Fermenting In New Haven: Common Ground Workshop

Today I write about something that is not inherently beer-related, but definitely made me think about the brewing process. This Saturday I spent a relaxing rainy day at what may be the coolest (in my opinion) high school in Connecticut. For those who are unfamiliar, Common Ground is an environmental charter high school in New Haven that was founded in 1997. In addition to core academic subjects such as math and literature, students at Common Ground have a curriculum that is focused on the environment. Classrooms include kitchens, farms, and even state parks. I spoke with one student who is currently raising chickens and learning how to (humanely) butcher them. Definitely not things I knew how to do as a junior in high school.

You don’t have to be a high school student to take advantage of the resources Common Ground offers, though. They have a series of classes offered to both families and adults. This weekend I took a class on Canning and Fermentation, where I learned how to jar food for preservation, and wild fermentation through making sauerkraut. The canning (which is technically called jarring) portion was taught by Common Ground chef Theresa Brooks, and the fermentation section taught by Diane Litwin, who is an educator at Common Ground.

I have family members who have won awards for jams and jellies and other Mason jars full of delicious. So I figured it was time to learn myself. You can’t just put fruit in a Mason jar and call it a preserve. There is a bit more to it than that, but it’s still fairly cheap and not that difficult. The process? Basically, boil, dry, insert pickles/fruit/kim chi/whatever, put the lid on, and boil again. The amount of time a jar must stay submerged in the boiling water seems to be different for each recipe or person making it, but it generally seems to be 10-20 minutes. I think the most important thing I learned was not to re-use the lids on the jars. Apparently you can buy a box of them for a few dollars. Once the are unsealed, you can re-use everything else, but the lid can be dented or damaged once the jar is opened.

Wild fermentation is a totally different animal, and made me think way differently about sour beers. The bacteria that is allowed into the sauerkraut, or beer, or anything else, builds up and allows our bodies to digest food easier. You are adding all the organisms from the atmosphere around you. Plus, as Diane brought up, fermentation has been around for centuries, and continuing to do it is honoring an ancient tradition. Until I can come up with a good place to brew sours and pick up some extra equipment, my homebrews will be bacteria-free (intentionally, anyway) for awhile. But it’s definitely something I would like to pursue more.

Since the Mason jars provided a strong seal, I decided to a bit of research on whether I could bottle my beer in them. The first obvious issue would be the clear glass. I have seen some Mason-style jars in other colors, but they are not as easy to find as the clear variety. I have not seen any in brown, either. So that’s a bit of a problem. The seal is created through high temperatures, almost like a vacuum. You know it’s sealed properly when you hear that signature “pop” sound. However, when you’re carbonating inside the jar, the pressure that builds up could potentially cause the seal (and the jar) to break.

So unlike this article from my favorite news source suggests, you can’t use Mason jars for EVERYTHING. But, you certainly can for lots of things. and I will continue to demand that if I go to a hip (or hipster) bar, I need to drink my pint out of a Mason jar while bathing in the Edison-lightbulb glow of a Mason jar chandelier. It’s only right.

https://i0.wp.com/cdn.greenweddingshoes.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/kenkienow-wedding-25.jpg
And upon seeing this, I will undoubtedly say “WHAT A GOOD IDEA”.
Advertisements

Run To The Brews: Craft Brew Races Hit New England

Having a cold beer after doing some physical activity is pretty satisfying.

The Craft Brew Races are taking that satisfaction across New England this summer, offering a run with a beer festival that showcases local brews and other craft beers from around the area. The races will be stopping in New Haven this Saturday. I have never run a 5K before, and generally maintain the attitude that I only run if I am being chased. However, I’ve been training with the Couch to 5K app on my phone, as well as my own Outkast to 5k (where I made a playlist of Outkast songs with beats to go along with my intervals of running or walking- GENIUS). Working out makes the taste of beer that much more delicious, and it’s helping me get in shape, too. Luckily, if you are not 100% prepared to run a whole 5k, the Craft Beer Race calls itself a “relaxed” 5k, which encourages walkers as well.

The race takes place in Edgewood Park at 12 PM, and for non-runners, the beer festival drinking begins at 12:30 PM.

https://i0.wp.com/www.craftbrewraces.com/img/hdr/newhaven.jpg

The post-race beer fest is free for runners, or if you’re simply someone enjoying the beer-drinking, you can get a ticket to the festival only for $45. Registration goes offsale online this evening, so be sure to grab them while you can!

