October 2012 16
What Makes A Perfect Glass of Shiraz?
One of the loveliest red wines on the market is the delightfully deep-tasting Syrah which has a very long history in the French region of Avignon but is grown in many other wine-producing regions of the world including Australia, where it is known as Shiraz.
The dark skinned Syrah grape produces wines that are powerful in nature, and in 2004 Syrah was the seventh most grown variety of grape in the world. Shiraz wines are very popular, and their popularity is actually increasing year by year as more people make the switch from beer to wine. The Shiraz/Syrah grape should not be confused with the Petite Sirah grape, a more recent variety that is a cross between Syrah and Peloursin and came into existence in the 1880’s.
DNA testing conducted in the late 1990s proved that Syrah grapes originated in the Rhône area of France and is the offspring of two very obscure grapes that are not grown in any significant amounts and have almost disappeared. While some have hypothesized that Shiraz grapes come from Shiraz in Iran or Syracuse, the scientific evidence firmly demonstrates a French origin.
Shiraz/Syrah is also known by a large number of synonyms, including Antourenein Noir, Balsamina, Candive, Entournerein, Hignin Noir, Marsanne Noir, Sirac, Sira, Schiras, Syrac, Sereine and Serine. All the names represent the exact same grape.
Syrah wines became famous after the era of Crusades, when powerful, excellent quality wines were being produced at Hermitage, a hill with a chapel behind the village of Tain L’Hermitage in Rhône. These Hermitage wines were well reputed and sought-after for centuries, but interest died down in the first half the 1900s. By this time, Hermitage Syrah wine was either adulterated with other wines, or was used to improve wines from other regions. Fortunately for wine lovers, Shiraz made a comeback and is now an incredibly popular wine produced in many areas, especially Australia.
However, now that the history lesson is over, what makes for a great glass of Shiraz? Well, due to the high amounts of tannins and the complex flavours, the first requisite for making an everyday Shiraz an outstanding one is that the wine should be aged, with critics claiming that the perfect amount of time for a Shiraz to be kept aside is several years, with exceptional wines being aged for 15.
To appreciate the complexities and full flavours of a good Syrah, the wine must also be at the correct temperature; too cold and it will taste flat, too warm and it will taste soupy. The recommended temperature for Shiraz is actually higher than that for all other wines: Syrah should be served when it is at 180 C or 650 F. “Room temperature” is far too vague, and because most North Americans keep their homes at a toasty 210 or 220 C, the wine needs to be chilled to cool down a few degrees.
The second most important factor when searching for the perfect Shiraz is to decide which style is preferred: bottles labelled Syrah contain wines that usually tend be made in the classic Rhône style, meaning an elegant, restrained fruit taste component, and have strong tannin and smoke-flavoured components. Shiraz wines, which are mostly produced in Australia and Canada, are made from grapes that are riper. This gives the wine a very fruity, peppery character with less tannins and less smoky tendencies. Australian wines can give the impression that they are sweet due to the fruit-forward taste and are can be consumed when very young. The wine critic therefore, oh the quest to find the perfect glass of Syrah, must decide which characteristics he or she wishes to experience. However, no matter where the Syrah wine comes from, all experts agree that a perfect Shiraz must have some degree of pepperiness; if this is absent, one can safely say the Shiraz is of very mediocre quality.
The third most important factor when hunting down the perfect glass of Shiraz is, surprisingly, the glass itself. “Big Red” wines like Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon are wines that have tremendous depth and are strong; they need proper stemware and a champagne flute or an old coffee mug can totally ruin the experience. Shiraz needs to be poured into a larger wine glass with a somewhat extended bowl so that the wine can come into some contact with oxygen and “breathe” in order to release its full potential. Special Shiraz wine glasses are available at most department stores, and the money should be spent in order to have the opportunity to experience the “nose” or “bouquet” of the wine. Using white wine glasses, which are quite small in comparison, will not allow you to do this and the experience will only be half as good.
Shiraz wine is popular with wine drinkers everywhere for good reason; it’s a powerhouse of a wine and pairs beautifully with meat dishes, steaks, and barbequed food. Some beautiful examples of Syrah and Shiraz that a fine wine enthusiast should try come from Australia’s Barossa Valley, France’s Hermitage region, Argentina’s wine growing areas, and strangely enough, the Parras region in Mexico.
The perfect Syrah can be found with ease; in fact, by paying attention to details such as serving temperature, preferred style of wine, age of the wine and the glass that it’s served in, a wine aficionado can be assured that almost any Shiraz wine can easily become absolutely perfect.
Top Ten Organic Beers
The first thing that comes to mind when the words “green beer” are mentioned, we tend to think of St. Patrick’s Day parades and beer that has been dyed a festive colour by the addition of a few drops of innocuous food colouring. However, in this case, we’re referring to organic beers, and these lovely green examples of the world’s most popular beverage are sure to make you a convert to eco-friendly ales, stouts, hefeweizens and lagers. Here’s our Top Ten list of organic beers.
#1. Black Isle Brewery Organic Porter
Any person who lives in or has visited Scotland knows that a trip to the Highlands is worthwhile just to have a drink of water. Boasting of the best tasting water on the planet, an organic beer made with the stuff is going to have that competitive edge when it comes to taste. Brewed in Munlocky, this very dark brown porter has an aroma that’s almost fruity and reminiscent of freshly roasted coffee beans. The taste is that of any good porter: rich, deep, bitter like coffee but has the added touch of an aftertaste of dark chocolate. Black Isle Brewery Organic Porter is not a beer to be downed quickly; only savouring it with patience will let the drinker appreciate just how magnificent this brew is.
#2. Redoak Boutique Beer Cafe Organic Hefeweizen
Hailing from Australia, this organic hefeweizen is a little bit clearer than a traditional hef, but still has a refreshing taste that’s perfect on very hot days. Using a classic Weihenstephan strain of yeast for brewing, the aroma is like candied fruit rather than the more usual banana, but the beer finishes with a long note hinting of exotic spices. Reviewers claim that the best way to experience this beer is to pair it with a green salad with olives, feta cheese, and a dressing made with olive oil combined with a drop of the hefeweizen. Heaven!
