Beer and Brewing – 101

...All thats fit to drink....!

Beer. We all know it. We’ve all consumed it, to greater or lesser degrees. Its consumption seems to be an unofficial rite of passage for most Americans, what with its constant presence at parties, from high school till now, in your life. Perhaps the oldest prepared food that man has, its ubiquitousness is such that we rarely think of what it really is. That begs the questions: What the hell is beer? Where did it come from, and why the hell is it still around?

ahhhh, awaiting the Milk of Demeter...

What is it? Simply put, beer is yeast poop from a diet of rotted grass seed. Where did it come from? Wherever man first started to store grain, domestic and/or wild. When it got wet, due to primitive storage methods and nature, humans found that drinking the liquid off the rotting, wet grain was more fun than the grain itself. Why is it still around? Because no known pathogen (a big word for some bug that makes you sick) can live in it, though the concepts “sick” and “beer” really are debatable, and probably not mutually exclusive, as we all can attest to from some memory point. Beer is, as anyone that gives it more than a cursory analysis, synonymous with civilization.

Because of this, which is like nine cats with nine lives, all multiplied together; it has a long history and a much longer story. I’ll leave that for other discussions already better done (believe me; it would easily fill a library. I’ve been subjected to its minutiae in my history as a master brewer. ). What I would like to focus on is simply the basic process that brings about this venerated liquid. No frills, no in-depth discussions of chemistry, no modern tales of brewing empires rising and falling, just the basic liquid, plain and simple.

It all starts, long ago in the mists of time, when agriculture developed, with a humble grass that goes by the name of Triticum. Both Barley and Wheat are this. There is a crucial difference, however. Wheat, because of a protein called gluten, is ideal for baking. Barley lacks gluten, making it fit for either pig food or brewing (fitting, no?). As these two grains were further domesticated, the difference became greater. Hence, in all of history, you have never heard of a war between brewers and bakers over raw materials for their trades. Each went their merry way with their respective art, avoiding each other’s toes.

A selection of different malts

Enough of bread and baking (we’ll leave that for another discussion), let’s move on to the other staff of life, beer. Ok, so now we have barley, its main ingredient. Do we brew with barley? Technically, no, we don’t. Beer is brewed, not with barley, but with malt, which is (avoiding a whole lot of technical stuff) sprouted barley. There are hundreds of malts in the world and many variations on them (hence why one can have a career as a Maltster), but that is what malt is: sprouted barley. Avoiding (as I promised) the academic details, malt is brewable because the sprouting broke the carbohydrates of the barley down to sugars, which the yeast loves to eat. The yeast will gorge themselves on these sugars, fermenting them into CO2 and that other thing (which is a main reason we have beer), ethyl alcohol.

But I’m getting ahead of myself and giving away the end of the story. Let’s get back to the brewing process itself. Since, in most people’s minds, Germany is synonymous with brewing, and have perfected the process to a high art form, most terms used in brewing are German. I will be using these terms. Fear not, for it is not as daunting a thing as it may seem, and, hopefully, you are all still with me, now and later.

A classic Mash Tun...Where the magic starts

The Process: Water, as they say, is the universal solvent, and no exceptions will be made in the brewing process for this truism. Brewing begins with mixing warm water with ground malt into a Mash Tun. This is called Mashing. Here, nature will work its magic on the malt and enzymes will make the malt’s carbohydrates into sugars. After a set period of time and temperature, according to recipes, the mash, grain, water and all, will be transferred to the next vessel, the Lauter Tun.

....and a classic Lauter Tun

I like to think of the Lauter Tun as a big strainer or tea bag. It will separate the liquid from all the solids that are now no longer needed. What is needed is the same thing the yeast wants: the sugar-liquid. So, it is strained off, this being called called Vorlauf (the bottom of a Lauter Tun is a screen) and more water added to rinse out the remaining sugars. This is called Sparging, rinsing the grains to get the maximum amount of sugar that we can (waste not; want not). All of this draining and rinsing of the malt will go to another vessel. It’s called the Kettle.

last , but not least, the kettle...

