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Pizza made difficult

I am virtually famous for being difficult in my endeavors. So, when I make pizza, I make Chicago Style! First, I season one pound of free range, local chicken and pork to make my own sausage. The remainder of the mixture that’s not used in the ‘Za goes in with eggs the next few days. That takes a day to do, so I make the crust the night before to let set and get a good rise out of it. To do so, I argue with it for hours and read Facebook political posts to it as well as #politics on Twitter. Seems to always make it almost rise up to kill me, but I beat it back with episodes of Breaking Bad.

The NEXT NEXT day, I am ready to make a pizza. Yes, it takes 72 hours. Wait, what? Where’s day two? I think you mean where’s day one. Day one is Monday. I drink Monday. A lot. That’s the day I buy stuff and say I’ll make pizza. Then I get drunk and decide that Tuesday is a better day to put meat in a grinder. It’s a mechanical thing.

Now, onto the pictures. My crust is a simple mix of sawdust and misery, with some floor flour and things the cats leave me at night, plus beer leavings from the bottles I couldn’t quite finish the night before. Oh, and corn meal to piss off the purists.

I put the punched out dough into a deep dish, because I fucking hate crackers being used for pizza, and got to working.

Here’s the crust with home made sausage and store bought Mozzarella cheese. If you’re making the crust, sauce and sausage, why store bought cheese you ask? Because I SUCK AT MAKING CHEESE AND IT HURTS MY FEELINGS. Thanks for asking.

I had some left over dough and remembered Pizza Hut’s Priazzo was great when it was out, so I rolled out another thin layer.

Dough is yummy, more dough is more yummy, right? Next up was the sauce. Farmed and raised from the dumpsters of the finest produce places around, the trash-ripened tomatoes are crushed out of season and mixed with a proprietary blend of herbs (read: I drunkenly threw a bunch of things on a shelf into a bowl) then sat on the counter. Yep. Sat. Not cooked, not roasted, not boiled, microwaved or otherwise cooked. That happens when you cook the pizza itself, so why bother?

Okay. I was told by many people that my posts are too long, so I’ll continue this pizza ridden saga later. In parts two and three I’ll detail exactly why everything I like sucks and everything you like rules then point out a lot of irony. Or just talk about beer and pizza. Haven’t decided yet.

Frankenstout, a lesson in fortitude.

I rarely, if ever, feel intense trepidation when trying a beer for the first time. But this one had me worried. It wasn’t dark, it was damned dark. It actually pulled in light from outside the glass, just to murder said light with its tremendous gravitational pull.

The head on this beer, too, was not to be believed. I’ve seen memory foam mattresses with less density and stopping power. Who knows what lurked inside this monstrosity, this abomination of beers. Drinking it appeared absolutely the antithesis of a salubrious experience.

Then imagine my surprise when I took that first sip and it not only didn’t kill me, but was good. It wouldn’t win any awards or anything, but it was easily more drinkable than I’d thought possible.

Wait, hold on…I guess it’s time for some back story. It was August last year and we were tasked to do a brewing demonstration for the ten year anniversary of Hollerbach’s Willow Tree Cafe. Aaron and I asked multiple award winning brewer Steve Vallancourt to help us with it. He’d decided on one of his signature brews, a Wee Heavy Scottish Ale. This is a rich, robust and malty brew with some fruity esters thrown in and very little hop character, just enough to temper the malt storm. With the recipe battle proven and our equipment checked and primed for brewing battle, we settled in for the brew day.

Little did we know twas the brew day from Hell. It began a few hours earlier, when we were in our Local Home Brew Shop and gathered the ingredients. We did have most of what we needed, but sold out on the yeast strain Steve wanted, and the only thing that could handle this upcoming cavalcade of destruction was a Trappist High Gravity yeast. Ostensibly this would dry out an otherwise super malty sweet beer. Well, it did that and more.

We like to use Beer Smith as our go to recipe builder and it has a lot of functionality, including changing the beginning temperatures for your equipment and water. With the brewing starting at 6pm, we put the stainless steel equipment out at around 4:30pm. In the sun. In Florida. So when we told Beer Smith that our starting ambient temperature was 75 degrees, well, lets just say we were off. By around 50 degrees. So after putting 145 degree water in to buffer the starting temp and raise it to a protein rest at 122, we discovered the horrible truth about how hot our equipment was and we were sitting at around 150. So we threw in ice cubes. A lot of them. After getting the grain and water mash down to 90 degrees, we ramped it back up to 122.