#3. Samuel Smith’s Organic Strawberry Fruit Beer
This English organic fruit beer has a taste that has been described as “mind-blowing”, and is capable of converting fruit beer haters into fruit beer lovers. The problem with many fruit beers, organic or not, is that the fruit flavouring can be overpowering and synthetic. Samuel Smith’s Organic Strawberry smells and tastes of strawberries that have been picked when perfectly ripe, and the finish is clean and tidy. This delightful beverage is smooth and has no residual bitterness or sourness, which can be the downfall of lesser fruit beers.
#4. Elliott Bay Brewing Alembic Pale Ale
This beer from a well-known Seattle, WA brew-pub is a favourite beer among the locals simply because it tastes great; in fact, because the company doesn’t toot its own horn for being green, many fans of the Alembic Pale Ale don’t even know it’s organic. Winner of the 2000 Great American Beer Festival, the pale ale has a delightful citric aroma and goes down easily, with a finish of caramel.
#5. Black Isle Brewery Red Kite Ale
The Black Isle Brewery does it again with this medium-bodied ale that’s refreshing on a hot summer day but is also tremendously satisfying in the winter, which is a task most other beers cannot do. Classic organic British hops and lovely malt from Scotland make this a beer to be experienced. The Red Kite Ale pairs exceptionally well with good Scottish home cooking such as vegetable soup, mince, neeps and tatties (a mince meat stew with mashed turnips and potatoes) and also serves as a delicious chaser for a wee dram of Glenmorangie 18-year-old malt.
#6. Back Hand of God Stout
British Columbia in Canada has been produced some beautiful craft beers that also happen to be organic. One jewel in Canada’s beer crown is the Back Hand of God Stout from the Crannóg brewery that’s brewed in the small town of Sorrento; easy to drink with a delightful roasted flavour and hints of wood and chocolate, this medium-bodied dark beer has aficionados always coming back for more. This beer, for the time being, is not available in bottles and can only be found in at better pubs.
#7. Beyond the Pale Ale
Another winner from Sorrento’s Crannóg brewery is their fabulous version of English Pale Ale. Pacific Gem and Goldings hops give this ale its distinct character, and the finish, unlike other organic ales, is absolutely clean. The beer is very similar to a Northern Bitter, but has a very British Columbian flare. Reviewers claim that Beyond the Pale Ale is one of the best U.K.-style ales in existence.
#8. Natureland Organic Fiestbeer
Also from the Canadian province of British Columbia, Fiestbeer is a beverage that is receiving rave reviews from beer critics across Canada and the United States. The seasonal beer is done in true Munich style, and is brewed especially for the month of October. The standout feature of this brew is its maltiness; regular people exclaim with happiness that this is “one tasty beer”.
#9. Faceplant Winter Ale
From the Nelson brewing company, also in what now appears to be Canada’s organic beer brewing province par excellence British Columbia, this delightful winter warmer is brewed with organic malted barley, brown sugar, and molasses. AT 6.5% ABV, this mild tasting medium bodied beer can pack a real punch, especially after a day of hitting the snow-covered slopes Nelson is famous for. Beer lovers can rejoice as this beer is also available outside of pubs and is sold in cans.
#10. Freedom Organic Lager
This lager from the U.K. features a surprisingly deep flavour and aroma. Brewed in Staffordshire, company brewmasters claim that the award-winning beer owes its exceptional flavour and depth to the water source that requires absolutely no chemical treatment prior to brewing. As far as lagers go, this organic offering is refreshing, crisp, slightly hoppy and wonderfully pure tasting.
Organic beers, critics say, are the better than their non-organic counterparts simply because the quality of the ingredients is so high. If you haven’t given green beers a try yet, now is the perfect time to partake in a few samples and hopefully become a life-long advocate of sustainable brews.
The Beginner’s Guide to Absinthe
Absinthe, after having disappeared from the cocktail and beverage scene for several decades, is making a comeback. It is a highly alcoholic distilled beverage ranging from 45% to 74 % alcohol by volume, and is a spirit mainly flavoured by the herb Artemisia absinthium which is also known by its English name grand wormwood. In Morocco, the herb is known as chiba and is commonly used as a flavouring agent for tea consumed on cold days in the winter. Absinthe is also flavoured with green anise and sweet fennel, and traditionally it is green coloured but colourless varieties exist.
Absinthe is also known as “The Green Fairy”; in the 1800’s it was thought that thujone, a substance found in trace amounts in the spirit, was present in sufficient quantity to produce psychoactive hallucinations. Absinthe ended up being banned in most countries in 1915, however, in the 1990’s studies showed that absinthe basically had the same effects as alcohol and the bans prohibiting its sale were removed in Europe. The drink is now becoming quite popular, with over 200 brands available.
Absinthe is not drunk straight; since it has a very high alcoholic volume and contains no sugar, water and sweetener must be added. However, there is a method to doing this correctly; it is not just a question of grabbing a sugar spoon and placing a glass with a shot of absinthe under the faucet and giving everything a shake. Here is how to drink absinthe the old-fashioned way, which also happens to be the best way.
To prepare a proper absinthe beverage, you’ll need an old-fashioned or highball glass, a spoon, something for measuring quantities such as an ounce glass, water, sugar, and of course, absinthe. Traditional equipment for absinthe includes a sort of footed, short-stemmed glass called a reservoir and a slotted absinthe spoon, which looks like a flat spoon with slots punched out of it.
Next, pour between one or two ounces of absinthe into the glass. The recommended ratio of absinthe to water is 1:3, meaning that two ounces of absinthe will require six ounces of water, making for an eight-ounce drink. Less absinthe can be used if you want a lighter flavoured beverage.
The next step is to add sugar. Because the “Green Fairy” is far too bitter for most people, this is a step that cannot be ignored or omitted. In fact, if you’re not going to take sugar, it’s best to not drink absinthe at all and it’s better to get something else instead.