To the Kettle we go: The liquid, at this point, is called Wort. All the malt that went through this process and is left behind in Lauter Tun shall now go to hog feed (we haven’t forgotten them, now have we?) Once all the desired Wort is present, we start the boil. Trust me. It’ll all make sense.

This is where we will boil the Wort. Boiling will sterilize the Wort, and it’s also here where we add the next ingredient: Hops. That’s the smell, aroma and bitterness of the beer. I’ll cover them in another article. Suffice to say, beer would taste like soggy bread without them.

What they look loike in their natural form, Hops

After the Wort is hopped and boiled, it is quickly cooled, and the yeast, those hungry devils, are put in it. Putting the yeast in is called “Pitching”. It will now ferment into what we call beer, and will become, well, quaffable (or so we hope!).

Ok, that’s really as simple as I can put it. I have left out an awful lot of things, but I feel that I got my initial goal across, Beer and Brewing 101. Feel free to ask any questions that you may have, which will lead to elaboration on parts, topics and processes that were not necessarily covered. And there are many….oh so many……!

There will be so much more, believe me

Chicken with Brussels Sprouts and Mustard Sauce

I love meals that are quick and easy. Add in healthy and delicious and I really don’t need anything else. I found this recipe in the December 2011 issue of Cooking Light. I tweaked it a little to suit my tastes, and 45 minutes from start to finish, make this a keeper for my regular meal rotation.

Chicken with Brussels Sprouts and Mustard Sauce
Adapted from Cooking Light

- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 8 skinless, boneless chicken thighs
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/2 cup chicken broth
- 1/4 cup unfiltered apple cider
- 2 tablespoons whole-grain Dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 tablespoon chopped, fresh flat-leaf parsley

Brussles Sprouts:
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 12 ounces Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- pinch of sugar
- 1/4 cup chicken broth

Rosemary Potatoes:
- 12 ounces quartered red potatoes
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

- Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Combine all ingredients for potatoes in a large bowl. Spread potatoes on jelly-roll pan. Bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown and tender.
- Meanwhile, heat a large ovenproof skillet over high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of oil.
- Sprinkle both sides of chicken with salt, pepper, onion powder and garlic powder. Add to pan. Cook 3 minutes or until browned. Turn chicken; place pan in oven. Bake at 450 degrees for 9 minutes or until done. Remove chicken from pan; keep warm.
- Warm chicken pan over medium high heat. Add chicken broth and cider; bring to a boil, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer 4 minutes or until thickened. Whisk in mustard, 1 tablespoon butter and parsley.
- While sauce is cooking, prepare Brussels sprouts. Heat butter and oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add Brussels sprouts; saute 2 minutes or until lightly browned. Add salt, pepper and sugar. Stir to make sure sprouts are seasoned. Add chicken broth, cover and cook 4 minutes or until crisp tender.
-Serve potatoes and Brussels sprouts with chicken and mustard sauce.

Here’s my ten cents, my two cents is free. For more recipes, product reviews and restaurant tips (especially in and around Memphis, TN) Please visit my food blog, Tiffany Tastes.
If you want to contact me, drop me a line at tiffany(at)tiffanytastes(dot)com
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Chilaquiles with Ancho Roasted Sweet Potatoes

Whenever I try new recipes, I usually get my insipration from blogs that I read. I currently subscribe to approximately 15 food blogs that cover a range of subjects, from wine to rustic, and some of them are just people that I know and want to support.

A local Memphis photographer and vegetarian, Justin Burks (whose olive oil shortbread is covered here) posted a recipe on his blog, The Chubby Vegetarian, that intrigued me. From the moment I read the ingredient list, I wanted to make these chilaquiles with ancho roasted sweet potatoes.

This recipe is full of all kinds of delicious veggies. And, in my version, I lighten it up a little bit (Although, it is already quite healthy.)

