new found pork pulling skills (please don’t take that out of context). I think everyone really enjoyed it but the black pepper spice may have been too much for them. The cornbread wasn’t so much of a success. The meat was absolutely fantastic! Super moist, full of smokey flavor, wonderful rich spice notes and melt in your mouth tenderness. I will definitely be cooking up more of this. Once we get a freezer it will be stocked with pulled pork for those times when I have THE craving.

    For more photos of the cook click on the photos or here

    duck, duck, beer

    luxemburg_roadThis past weekend my extended family in-law took their yearly trip down to a big rental house in the Ardennes. Despite there being 35 in-laws, it is always a good time. A really beautiful area with typical grey stone buildings set amongst green rolling hills. Being november it usually rains most of the time we are there, but in that setting I don’t mind. Mrs. Smoking Bottle thinks its all a big grey depressing mess but I tend to see the pint glass as half full… at least there I do.

    Each year I try to plan one thing for the family during our weekend stay. Either a brewery visit or a good charcoal cooked meal. This year I decided on another brewery visit rather than trying to keep an 11 month old girl, who is practicing walking, away from daddy’s fire… and cooking for 30+ people is a lot of work. Also, since the in-laws are wine people, I take it upon myself to try to educate these lost belgian souls about their beer heritage. There are a lot of breweries in Wallonia, unfortunately the area that we visit has fewer options. So far I have taken the in-laws to Achouffe, Fantome and this year Brasserie Les 3 Fourquets.

     

    Les 3 Fouquets resides in an inviting old stone farm house in Courtil, about 5km from the Luxemburg border. It was started up by one of the founders of Brasserie D’Achouffe after the sale of that brewery to Duvel Moortgaat (I think thats how it went). The modern shiny brewhouse is quite small and squeezed into one small section of the rather large farm house. The main part of the building usually houses the restaurant and bar. I say usually because they currently have no cook. They plan on re-opening the restaurant again next summer but they need to find a head chef. Currently they produce only one beer, Lupulus, but in the past have dabbled with a few others. You can definitely taste and smell the Achouffe heritage in Lupulus. The brewery began with the Achouffe strain of yeast, but over time the yeast has somewhat mutated (according to Julien, our guide). Cloudy light orange brew with a yeast and citrus nose. Grassy, lightly citrus hop aroma but not aggressive. Pretty well balanced in the mouth with sweet pale malt and enough grassy bitterness to stay interesting and dry enough to be refreshing. I personally think that this would be a brilliant beer if it was around 5-6% ABV instead of the 8.5% it is.

    Last year I opted for the cooking route instead of a brewery tour. With the help of one of the uncles, we cooked up duck breasts for 32 people. We didn’t yet have a daughter so we had room to pack up the WSM and take it down to the Ardennes with us. The duck was lightly rubbed with brown-sugar, coarse salt, fresh ground pepper, sage and a dash each of onion powder, garlic powder, cinnamon, clove and nutmeg. Sounds like a lot but it was lightly rubbed on. The fillets were placed in the smoker fat side up for just over an hour (till about 115F internal). They were cooked over lump charcoal with a chunk of pearwood and a touch of hickory chips. After being smokedthe meat was thrown fat side down on the gasser and brushed with a glaze made from beer jelly (homemade with some of my homebrew) and butter. Served with cranberry sauce, pears poached Boon kriek and croquettes. We also made a very nice sauce with onion sauteed in some of the trimmed duck fat, some cranberries, a good slosh of Boon kriek and an unhealthy amount of cream. Run through a sieve and lightly drizzled onto the glazed duck breasts.

    That was the most meat I have cooked in one time on the WSM. We only served half a breast per person but in order to fit 16 breasts on I had to take a grate from one of my kettles in order to add a third cooking surface in the smoker (on feet made from stainless steel threaded rod and some nuts and washers). That worked well and I had room to spare! I did try to take some photos of the process. Unfortunately while plating up the food for all those people we forgot to snap a photo of the sliced up duck with all the trimmings. Maybe next time. You can see photos of that cook here.