Preparation using a traditional absinthe spoon
Adding sugar in the traditional fashion is a little tricky and takes practice. A sugar cube is placed on the old-fashioned, flat, slotted absinthe spoon, then the spoon is placed on top of the glass. Cold water (preferably iced water in a carafe) is then slowly trickled through the sugar cube, dissolving it. Remember this step must be done slowly; if the water is poured over too quickly, the sugar won’t dissolve and the water might splash, causing a mess and a watered-down, bitter drink. The resulting milky-coloured and somewhat opaque liquid which occurs when prepared correctly is called the louche, and the beverage is ready to drink. This method of preparation is known as the French Method.
Once some proficiency has been acquired with the use of traditional absinthe preparation tools, if you want to show off your bartending skills, instead of pouring water over the sugar cube, pour a little absinthe over it, and light it on fire. This will melt the sugar, caramelizing it, and will add a very interesting dimension to the entire absinthe experience. This method is also known as the Bohemian Method and is a fairly recent innovation; drinkers should also be aware that “cooking” the absinthe by the use of this method will destroy the alcohol content, which evaporates with heat.
Preparation using a plain spoon
If you don’t have a fancy absinthe spoon, you can use a regular spoon and granulated sugar. Once the absinthe and water have been poured into the glass, simply add a spoonful of sugar and give everything a stir until the sugar has dissolved. While everything will taste good, you must remember that stirring a drink will add oxygen to the mix and will change the characteristics of the beverage. It is highly recommended to use an absinthe spoon in order to experience the full complexities of the spirit.
Once everything has been mixed together, you should start drinking the absinthe immediately; it’s not a beverage that needs to “breathe” or have the flavours “meld”. As the saying goes, absinthe is best when consumed in moderation; remember that the alcohol percentage is rather high and this is what will affect you if you have too much rather than the trace amounts of thujone. However, there are some absinthe fans who will claim that the effects of thujone are strong.
Storage of Absinthe
What often gets ignored in other “how to drink absinthe” guides is the subject of storage. Naturally green coloured absinthe, if stored incorrectly, will turn yellow and over time will turn a very unappealing brown. Chlorophyll present in green absinthe will not change colour if it is not exposed to air or light; therefore it should be stored in a cool, dark place but not refrigerated. However, if the absinthe does change colour after proper storage, it is not a problem because the flavour will remain unchanged. As mentioned above, absinthe must never be refrigerated; this will cause the polymerization of the anethole in the bottle, resulting in a precipitate which will adversely affect the absinthe’s flavour and aroma.
Absinthe is a wonderful drink, and if possible, you really should make the effort to prepare your drink with the French method and experience absinthe rather than just drink it. Bottoms up!
Pinot noir wines are made from the Pinot noir grape varietal, and although Burgundy wine from France is the most well-known wine of this variety, the grape grows in almost all cooler wine-producing regions of the world. What makes this wine so desirable is that it is extremely versatile; because it is light to medium-bodied and has fruity yet spicy characteristics, it is delightful to drink on its own as a cocktail and it also pairs wonderfully with all sorts of food, including food that would traditionally be paired with lighter white or rose wines.
Pinot Noir: the grape
The grape itself is thought to be only one or two steps removed from its wild-growing ancestor, Vitis sylvestris. An ancient varietal, it was first described in literature in the first century AD. Despite being rather difficult to grow due to its susceptibility to bunch rot, powdery mildew and other fungal infections along with a sensitivity to wind, the grape that grows in pine cone-shaped bunches grows in Austria, Argentina, Australia, Azerbaijan, Canada, Chile, Croatia, the Republic of Georgia, Germany, Italy, Hungary, Kosovo, the Republic of Macedonia, Moldova, Greece, Romania, New Zealand, South Africa, Serbia, Slovenia, Switzerland, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, the United States, Uruguay, Ukraine and Slovakia.
In all of these countries, wine producers have found that in order to produce the best wines, the Pinot noir grape must be tended to often and the plants must produce low yields in order to obtain the best flavours. High-yielding crops will produce a very inferior wine; the labour intensive cultivation of the grape is what makes the wines so good but also makes them rather more expensive that other red wines. One nation that is producing superior Pinot noir wines on a consistent basis is the United States. Wineries in California and Oregon are now leading producers of Pinot noirs, and are equal to the best of France’s famed Burgundies.
Pinot Noir: The wine
Pinot noir exhibits a tremendous range of aromas, bouquets, flavours and characteristics such as texture that even sommeliers and professional wine tasters can get thrown off from time to time. Because the grape is very sensitive to its growing environment, it will take on the taste of its terroir, which leads to its enormous taste variety.
In very general terms, the most predominant characteristics of Pinot noir are a black or red cherry aroma with hints of raspberry and other black berry fruits, and a light to medium body. Traditional French Burgundy tends to present “farmyard” aromas and a fleshiness which goes towards the savoury side rather than the sweet side. However, with modern techniques, winemakers are preferring a cleaner, more fruit-forward product that is a bit cleaner in texture.
The colour of Pinot noir wines has been compared to that of garnet or red-coloured gemstones and tends to be much lighter and jewel-like than other red wines which present darker, more opaque hues. However, again due to the grape’s variability, new styles of Pinot noir wines are coming from New Zealand and California which are deeper in colour and resemble Syrah wines and in some cases have even been compared to the heavier Malbec wines that are produced in South America.
Pinot noir grapes, in many parts of the world’s wine growing regions, are also used in the production of sparkling white wines, sparkling red wines, and rosé wines. This is due to the fact that the juice produced from the Pinot noir grapes is colourless.
Pinot noir wines, since 2004 and 2005, have increased in popularity in the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand since the release of the film Sideways, an American movie in which the characters are devoted wine aficionados. Furthermore, tastes in these regions have changed from the “big reds” with high alcoholic content to something a little more restrained and subtle.
Called the “ultimate” wine by many wine critics, Pinot noir wines are very versatile when it comes to food pairings and are even incredibly pleasant to drink on their own as a cocktail; no pairing is needed. However, because of its moderate degrees of tannin combined with is nice, soft, sleek texture, many will say that the “ultimate” Pinot noir experience is one that sees the wine paired with food.