Chilaquiles with Ancho Roasted Sweet Potatoes

Adapted from The Chubby Vegetarian’s Chilaquiles + Ancho Roasted Sweet Potatoes

Ancho Roasted Sweet Potatoes

1 1/2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and diced

1/2 tablespoon of ancho chili powder

1/4 teaspoon onion powder

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1 tablespoon brown sugar

salt and pepper to taste

2 tablespoons olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss potatoes in olive oil until coated. Combine remaining ingredients, sprinkle over potatoes and mix until evenly coated. Spread in a single layer on a foil-lined baking sheet and roast for 20 minutes, or until potatoes are tender and edges start to darken.


1/4 cup onion (diced)

1/4 cup green bell pepper (diced)

1 tomato (peeled, diced)

2 eggs and 1/2 cup egg substitute (thoroughly mixed)

1 1/2 cups baked tortilla chips

2 ounces goat cheese

2 tablespoons olive oil

salt & pepper

Mexican hot sauce (I use Valentina)

sour cream

In a pan over medium-high heat, sauté onions and peppers in olive oil until the onion is translucent. Add the tomatoes and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated. Season egg mixture with salt and pepper. In a shallow baking dish, place one handful of tortilla chips so that they cover the bottom of the dish, pour in half of the eggs, and add half of the vegetable mixture. Repeat. Top with goat cheese, and place into a 400-degree oven for 20 minutes or until the eggs are set. Serve chilaquiles over the sweet potatoes. Garnish with hot sauce and sour cream.

Here’s my ten cents, my two cents is free. For more recipes, product reviews and restaurant tips (especially in and around Memphis, TN) Please visit my food blog, Tiffany Tastes.

If you want to contact me, drop me a line at tiffany(at)tiffanytastes(dot)com


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Recipe Needed Alert: Lomo Saltado

We recently had a visitor with us via Rotary Group Study Exchange — she was delightful, and we all learned a lot about each other and our respective cultures and countries (and she learned about outlet malls, muhahaha) but anyhow, it reminded me of one of my favorite dishes — lomo saltado. This is a combination of beef cooked in a special way, rice, and, well, french fries.

Lomo Saltado...

However, all I have for recipes are those I find in various Google searches. If you have one you’ve tried, that you really really like, please post it here, and I’ll give it a go (and post pictures, steps, etc.) …

Help a hungry brother out…

Delicious Dip

A friend of mine posted this dip recipe on Facebook and said it was “Delicious!” So, I put it on my to-do list, and at a recent dinner party I busted out this recipe. It only takes a little extra effort than the store-bought version, and it’s so much better.

It all starts with a pan full of onions

Cook ‘em low and slow until they turn golden brown and delicious

Throw it in a food processor with a few other ingredients and blend to the desired consistency. It couldn’t get any easier or more delicious.

Caramelized Onion Dip
Adapted from A Dash of Sass

2 large yellow onions
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
6 ounces light cream cheese, softened to room temperature
2/3 cup reduced fat sour cream
2/3 cup light mayonnaise
1/2 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
salt and pepper to taste

- Quarter the onion and cut into strips
- Heat a large saucepan over medium heat. Combine butter and olive oil in pan.
- Add the onions, salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder and cayenne. Saute for about 10 minutes, until softened. Reduce heat to medium-low and continue sauteing for another 30 minutes, stiring frequently, until the onions are browned and caramelized.
- Add balsamic vinegar to the pan. Cook an additional 2 minutes
- Remove onions from pan and let cool.
- Place cream cheese, sour cream, mayonnaise, Worcestershire sauce into a food processor. Process until well-combined.
- Add the onions. Process to desired consistency (I left mine a little chunky, but you can definitely go until it’s smooth)
-Season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir to combine.
- Serve at room temperature with chips (or a spoon!).

This dip is even better the second or third day.

Here’s my ten cents, my two cents is free. For more recipes, product reviews and restaurant tips (especially in and around Memphis, TN) Please visit my food blog, Tiffany Tastes.

If you want to contact me, drop me a line at tiffany(at)tiffanytastes(dot)com

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