At this time we started our RIMS system and was set to let it go for about 30 minutes. Then the false bottom collapsed. The type we had had bracers on the bottom of it that came apart like bladed Lincoln logs. The actual false bottom rested on top of these blades. We had to go in manually to remove and reshape the blades so that the bottom fit on it again, which involved moving the 17lbs of grain and five gallons of water out of the way by hand, wrenching the blades from underneath the bottom, reshaping them with a rubber mallet and replacing the whole thing. During this time, the temp went back down, so we ramped it back up.

Dark clouds began to form overheard, literally. An enormous storm was approaching and dumped all over us. With it came unseasonably cold winds and temperatures. Now, we went back below our target temp. When we raised to the next target temp, our RIMS system pump went bye bye and we were getting the temp readings from the tube cut off from the rest of the mash so we raised the heat. Well, now we’re over again. We realize this quick, turn off the RIMS and discard it from equation…it had done enough damage. Our all over the place mash temps finally hit 154 for an hour then mash out at 168. It only took 3 hours to do a one and a half hour mash.

So now we drain the liquid through the false bottom and rinse the grains with hot water. After collecting almost 9 gallons of wort, we taste the grains. “Our efficiency is for shit!” exclaimed Steve. So while Aaron and I have a lot of admiring guests inside the store and abroad at the restaurant to attend to, Steve does a gravity reading and grabs bags of dried malt extract off the shelves to remedy our shit efficiency problem. We’re not sure how much he grabbed or what kind. The howling winds kept blowing things around and making our boil all weird. Through the turmoil and the rain we managed to finally get the boil over with, albeit with a little over 5 gallons of wort still left from a very vigorous 1 ½ hour boil.

So now, to the cooling of the wort. Uh oh, wait…our favorite methods (immersion chiller and counter flow chiller) won’t work because the water pressure from the nearest source is too weak to use, plus it’s at 80 degrees! Aaron finally comes up with a way to use the pump that’s still working and a cooler full of ice and water to utilize the immersion chiller (much to the dismay of Steve) to recirculate cold water through his make shift hose contraption and we cool the wort.

By now, it’s 11:30 and our wives are begging us to give up, pour this monstrosity out and go home. “NAY! Nay we say, because through all of this we have suffered, and the beer has suffered. We shall make this thing somehow tasty! We will not give up! We still have beer to drink, yeast to pitch and to get this thing to the brew house.” One more beer, then…we gave up. The beer was air locked and put away in the kitchen (to the tune of the kitchen folk the next day, armed with pitchforks and chef knives saying “what is that thing?”) with the yeast starter settling back down.

The next day, bleary eyed and distraught, we went back to the Market and found the discarded beer, desolate and dejected as the ambient light probably destroyed the hops and further mutated this beer into legendary status of failures. Undaunted yet hung over, we pitch the yeast and take it to the brew house.

There, this beer threw off its air lock several times, grew mold on its surface, broke the very carboy it was in…this was bad. We transfer to another car boy for fermentation, we see more mold growing on it. Sure enough, our entire fermentation chamber is rife with the stuff. We drag the whole thing out into the sun, beer put aside in the shade, and flush it out with bleach and a lot of scrubbing. Then an exorcism.

Eventually we kegged it. Then found out two months into conditioning that the keg didn’t hold any pressure, so it was leaching in oxygen, beer’s nemesis once fermentation is at its end.

So we switch kegs and pressurize it, then put it in a 40 degree cooler for a few months. Then, because we had storage issues, we put it in a cooler at the brew house at 68 degrees for a month or three…we lost count. Finally, we brought it back to the Market and put it away for a few weeks.

After getting brain transplants and remembering that it was there, due to our hectic schedules and such, we set out to putting more pressure to it and dispensing it. Oops. The inlet and outlet plugs were reversed, so Frankenstein spewed beer into the C02 hose it what may have been it’s final act of defiance. So, we clean up the mess, take apart the barbs and sanitize them them reconnect them to finally taste this beer.