If a person wants to drink the wine without it being matched to food, on its own, it is recommended to chill a room-temperature bottle for about five minutes in order to appreciate the full fruit-forward characteristics.
Classic food pairings for Pinot noir include leaner meats, such as turkey, rabbit, veal, chicken, beef, pork, duck that has been well-drained, or any game bird such as pheasant. Pinot noir will also work well with goat meat, which has been gaining popularity due to its extremely mild, lean flavour.
However, other food pairings that will work nicely because of the slightly spicy touches of Pinot noir will be sausages, smoked meats, and braised or wood-roasted meats. Pinot noir will also match nicely with dishes that contain coriander, mushrooms, truffles, peppercorns, mustards, rosemary, basil, mint, thyme and oregano, traditional masala with cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and mace, sweet vegetables such as bell peppers, autumnal fruit such as figs, plums and blackberries, creamy cheeses and sauces that are butter-based.
Two ideal dishes to pair with Pinot noir according to the list above would be a Moroccan beef and plum slow-cooked tagine or a traditional Aloo Gosht (meat and potato) curry. The combinations based on the above pairings can be endless.
However, what really makes Pinot noir stand out from the crowd is its ability to pair well with seafood. While most gourmets will claim that only white wines should be consumed with fish and shellfish, one of the most delightful epicurean experiences a person can have is indulging in a bucket of steamed mussels and clams, followed by a filet of wild salmon from the west coast of Canada, all accompanied by a great bottle of Pinot noir from California’s Fetzer vineyards.
Halloween Drinking Games
Halloween isn’t just for little kids; it’s also time for the grown-ups to relax and let their hair down a little bit. Although fun costumes do set the tone for a good party, kick things up a few notches by organizing a few of these fun drinking parties.
Bobbing for Booze
This is a magnificent game based on the traditional bobbing for apples. While those who are wearing face paint or elaborate, spooky-themed make-up may not appreciate getting their faces and heads dunked into a tub of liquid, it’s still good fun. For those who don’t know, the traditional game is played like this: A bunch of apples are placed in a tub full of water, and participants need to pick up an apple using only their teeth: no hands are allowed. While this game is great for the little ones, for adults it needs to be spiced up a bit.
T o make the game more interesting for those who are of drinking age, there are three variations. The first variation is replacing the apples with miniature bottles of alcohol which are available at liquor shops. When the “booze bobber” manages to catch a bottle in his or her mouth, he or she must immediately down the contents.
The next variation is also fun, and can end up costing a bit less as no miniature bottles are needed; alcohol from regular sized containers will be more appropriate. In this version, apples are used, but before being placed in the giant tub of water, a number from one to four is carved into the side. When a participant picks up the apple in his or her teeth, if the apple has a “3” carved into it, he or she must take three shots of alcohol. If the number on the apple says 2, then two shots must be consumed. By the time the round is over, if make-up or special costume details are ruined by water, everybody will be having so much fun that nobody will care!
To make the game even more “interesting”, instead of floating the apples or miniature liquor bottles in water, put them in a tub full of jungle juice, which is a mix of hard liquor, fruit juices, beverages such as Kool-Aid or Tang, and chunks of fresh fruit.
The Movie Drinking Game
This is a very easy game, but everybody enjoys it because it’s just plain silly and adds another dimension of fun. Basically, the rules need to be agreed upon beforehand; a shot of alcohol must be consumed every time a certain event or cue happens in scary movie. For example, the rule might be to take a shot every time there is heavy breathing in a horror movie. At some parties, the cue to have a shot might be a scream. No matter what the cue is, one should make sure that it is something that will occur with enough frequency so that people can get a bit tipsy; the game will be a failure if the agreed-upon cue never takes place!
While this isn’t a typical Halloween drinking game, it will be a very appropriate game to play if there are people dressed up in Roman Centurion costumes. This is a game that should be played with beer due to the vast amount of shots that are consumed in a relatively short amount of time.
Centurion is played like this: participants usually sit at a table and have a shot glass placed in front of them. The shot glass is filled with beer, and a shot of beer is taken once a minute for one hundred minutes. While this may seem like a very tame amusement, one must keep in mind that 100 ounces of beer will be consumed in one hour and forty minutes; that’s the equivalent of 3 litres of beer, or roughly 6 pints. When was the last time you drank 6 pints of beer in under two hours?
A word of caution must be used here. Never, under any circumstances, attempt to play centurion with hard liquor; this can lead to alcohol poisoning at worst and one heck of a mess to clean up at best.
Halloween Beer Pong
Beer Pong is a familiar drinking game to students the world over: a team will bounce ping-pong balls on a table and get them to land in one of the cups of beer which are arranged in a triangle on the other side. If the ball does land in one of the beer cups, the opposing team must drink the beer. If the ball misses, the team bouncing the ball must drink one of their own beers. The team who finishes their beer first loses (or wins, depending on how you see the situation.) For a Halloween twist, instead of beer, use jungle juice or a punch recipe featuring a blood-red juice such as cranberry or raspberry juice and lots of vodka.
Halloween parties are fun, and these drinking games are guaranteed to make them even more fun. However, always remember to appoint designated drivers and never, under any circumstances, allow a person who’s been drinking to get behind the wheel of a car. Even one alcoholic beverage is enough to impair one’s judgement, so make driving arrangements beforehand, ensure there’s enough cash on hand to pay for a taxi, and have some space reserved for guests who may need to spend the night. Have a fun Halloween, and drink responsibly!
A Simple Method for Brewing Your Own Beer At Home
For those who love beer but hate paying the high prices in the markets, there’s a great solution which is brewing your own beer at home. While it does require some effort and a little bit of time, home beer brewing is basically an easy process and the massive savings make the work worth the effort. Furthermore, many will argue that a home-made beer tastes far superior to a beer from a supermarket shelf. Here is a simple method to make beer yourself, at home, and to keep things simple, rather than use dozens and dozens of small glass bottles that need to be capped, we will use 2-litre plastic pop bottles with reusable plastic lids.
