Well, it’s that time again – cool, fall days reminding us that snow may be right around the corner. Or yesterday, if you were on the East Coast! Halloween has come and gone in the retail stores, and Thanksgiving is there, though muted by the glitz and sparkle of Christmas.
Each year my husband and I prepare a variety of treats as Christmas gifts – ones that are hopefully received as unique, as we are chefs for crying out loud. Believe it or not, a fruitcake resides on that list, packed with delicious dried fruits and spices, with enough booze to make you actually forget you are eating fruitcake.
This year we are adding a new item to the list: beer. Several years ago when we were living in Napa, I bought my husband a beer brewing kit, complete with the boiling pot, fermentation jug and bottling bucket. At the time, he was a sous chef in the restaurant at Domaine Chandon, a sparkling wine producer. We enjoyed a lot of sparkling wine that year, and conveniently we were able to purchase empty champagne bottles into which we bottled our home brew.
Just yesterday we started our “Holiday Cheer,” a medium-bodied brown ale with a mixture of “Christmas” spices. The guys at Brew Camp, located on Belle Plaine, just off Lincoln Avenue, were very helpful in making sure we had the tools we needed to embark on this special project. They sell ready-made kits for different kinds of brews, as well as all of the individual components and equipment necessary for the job. We purchased caramel malt, a barley malt with a splendid toastiness to it, black patent malt with more of a bite, and a couple selections of hops to give it that distinct ale bitterness. The holiday additions were honey, fresh ginger, orange zest, and cinnamon. All of these ingredients have been cooked together, strained, and combined with yeast, and are now bubbling away happily in the carboy (large jug) in our guest bath tub. The yeast is quite active at this point, and I am grateful that we did not have anywhere else to put it, as I would have been mopping up a big mess this morning!
I’ll keep you up-to-date about our success on the Holiday Cheer. We think it will be about three weeks before we bottle. In the meantime, I will work on the label (which I think will look kind of like the drunk Santa shown here) and accompanying treats.
If this blog inspires you at all, go visit the guys at Brew Camp. They will have you brewing in no time.