If you live outside of CT or need an excuse for an end-of-summer road trip, the Craft Brew Races will be in Waterville Valley, NH on August 23 and Cape Cod on September 28.

Now Beer (And Eat) This: New Haven Restaurant Week Spring 2014

Having plenty of friends in the hospitality industry, I have mixed feelings about Restaurant Week. If you’re working it, it can be stressful. It’s also possibly not as lucrative for servers and bartenders as one would think, since the awesome $32 dinner prix fixe means people aren’t spending as much money, and therefore aren’t tipping as much.

But I digress. There’s a lot of inherently great things about Restaurant Week. It gives you a chance to try new things, and the restaurants participating are from a variety of countries and styles.

For craft beer fans, there are a few “best bets”.

Caseus Fromagerie Bistro

Caseus is known for their cheese-heavy fare, but I’ve actually enjoyed their dishes that are lighter on the dairy. For restaurant week, they will be serving up both lunch and dinner specials. When I go out to eat, I like to go all out and eat things I wouldn’t normally eat on the regular. At Caseus, the restaurant menu is full of decadent duck. Fried duck eggs are available to add to most of the courses, as well as duck confit and sausage. Although they only have a handful of beers on draft, they make the most of them available taps, tending to lean towards the Belgian styles.

 

 

With 56 beers on draft and over 80 interesting things in bottles, beer lovers can’t go wrong with Cask Republic. I’ve always enjoyed their late night menu, which tends to be pub fare stepped up a notch. For restaurant week, Cask is offering a choice of trout or steak as a main course, or a choice of two small plates. I would probably go for the small plates, because the short rib meatballs and cauliflower gratinado sound pretty awesome.

New Haven Restaurant Week goes from now until Friday; you can check out all the participating restaurants here. There’s also a $5 parking garage special! So you don’t have to worry about getting a ticket on the street or dealing with feeding a meter.

Get Real, Get Ready For The CT Real Ale Festival

It’s time to get real. Real ale that is- the annual Connecticut Real Ale Festival is coming to BAR on Sunday, January 26. I’m pretty excited because this is the first year I’ve been able to get the day off work and attend. And for my first time going, it looks like it’s going to be a great lineup of breweries. But before I get into that, a little background on real ale might be needed.

To be honest, I didn’t know what real ale was until a few years ago. “Real Ale” is cask-conditioned beer. The term “real ale” was coined by CAMRA (the Campaign For Real Ale), which is an organization based in England that promotes cask ale and cider, as well as the pubs that sell them. Cask conditioned beer is unfiltered, and served right from the cask it was fermented in. So there isn’t any extra nitrogen or carbon dioxide added.

https://i0.wp.com/www.wolverhamptoncamra.org.uk/images/CAMRA_Logo_low_res.jpeg

It truly as as real as you can get- it’s the beer you make and only that. It’s also generally served at cellar temperature, around 54-57 degrees F, so don’t count on an ice cold brew. The warmer temperature allows for the more subtle flavors of your favorite cask beer to come out. The beer is pumped into your pint glass through a beer engine, which is probably one of the most badass pieces of beer equipment there is. I mean…it’s an ENGINE. For BEER.

https://i2.wp.com/www.northernbrewer.com/shop/media/catalog/product/cache/1/image/5e06319eda06f020e43594a9c230972d/k/3/k330b.jpg

Looking to find out more of the specifics of real ale? Check out CAMRA’s website here. You can even become a member and they send you some excellent literature, although it’s generally about events taking place in the UK.

The Connecticut Real Ale Festival takes place on Sunday, January 26 from 12-5 PM at BAR on Crown Street in New Haven. You can find out where to get tickets, RSVP, and see a list of what breweries will be in attendance here. I am especially excited for Firefly, Oskar Blues, and Schmaltz brewing companies, all of which are new to the festival this year.

Plus, all of this even sort of ties into the beer and music combo that I’m constantly stressing in this blog. BAR is a place that does a great job of combining the love of craft beer and music (also PIZZA!). Their free weekly shows each Wednesday have brought some amazing touring acts in, such as Scott Kelly of Neurosis, Mates Of State, Widowspeak, California X, and more. So whether you can make it down to the Real Ale Fest or not, Bar is definitely a great place to hang for lovers of good music and good beer.