All of the supplies can be purchased from www.homebrewing.org
First of all, you’ll need these items to brew your own beer.
1 38-litre food-grade pail with a plastic lid
1 siphon hose measuring about two meters long with an 8 mm diameter made of food-grade vinyl tubing
1 hose clamp for the siphon hose
12 2-liter plastic pop bottles with lids
1 large pot or a turkey roaster
Once these items have been acquired, the next step is to get the ingredients.
1 40oz or 1.2 liter can of malt extract in any flavour you prefer (light beer, dark beer, stout)
1 teaspoon or 5 ml of brewer’s yeast
1.5 -1.75 liters of white sugar or 2 liters of corn sugar, depending on the richness of flavour desired.
This recipe will yield about 23 liters of beer.
We highly recommend www.homebrewing.org for all of your supplies.
The Brewing Process
There are two main steps in the brewing process: that of sanitation and that of actual brewing.
Wash all equipment in warm, slightly soapy water and do not use any scouring-type cleaning instruments which can cause bacteria-friendly grooves in the plastic. After rinsing, use a no-rinse acid sanitizer which will kill bacteria without leaving any funny aftertaste.
Pour ten liters of fresh cold water into the big plastic pail.
Boil seven liters of water in the largest pot you have in your home.
Add the malt extract to the boiling water. Stir and let simmer uncovered for 20 minutes.
Add the sugar and stir until the sugar granules have dissolved.
Pour the malt, sugar and water mix into the pail with the cold water as soon as the sugar has dissolved. Pour quickly and in a splashy fashion to add as much oxygen as possible to the mix; this will ensure optimal yeast growth.
Top up with room-temperature tap water that has been boiled to kill off any bacteria or top up with bottled drinking water until the entire mixture cools down to a neutral temperature. The pail will be a bit more than half full at this point. To ensure that the proper temperature has been reached for optimal yeast growth (about 30 C), use a sanitized thermometer.
Sprinkle the yeast into the liquid. Stir everything well, and then loosely cover the pail with the lid. Do not seal the lid; if the pail is capped too tightly, it may explode from the carbon dioxide that is produced during the fermentation and brewing process.
Keep the beer covered, and avoid opening the pail unnecessarily as this can introduce air and can affect the taste of the beer negatively. The beer will need to sit for 6-10 days at room temperature, which should ideally be between 16-20 C, but a higher temperature up to a maximum of 24 degrees will also work. The higher the room temperature, the less time it will take for the beer to be ready.
Test the beer with the hydrometer after the 6-10 day brewing period. Once the hydrometer has been set into the beer, give it a quick spin to release any oxygen bubbles clinging to it which may give a false reading. Once that has been done, the hydrometer is ready to give an accurate measurement. A reading of 1.008 means that the beer will be ready for bottling if it is a dark beer, and a reading of 1.010 to 1.0150 will indicate that light beer is ready to be put into bottles.
Place the pail or “carboy” onto a sturdy table once the brew is ready and put the 2-liter pop bottles on the floor with some rags or newspapers underneath to catch any spills or drips that may occur.
Put two teaspoons or 10 ml of sugar in each pop bottle; use a funnel so that sugar doesn’t drop everywhere.
Siphon the liquid into the bottles, ensuring the sediment at the bottom of the pail isn’t disturbed. Do not agitate the beer or splash anything; any added oxygen will make the beer taste of cardboard box.
Keep the end of the siphon near the bottom of the bottle while siphoning, this will stop the liquid from developing a froth.
Leave an air space in each bottle do NOT fill each bottle to the top.
Screw the caps on tightly, invert each bottle and give each bottle a shake to make the sugar dissolve.
Place the filled bottles in a warm place for 2-4 days, then store in a dark, cool area. The beer will be ready to drink in a few days, but beer that is left to “age” in a cool, dark storage area for a longer time will taste better.
Beer made at home will taste terrific after aging for a few months, so keep in mind that many home beer brewers like to get a second batch of beer on the go as soon as possible so that some beer can be consumed shortly after brewing and some can be left to age.
For people who are making beer for the first time and are nervous about equipment, ingredients and other supplies and wish to have the most professional results possible, it is ideal to get a full beginner’s home beer brewing kit with everything that’s necessary to make a good beer. A Beginning Homebrew Equipment Kit from www.homebrewing.org only costs $69.99 and beer recipe kits are available at $22.99. Instructions are included with the kits and are also available at the homebrew.org website in PDF format.
Devilishly Delightful Drinks for Halloween
Halloween is the spookiest time of the year, with ghosts, goblins and all sorts of evil creatures wandering about, but it is also one of the most fun occasions, giving most people the opportunity to blow off some steam, wear a silly costume and have a good time. Make the night even more entertaining by treating yourself or your Halloween party guest to some of these delicious yet devilish cocktails and shots.
The Vampire Martini
For guests who like a little sophistication with a spooky twist.
1 martini glass, chilled
1 oz Chambord raspberry liqueur
1 oz Vodka
1 oz Cranberry juice
Mix all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with plenty of ice, stir for about 30 seconds, then strain and pour into the chilled martini glass.
The Vampire Bite
This is for those who want something a little more substantial in the fear department.
1 tall glass, filled with ice cubes
1 oz Vodka
½ oz Gin
½ oz Dry Vermouth
1 dash of Tequila
1 dash of salt
2 oz of clamato juice or tomato juice if clamato is not available.
Shake everything in a cocktail shaker with plenty of ice. Strain and pour over ice cubes.
The Thriller Zombie
This is for people who want a drink that will make them dance like the monsters in the famous “Thriller” video by Michael Jackson.
1 tall glass, filled with ice cubes
1 oz Rum
1 oz Almond liqueur
½ oz Triple sec
1 ½ oz Sweet and sour
2 oz orange juice
½ oz 151-proof rum
Shake all ingredients except the 151-proof rum in a shaker with ice. Strain and pour over the ice cubes, and float the 151-proof rum on top. Garnish with a maraschino cherry if desired.
After one of these, you won’t be “fraid of no ghosts”, guaranteed!
