Friday, October 21, 2011

All Grain Brewing on the Stovetop, and a "Half Nelson" IPA Recipe

Half Nelson IPA

We've been wanting to try all grain brewing for quite some time now. Moving to partial mash brewing made a huge difference in the quality of our beers, and we were curious about how much more we could gain from going all grain.

But, every time we thought about taking the plunge, we always balked at the logistics. A 5-gallon brew pot wouldn't fit on our stove top, so we'd need to get a burner for the patio. Then the hassle of getting the three-tiered set up of hot sparge water above the grain bed to be drained into a huge brew pot. And finally, trying to cool the big 5-gallon pot of wort, then lugging it into the house to transfer to the carboy for fermentation... It just seemed like too much.

Then one day a simple solution occurred to us - we could just do a half batch! Essentially, doing a standard partial mash but omitting the extract and keeping the final batch size at 2.5 gallons gets you an all grain beer.

The obvious drawback is that you only get 2.5 gallons of beer, while doing almost the same amount of work as for a 5 gallon partial mash. But still, it is all-grain brewing on the stovetop with no more equipment than you need for partial mash.

We happened to have some Nelson Sauvin hops on hand, so we decided to brew a beer featuring them. The result was a very nice, light (both in color and body - it is lighter than it looks in the photo) and clean tasting beer. Was it better than what we get with partial mash? Hard to say, since we've never worked with the Nelson hops before. We will have to give the technique a try with one of our more standard IPA recipes.

Given the half batch, and the use of the Nelson, we couldn't possibly have named the beer anything other than "Half Nelson" IPA.

Half Nelson IPA

Total batch size = 2.5 gallons; All Grain Mash in 3 gallon beverage cooler; 2.5 to 3 gallon 60 minute stove-top boil; dry hopped for aroma; target abv of 6%.

6 lb 2-Row Pale Malt
1/4 lb Wheat Malt
1/4 lb Carapils/Dextrin Malt
2 oz Nelson Hops (8.0% AA)
1/2 oz Centennial Hops (8.8% AA)
3/4 oz Simcoe Hops (12.3% AA)
1 tablet Whirlfloc
White Labs WLP051 California Ale V Yeast

Hop Schedule:
1/4 oz Centennial - 60 minutes boil
1/4 oz Centennial - 45 minutes boil
1/2 oz Nelson - 45 minutes boil
1/4 oz Nelson - 30 minutes boil
1/4 oz Simcoe - 30 minutes boil
1/4 oz Simcoe - 15 minutes boil
1/4 oz Nelson - 2 minutes boil
1 oz Nelson- Dry Hop in Secondary Fermenter
1/4 oz Simcoe - Dry Hop in Secondary Fermenter

Heat 8 quarts water to 167 degrees for a target mash temperature of about 152 degrees. Place the crushed grain (2-Row Pale, Wheat and Carapils) into a large mesh bag. Pour the hot water into the beverage cooler, then lower the grain bag into the water very slowly, pushing and prodding with a large spoon to ensure all the grain is wet (this can take several minutes). Put the lid on the cooler and allow to rest 60 minutes.

While the grains are mashing, heat another 5-6 quarts of water to 180-185 degrees for sparging (rinsing the grains). Near the end of the 60 minutes, heat 2 quarts of water to a boil in your brew pot.

After the first mash is complete, remove the cooler lid and open the spigot to draw off about 2 quarts of wort into a large pitcher. The first few draws will likely be cloudy with grain particles; pour it gently back into the cooler over the grain bag to help filter it. Draw off the remaining wort by the pitcher-full and carefully pour that wort into the boiling water in your brew pot; continue until only a trickle of wort leaves the spigot. Pour about 5 quarts of your hot sparge water over the grain bag in the cooler. Gently lift the bag up and down to thoroughly re-wet the grains (but don't slosh). Cover and let sit about 5 minutes. Use the spigot and a pitcher to draw off all of the second wort and add it to your brew pot.