New Haven Brewshop Gets ‘Lucky’ With Kickstarter

The downtown New Haven Luck and Levity Brewshop opened its doors a little over a year ago. Since then, the shop has been growing into a much-needed haven for lovers of all things fermented. Recently, the shop successfully completed a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds that would take the shop to the next level- a community workshop space for food and beermaking.

Crowd-sourcing is a fairly new resource for raising money, and for Luck and Levity, it was just the source they needed. They raised over $20,000 between September 25 and November 5, exceeding their goal.

To celebrate a new year and new things to come, the shop will be having a Gala on Friday, November 22nd. Anyone who donated $15 or more to the Kickstarter campaign is on the guest list, and for everyone else, admission is $30 for a night of celebration with beer from local CT beermakers Thimble Island Brewing Company, food from the Caseus Cheese Truck and Sweet Mary’s Cupcakes. There will also be Tarot readings, to answer the question of what beer you’re destined to brew next (the answer is actually all of them, but you should probably come by anyway). Check out more details in the flyer below, and see you on Friday evening at L&L on Court Street.

REVIEW: Mark Mulcahy “Dear Mark J. Mulcahy I Love You”/Elm City Pilsner

I like to focus the spotlight on local music and beers whenever possible. This week’s review is a record I love lately, from Mark Mulcahy, who was a prominent figure in the New Haven music scene in the 80s and 90s.

THE RECORD: Mark Mulcahy- Dear Mark J. Mulcahy I Love You– Mezzotint 2013

https://i0.wp.com/2a56b976980e0793ddee-5cc5435fcbc367bb03f9a415e7067a97.r91.cf2.rackcdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/Mark-Mulcahy-Dear-Mark-J.-Mulcahy-I-Love-You-260x254.jpg

Dear Mark J. Mulcahy I Love You is the songwriter’s first record in 8 years, with his last LP being 2005’s Love Is The Only Thing That Shuts Me Up. I was thrilled to hear that Mulcahy was making new music again. Although many of my older friends from the New Haven area knew him personally, my first memories of his music are from Polaris, as the soundtrack to the Nickelodeon show The Adventures Of Pete And Pete. It was one of those shows that was created for children, but had an appeal to young and old alike. I think that the same can be said for Mark Mulcahy’s music. While I know his music differently than people who are older than me, there is a similar feeling for it that we share.

The record’s first single, “She Makes The World Turn Backwards” has some gang vocals that make me think of what I’ll be doing when I see him live in a few weeks at the Spaceland Ballroom.

I love the ridiculous little things at the beginnings of songs too. “Let The Fireflies Fly Away” starts off with Mark complaining to a waiter about a frog in his soup. I like the beginning of “He’s A Magnet” as well, with the “Oh yeah!” which for some reason just sounds a little silly and fun.

“My Rose Colored Friend” is one of my favorite tracks on the CD. The harmonies on “all he wants is a straight story from somebody” are so warm and summery, that make it feel like you’re listening through a pair of rose-colored headphones. I love the lyric, “You’re my rose colored friend- I see everything through you”.

“Bailing Out On Everything Again” has some of my favorite lyrics as well, such as “I’ve fallen in love with things I hated”. Musically it features synth-keyboards on it, which with the reverb on the vocals, are almost reminiscent of being at a carnival. Although the record has a lot of simplicity in its guitar and drum prevalence, I like the other orchestration in it as well.

To me, this record harkens more to my favorite solo-Mulcahy LPs, 1997’s Fathering and 2001’s Smilesunset. Lead by jangly guitars and drums, I Love You is a wonderful pop record, just in time for listening to while sitting outside on the porch. Maybe a better description, for myself at least, would be that this is a grown-up answer to the musical adventures I had as a kid listening to Polaris and Music From The Adventures Of Pete And Pete.

THE BEER: New England Brewing Co.- Elm City Pilsner

https://i0.wp.com/www.artzberger.com/BeerCans/newcans/canpics/ElmCityPilsner0912.JPG

Pours a golden yellow color with a thick, frothy head. It’s definitely easy to pour this one a little too strong and have it overflow. Once it settles though, it’s a nice looking beer if you’re drinking out of a pilsner glass. It’s just as good out of a can though, which is a quality that New England Brewing Company does with most of their beers. It’s really nice to be able to take such delicious beers on the beach or in venues that don’t allow glass.