1 Pint glass
1 shot glass
1/3 oz Kahlua
1/3 oz Grand Marnier
1/3 oz Bailey’s Irish Cream
1 oz Rye Whiskey
8 oz Coca Cola
Layer the Kahlua, Bailey’s, and Grand Marnier in the shot glass, effectively making a classic B-52 shot. In the pint glass, mix the rye whiskey and coke. Drop the shot, glass and all, into the pint glass, and drink all in one go. This drink doesn’t contain any ice as it is made to be consumed quickly.
The Gothic Martini
Apparently this was Frankenstein’s favorite, and the Keeper of the Crypt is said to have one every night as a frightful constitutional.
1 martini glass, chilled
3 ½ oz Blavod vodka
½ oz Blackberry brandy or a black raspberry liqueur
Shake all ingredients except for the lemon twist in a cocktail shaker with lots of ice. Strain and pour into a chilled martini glass, and garnish with a twist of lemon.
Here are some delicious-tasting yet terrifying-looking shots that are sure to frighten yet delight those who drink them.
The Brain Hemorrhage
1 shot glass
1 oz Peach schnapps
1 tsp Bailey’s Irish Cream
½ tsp Grenadine
To give this drink its fiendish appearance, pour the peach schnapps into the shot glass first, then slowly pour in the Bailey’s Irish cream, making sure not to mix it. The Bailey’s will clump together, looking like a brain, and once the grenadine is poured into the drink, it will look exactly like a brain hemorrhage!
The Jack o’Lantern
A nice-looking but not so scary looking shot more appropriate for the faint-hearted.
1 shot glass
1/3 oz Kahlua
1/3 oz Bailey’s Irish Cream
1/3 oz Goldschlager
Mix all of the ingredients in a cocktail shaker with plenty of ice and strain into the shot glass.
The Flaming Jack o’Lantern
This is a drink that must be made with a tremendous amount of care because it is lit on fire; the drinker must remember to extinguish it before drinking.
1 shot glass
½ oz Kahlua
½ oz Bailey’s Irish Cream
¼ oz 151-proof rum
Mix the Kahlua and Bailey’s Irish Cream together in a shaker with some ice, strain and pour into the shot glass. Add the cinnamon sprinkles, and float the 151-proof rum on top. Light on fire, but again remember to extinguish the flame before drinking.
The Hound of Hell
A spicy drink that can bring a tear to a glass eye; especially devilish on Halloween. A word of caution however; if this drink is too spicy and a person is in pain after drinking it, immediately serve the person a small glass of full-fat milk or a spoonful of cold yoghurt; this will alleviate the pain better than a glass of water.
1 shot glass
¾ oz Whisky
¼ Tabasco sauce
Pour the Tabasco sauce in the shot glass first, followed by the whiskey. “Enjoy”.
The Stake Through the Heart
The perfect drink for going and slaying vampires.
1 shot glass
½ oz Drambuie
½ oz Scotch whisky
Dash of grenadine
Shake the Drambuie and scotch whiskey in a drink shaker with plenty of ice. Strain and pour into the shot glass, and gently pour grenadine down the inner side of the shot glass. The resulting drink will look appropriately terrifying.
With this fine selection of Halloween-themed cocktails and shots, all guests at your party or spooky event are sure to have a great time and enjoy the ghoul and goblin-filled night. However, do remember to drink responsibly and never drive after having an alcoholic beverage; you want to be around to enjoy the Halloween drinks again every year for a long time to come!
Clearing Up the Confusion about Rye Whiskey
When the word whisky or whiskey is mentioned, the first thing that most people will think of will be Scotch whisky, and some people might mention that whiskey comes from Ireland as well. However, what must be explained is that Scotch whisky and Irish whiskey are only two varieties of whiskey, and there exist many more types from all four corners of the world.
First of all, whiskey/whisky is a general term for a distilled alcoholic beverage that is made from fermented grain mash and typically aged in a wooden cask. The types of grain used in whisky production vary; corn, rye, malted rye, barley, malted barley and wheat can be used, and each grain variety makes a very unique style of whiskey.
The word whisky/whiskey itself has a very interesting history: originating from the Gaelic word for water uisce|uisge, it became anglicized. Furthermore, linguistics researchers have found that the Gaelic word in turn was a direct translation of the Latin word for distilled alcohol aqua vitae meaning “water of life”. In 1581, the word describing present-day whiskey was first published in English as “uskebeaghe”.
Therefore, as we can see, not all whiskeys are the same, nor will they present with the same flavours or characteristics; they only things they have in common are the preparation of ingredients, distillation, and aging in wooden barrels.
Rye whiskey, when spelled with an “e” between the “k” and “y” at the end of the word, generally refers to American rye whiskey, which, by law, must be distilled from at least 51% rye, but can also refer to Canadian whisky which can also be labelled as rye whisky without an “e” although it may not contain any rye at all. Canadian whisky, according to Canadian labelling laws, may advertise itself as a rye whisky as long as it possesses the general character, taste and smell of a rye whisky. However, for the sake of this article and for clarity, only American rye whiskey will be discussed.
American rye whiskey must be made from a mash of at least 51% rye, and other ingredients composing the mash are usually corn and malted barley. Distillation can be no stronger than 80% alcohol by volume, or 160 proof in the American alcoholic beverage industry terminology, and aging must be done in new oak barrels that have been charred. The maximum abv or alcohol by volume percentage of the whiskey when it goes in the barrels to age is 62.5 %. “Straight” rye whiskey is a rye whiskey that has been aged in a charred oak barrel for a minimum of two years.
Rye whiskey in the United States was very popular before the Prohibition era, especially in the country’s north eastern states of Maryland and Pennsylvania. However, most of the rye whiskey distilleries disappeared during Prohibition and only a handful survived the era. Old Overholt is one of the only American rye whiskey brands that is still around from back then; however a growing interest in American whiskeys is fuelling a revival with new brands and distillers trying their hand at distilling and marketing rye whiskey. Brands involved in the revival are Jim Beam, Four Roses, Heaven Hill, and Catoctin Creek, with a Mount Vernon distillery attempting to produce the same sort of rye whiskey that George Washington may have possibly made at his home during the era of America’s war of Independence.