You should have about 3 gallons of wort. Bring the wort to a boil and add hops according to the schedule. With 15 minutes remaining in the boil, stir in 1 tablet Whirlfloc. At time zero, remove the pot from the heat, cover and let sit 10-15 minutes.

Move brew pot to an ice bath and cool quickly to less than 80 degrees. Transfer wort to a primary fermenter (straining off the hops if desired). Add water to reach the 2.5 gallon mark if necessary. Swirl vigorously then pitch the yeast.

Ferment in primary for 1 week, then transfer to secondary. After seven days, dry hop with 1 oz Nelson and 1/4 oz Simcoe. Bottle or keg after fermentation is complete (2 to 3 weeks in secondary).

Friday, October 7, 2011

Sonoran Hot Dogs at Papa Locos in Tucson

Sonoran Dog at Papa Locos

If you need a quick bite to to eat in Tucson, a Sonoran hot dog is a pretty good way to go. Coming west into south Tucson on I10, we took a quick detour north to check out Papa Locos.

Papa Locos in Tucson, Arizona

Papa Locos lives in a little side addition next to a Valero gas station's convenience store. There are a variety of items on their menu, but the Sonoran hot dog was our focus.

Sonoran hot dogs (named after the Mexican State where they originated) are Tucson's version of the bacon-wrapped hot dog. To me, the primary factors that differentiate the Sonoran dog from its cousins are the addition of pinto beans and jalapeƱo sauce and the distinctive bun (which has the texture of a standard hot dog bun, but is shaped more like a bolillo).

Sonoran Dog at Papa Locos

Probably the most well-known place for Sonoran dogs in Tucson is El Guero Canelo, but I found Papa Locos' version to be superior in pretty much every way. The meat, beans and chile sauce each have their own intense flavor, and the combination is fantastic.

Papa Locos' Sonoran dogs go for $2.99 a pop. One each wasn't quite enough for lunch, so Sherry and I split a caramelo (a kind of mini-quesadilla) to pad out the meal.

Highly recommended.

Papa Locos
8201 South Rita Road
Tucson, Arizona
(520) 663-3333 ‎ 

Monday, October 3, 2011

Green Chile Cheeseburgers at Monroe's and Blake's Lotaburger

Monroe's in Albuquerque

Road tripping through New Mexico means that Green Chile Cheeseburgers are very much on the agenda. This trip, we had two.

First up was Monroe's, in Albuquerque. I chose Monroe's because it was well-reviewed and within walking distance of our hotel (Casa de Suenos, which I highly recommend). When we arrived, the place was pretty dead. Undeterred, we entered into the harsh, florescently-lit room and sat down.

Green Chile Cheeseburger at Monroe's

You can see the green chile cheeseburger above, served with sweet potato fries (I ordered regular fries). Overall, it disappointed. Not enough green chile for the flavor to really come through, and the burger itself was the thin, frozen puck style you would buy at Costco. It was decently prepared, though, and I had no trouble eating it. Unfortunately, the same couldn't be said about their carne adovada, which we also tried - way too salty, and lacking in flavor.

Overall, it was a pretty bad dining experience. Monroe's seems like a place that has seen better days, and it would be hard to recommend based on our visit.

The next day, we had a much better meal at Blake's Lotaburger in Deming:

Blake's Lotaburger in Deming

We wrote about the green chile cheeseburger at Blake's a few years ago, and this visit was nearly identical. Here is the Lotaburger with double meat, add cheese and green chile:

Green Chile Cheeseburger at Blake's Lotaburger

The amount of green chile was perfect, with tons of chile flavor and a good amount of heat.

Green Chile Cheeseburger at Blake's Lotaburger

There is nothing complicated about this burger - just a better-than-average fast food burger, well prepared, and with the key addition of chopped up Hatch green chile. If someplace in San Diego puts a burger like this on their menu, I will happily give them my money on a regular basis.

1520 Lomas Blvd. NW
Albuquerque, New Mexico
(505) 242-1111
Blake's Lotaburger
600 North Gold Street
Deming, New Mexico
(575) 544-7302