Whoa. It’s not bad! Not anywhere near what was intended, but it turned out okay. It’s a cautionary tale of being too cautious. Everything that could be wrong with this beer happened, and yet all the things you hear will happen, didn’t happen. No infection, no spoilage, very little Sherry quality…just a good beer.

It reminded us that beer is a living thing. It wants to be tasty. It overcomes adversity. It loves those who make it. It transcends complications. This little (no way is it little, only Steve knows the original gravity, but it’s well above 10% abv) beer made us proud, even if it’s closer to a foreign imperial stout than a Wee Heavy, or so we’ve been told…kinda more of a “fits no known category” type beer.

Would I drink it everyday? No. Mostly because I took a sip from one on a beer class night and lost my vision for a brief period of time. Well, my blood pressure to blood sugar may have had a hand in that, power chugging coffee all day and not eating, but it was scary none the less.

Here’s the summation you’ve imperturbably waited for: even if your beer doesn’t turn out to be an award winning example of your favorite style, it’s still YOUR beer. Just rename it to something it more closely resembles! Keep making and drinking your own beer!

Ol Red Cease and Desist

Okay, so here’s my first review. Eerie Brewing Company’s Wee Heavy Ale. I’d make a legend for you as to what is what, but I will make the assumption that if you’re reading this, you can figure it out on your own.

Beer poured into a perfect .5 liter calf hyde cylindrical at the top then spiraling downward and outward into a triangle shaped knapsack glass that was found in a Bavarian ruin outside of Lower Uncton dated from 1487 and said to have once contained the innards of Weihenstephan’s first master brewer.

Actually poured into a Boston Beer’s Sam Adam’s Lager glass to piss people off. LAZER ETCHINGS, DULLARDS!

Head non existent, then big, then non existent, then big again and it goes on like that for minutes. Until I realize that I’m an acerebral slubberdegullion and have been swirling the bottle around like a moron for five minutes whilst pouring. Also probably because I scrubbed the interior of the glass with what I found on the internet to be the only cleansing chemical that could be agreed upon; gerbil piss obtained from the Himalayan cork forests.

Nope, used soap and water with a liberal (does that even mean what it used to mean?) dose of elbow grease. Head still went away fast, though.

Prepared myself by inhaling burning incense made from print outs of ratebeer.com and the rather funky album covers from Prince. That and my usual 45 minutes of deep meditation focusing on why my nose is better than yours.

Nope, I just nose douched and waited for five minutes. What is nose douching? Netti pots.

I saw a video on youtube of guys from a place that sells home brew stuff that everybody uses then wonders why their beer sucks that the only way to properly enjoy the complex, deep, Inception like plot of a beer’s melody, you have to continually swirl the beer receptacle, also known as the glass, like a fine wine during the entire sniffing and tasting experience. So of course that’s what I did, and I spilled a lot of it on me and over me. You ever try to swirl a triangle?

The nose is malt malt and more malt. A little dark fruit and sweet but hidden booze. Another sniff and more booze is present.

Taste, dark malt, sweet base malt and grainy fresh malt as if it were bottled with some grain in it. Middle is meaty malt with little bits of the bittering hops shining through. Some dark fruit and the aforementioned booze.

Finish is a nice melange of all the grains mixed with the hops as they spiral down your tongue. Then the warmth of the 10% abv. I don’t want to sound weird or pretentious here, but I do get a slight smell and mouth feel of sun tan oil. I will attribute this to my superior skills as a taste interpreter, not because I was around a lot of people today with first beach sun burns, in March…here in Florida. Ah, hits the spot. Great session beer.:)

I then of course spit it all back into the bottle, used my bench capper to recap it and took it back to the store for a refund because I heard once that if it doesn’t have off flavored smokey phenolics in it, I don’t want it. The guy at ABC punched me. In the liver. Then cheerfully refunded my buck fifty and now I can have a sixer of Bud Light Platinum I don’t want my friends to know I desperately want to taste.

Okay, my first ever published beer review. Let me know if you like this format or if it just doesn’t do it for you. Thanks!

In this new year…

I plan to be a lot more active on this site. My first project outside of the TV show, the Web show with Ken Martin and making new beer discoveries is to write up a practical guide to enjoying good health if you are a drinker. Hopefully it helps.