Experts in different types of whiskeys compare the quality of American rye whiskey to that of an Islay scotch whiskey, meaning it is a very good variety indeed with highly unique characteristics. While bourbon, which is made of corn, is a bit sweeter and has a fuller body than rye whiskey, has long overtaken rye whiskey in the popularity game, connoisseurs claim that only rye whiskey can provide a fruity yet spicy flavour and is actually much more complex. While many bartenders will use bourbon for classic bar cocktails such as a whiskey sour or Manhattan, these recipes were originally intended to make drier, less sweet drinks and were specifically tailored for rye whiskey; cocktail aficionados will state that the bourbon substitution makes the beverages too sugary for their liking.
In fashionable circles, as mentioned previously, rye whiskey is making a comeback, and the flavour has been described as “dry, bold, and spicy, with greener, floral flavours from the grassier grain”. Further making those in the know happy is the fact that American rye whiskey ages exceptionally well, becoming smoother and spicier the older it gets. Brands that are getting more national and international attention are Sazerac Rye from the Buffalo Trace Distillery, Hudson Manhattan Rye from the Tuthilltown Spirits Distillery, and High West Double Rye! (there is an exclamation mark in the brand’s name apparently because it is that good) from the High West distillery.
More and more American rye whiskeys are coming on the market every day, and thus far, due to the tight regulations concerning labels, critics have not been able to find one that is bad. With options becoming more varied by the week and ranging in price from $25 to $55, trying a good rye whiskey is affordable and is a beverage which must be experienced. In fact, there are some who say that a person hasn’t really lived until they’ve had a proper Sazerac cocktail.
To make the legendary Sazerac cocktail, simply pour a little bit of Pernod in a chilled glass, making sure to pour the Pernod down the insides of the glass, thinly coating as much of the inner surface as possible. In a separate cocktail shaker, combine a teaspoon of sugar, a few dashes of bitters, and a drop or two of water. Stir until the sugar dissolves, then add plenty of ice and two ounces of Sazerac rye whiskey. Stir for about half a minute, until everything is well mixed, and then strain the liquid into the chilled glass containing the Pernod. Add a lemon twist, and enjoy the American rye whiskey life experience.
Moscato white wine, made from the Muscat Blanc grape which grows mostly in Piedmont in Italy, is a little bit different from all other wines and it is worthwhile to try it as a delightful little change in one’s wine-drinking routine. Fresh, fruity, floral, and fragrant, the frizzante or slightly sparkling wine is on the light side of things, with a lower alcohol content than other reds and whites, and has a sweeter taste. For a person who may have never tried wine before, Moscato is the perfect introduction; and although it’s a wine beginner wine enthusiasts enjoy, experts adore it for its sophisticated nuances and refreshing palate.
Moscato grapes are believed to be the oldest cultivated varietal of grapes in the world, and along with making wines, they are also grown for raisins and can be eaten straight from the stem as other table grapes are. While they are mostly grown in Italy, they are also cultivated in almost every wine region on the planet.
While usually labelled simply as Moscato, if the wine comes from the Piedmont region, it will be labelled as Moscato d’Asti (a town in Piedmont). The first few things a person will notice about Moscato are its fragrance of flowers, spritzy – almost sparkling- character, lower alcohol content of about 8 %, light body, golden straw colour, and sweet, fruit forward flavour.
The aromas characteristic of Moscato are dazzling, exotic and refreshing all at the same time. Orange blossom, ginger, almonds, honeysuckle, citrus notes and peach all form a part of the wine’s dizzying perfume, and the flavour ranges from semi-sweet to sweet, with a fruity start and a crisp, medium acidity. Tastes have been described as a combination reminiscent of peaches, oranges, apples, citrus, pears, and apricot. The taste has been described by “newbies” to wine drinking as heavenly; the mix of bubbles, sweetness, acidity and fruitiness wins over almost everyone who gives it a try.
Moscato, like all other wine varietals, comes in a large price range. On the lower end of the price spectrum, about $6, Moscato wine tends to be very sweet with big fruit flavours, and on the higher end of the scale, over $200, it tends to have more floral aromatics, be semi-sweet, and have a flavour that makes one think of stonefruit, apricots, and peaches.
Moscato wine tends to be a favourite beverage during the day-time, served at brunches, lunches, and afternoon tea. Many also believe that Moscato is best when it accompanies dessert in the evening time; no matter what time Moscato is served, whether it’s brunch, lunch, as an aperitif or digestif, all agree that it must be served cold in order for all the flavours and textures to be fully appreciated.
This festive and celebratory wine, due to its combination of sweet and acidic, makes it incredibly versatile when it comes to wine and food pairing. It must be served young; aging it is of no benefit whatsoever, and the first pairings which come to mind are desserts. Moscato goes well with fresh berries such as wild blackberries, desserts made of apples, peach cobbler, fruit crumble, lemon meringue pie, lemon-poppy cakes, and desserts featuring hazelnuts, which compliment the wine’s level of acidity. The wine also goes very nicely with summer salads or salads made with fresh, garden-grown greens.
While people tend to naturally think of sweet food pairings for Moscato, it also goes incredibly well with some unexpected food items. Moscato d’Asti will match perfectly well with cheese courses featuring strong and mild cheeses, charcuterie (preserved meats such as jamon Serrano from Spain), and antipasto plates featuring sundried tomatoes, eggplant, artichokes, and olives.
Another interesting characteristic of Moscato which makes it an attractive wine to drink is the plentiful presence of flavonoids which are antioxidants. While red wine has the fame of having these anti-aging compounds in its components, Moscato wine has just as many of them or even more, according to some experts in the chemistry and wine-making fields. Therefore, a glass or two of Moscato a day could be just as beneficial to one’s health as a glass or two of red wine.
As mentioned previously, Moscato grapes are grown all over the world and Moscato wines are produced, however, the wines are known by slightly different names; either a different sub-type of Moscato grape is used in the wine-making process or the spelling differs slightly due to language differences. Both Australia and Austria produce “Muscat” wines, with Austria producing “muskatellers” ranging from dry to very sweet. In France, Moscato grapes are used for Vins Doux Naturels, sweet natural wines, and one of the best-known Moscatos is the dry Muscat D’Alsace. Greek-produced Moscato is called Moschaton, Moscatel is the wine from Lebanon, and Portugal produces the famed Moscatel de Setubal and Moscatel de Favaios.
Overall, Moscato is a wine that has been made for centuries, if not millennia, and continues to be a favourite with wine-drinkers all over the world for good reason: it can be sweet or it can be dry, it has a beautiful floral, citrus fruity aroma accompanied by a fruity flavour that can be big or can be subtle, according to the price one pays. The wine’s slight fizziness intensifies all the flavours, and when served ice-cold a glass of Moscato is no longer just a drink, it becomes an experience. Although prices do start at the very low end of the spectrum, it is no reflection on quality and even a person who doesn’t have much to spend on a bottle of wine will find he or she can do no wrong with an inexpensive bottle of Moscato.s
The Best Wines for Under Ten Dollars
For those who don’t have much experience with wine, the idea of being responsible for a wine to go with a specially prepared meal can be almost panic-inducing: everyone knows good wine is incredibly difficult to select and good wine is expensive. If a dinner guest has been told by the host or hostess to bring along a bottle of wine for everyone to share, the pressure is on and for a wine beginner or novice, selecting the wine can become a painful experience.
This does not necessarily have to be the case. In this article we will show how a person with a small budget and no wine experience whatsoever will be able to select a wine that will be able to accomplish something almost miraculous: please both the wine experts and new wine drinkers at the same time and not break the bank. We will highlight the top three wines which never fail to impress, and we will also show how to select a good, inexpensive wine with confidence if one cannot find one of our three wines at his or her local wine shop. First however, come our favourite three wines which are all under ten dollars, but taste like wines that could easily cost in the $25-$35 range.
Red Wine: Torres Sangre de Toro
Grape Varietal: Garnacha and Cariñena blend
Price Range: $9-$11 depending on shop location
Sangre de Toro, a blended red wine from Spain could easily be our favourite red wine; the fact that it’s inexpensive actually has nothing to do with it. What makes this wine so great is that it is consistent year after year, making it an almost fool-proof choice as a wine to present to guests. Sangre de Toro has a dark ruby color, is leggy, balanced, lush from oak, and is medium bodied, supple, and most importantly, is smooth with no hint of the sourness that some cheap wines present. Furthermore, it doesn’t have the bizarre, heavy, almost sweet clove flavour that other inexpensive red wines seem to have. The wine has some bright raspberry and cherry notes at the end, but what makes this wine stand out from the rest of the pack is the little punch of peppery spice that one feels after swallowing a sip, making this wine great to drink by itself or as an accompaniment to any type of food. Sangre de Toro is a great all-rounder and is easy to recognize at the shop: it’s the bottle which proudly has a little plastic black bull attached to the cap.
Red Wine: Jose Maria da Fonseca Periquita
Grape Varietal: Castelão (75%), Trinadeira (15%), and Aragonez (10%)
Price Range: $8-$10 depending on shop location
Periquita is one of Portugal’s most famous exports; having been in production since 1850, it is highly regarded as a very good product from Fonseca’s line. While at first price was what got our attention several years ago, we now select this wine simply because it’s good, even though we can afford more expensive wines. Periquita has a lovely deep ruby hue and smells divine with aromas of figs, plums, raspberries and interestingly, blackberries. This wine is fruity without being sweet, isn’t too light tasting or too heavy tasting, and finds the perfect balance providing a long, smooth finish. Periquita is terrific to drink on its own, but is especially good when paired with cured cheeses, turkey, and can very easily hold up to and enhance a meal when red meat is served.
White Wine: Casal Garcia Vinho Verde
Grape Varietal: Trajadura, loureiro, arinto, azal
Price Range: $9-$10, depending on shop location
Inexpensive, reminiscent of summer and bright, Casal Garcia Vinho Verde (translates literally to “green wine”) is one of the very few wines that makes it into serious wine critics “top ten wines under fifty dollars” lists year after year. Even the biggest wine snobs will break into happy smiles when they hear Casal Garcia will be served; it’s another wine that most have tried when their budgets were microscopic but continue to drink because it’s great. Making Vinho Verde unique is that although it is not a sparkling wine, it has a refreshing “pop” to it which makes it an ideal wine to bring along to the beach or pool party or anywhere it’s hot. While technically not a complicated wine, it has a clean, lemon-lime aroma and has a bit of fizz with a citrus flavour that can brighten anyone’s day. Best of all, due to its relative simplicity, it’s easy to pair with food with some saying it is the best wine to serve with sushi or fresh, cold dishes.
Selecting a wine when our selections are not available
The problem with many suggested Top Ten wine lists is that whether they are expensive or cheap, the recommended wines may not be available. Here’s what to look for if our three wines are not available at your local wine shop.
First of all, keep in mind the food that you will be eating. If your meal will be a heavy, buttery or creamy dish, select a Chardonnay white wine. Chardonnay means the name of the grape that was used to make the wine; different grapes have different characteristics, and chardonnay tends to go well with buttery, cheesy or creamy meals.
If you will be eating something spicy, then select a Gewurztraminer white wine which is a little bit sweet.
If eating red meat, a heavier wine will be good, such as a Cabernet Sauvignon red wine, a Malbec red wine, or a Merlot red wine.
If eating fish or seafood, a crowd-pleasing choice will be a Rosé wine, which is pink in color and a little bit sweeter than red or white wines but not as sweet as a Gewurztraminer white.
After selecting the type of wine, select the country of production. Good wine producing countries are France, Spain, Australia, Argentina, Chile, Portugal, Italy and South Africa, while Germany produces the best Gewurztraminer wines. All of these wine producing countries have great selections available for under $15 and to get the best value for money, don’t be afraid to ask the shop employee for help choosing.