All the ingredients are German, so it has a lot of qualities of a traditional pilsner, such as pilsner malts and Hallertaur hops.

It’s a tasty, session beer at 5% ABV. Definitely a lawnmower beer, super refreshing after a day spent working outside.

THE PAIRING:

I wanted to choose a local beer for this pairing, which is not an easy task. As proud as I am of the huge growth of craft breweries in Connecticut lately, I must admit that I do not love all of the beers that I taste. However, I do know their is hope since new breweries are popping up all the time, as older ones are perfecting the craft. Anyway, I chose the Elm City Pilsner for this pairing. The beer’s name comes from the nickname of the city of New Haven, and I thought it would be a perfect pairing with a musician who is so well-loved in the Elm City.

The light beer goes well with this light-hearted pop record. Want to pair it for yourself? The Outer Space will be serving it up, along with over 70 other delicious craft beers, when Mark Mulcahy plays the Spaceland Ballroom on July 10th. I am really looking forward to this show, as it showcases a two other groups of musicians from New Haven as well, the Mountain Movers and the Backyard Committee. Jounce will also be playing, which features Danny Tamberelli, who starred on the show that made me and the rest of America love Polaris, The Adventures Of Pete And Pete. Click the flyer for ticket info!

Q&A: Lipgloss Crisis

I have been a resident of New Haven, Connecticut for a little over a year now and am constantly pleasantly surprised with discovering places and venues to check out music, art, and of course, craft beer. Now there will be a new one to add to the list- Lipgloss Crisis. I did a little Q&A with Lipgloss herself, the lovely Sara Scranton, who will be opening a new art space this weekend in the Elm City.
Can you give me a little history of Lipgloss Crisis?
Lipgloss Crisis is the name that I have been making art with for over a decade.
What are your initial plans for your new space?
The plans for the new space are it is going to be a retail store with a art gallery attached, The retail shop in the front is a collection of home made goods from local New Haven artisans and selected goods from Vintanthromodern Vintage. The art gallery is going to have a revolving collection of artist from New Haven. I will also have a photography studio, classes ranging from organic art for kids to belly dancing, and event space rental.

What can we expect at the grand opening party? 

The grand opening party is June 15th 6-9 p.m. I have some fancy live performers up my sleeve… and will be selling all the goods previously listed.
 
Do you have any events in the works that you’re especially excited about?
I am particular excited the live model drawing sessions. Additional to the classic model set up, I will be designing the sets from all different eras and have live musicians playing during the sittings.
Will you be serving beer at your space?
We do like beer at Lipgloss Crisis…
If so, do you have any interest in having local beers available there? 
Of course! I am all about local!! Do you have any good blondes up your sleeve?
How can local artists and artisans get involved?
They can email me at sara@lipglosscrisis.com I am always looking for new fun things for the store!!
Lipgloss Crisis is located at 756 Chapel Street in downtown New Haven. The grand opening will be this Saturday, June 15, from 6-9 PM. You can RSVP and get more information on the party on Facebook here.

New Haven Rock And Roll Q&A

punk rock birthday

I love rock and roll, especially local rock and roll. Even more so when it’s celebrating my birthday! The Elm City’s own The Lost Riots, The Defcon Five, and The Hulls will be taking over the Outer Space December 6th, and some of their members did some Q&A with me. Find out what beers they like to drink and all about their 7-inches. No pun intended.

THE LOST RIOTS

You guys did a weekly residency at the Outer Space a few months ago- home of the 30-in-30 club which I know at least one of you is a member. Any particularly memorable brews?

Jeffrey Thunders, The Lost Riots: I am the only member of The Lost Riots who is in the club. There are a lot of great beers coming in and out of The Outer Space so it’s tough to pick out only a few. My all-time favorite is Innis and Gunn (the original) and pretty much anything the Berkshire Brewing Company puts out is an instant classic in my mind.

You’ve been playing a ton of shows throughout Connecticut and New York lately- any plans to go on tour in the near future?

JT: Touring is tough when you have to hold down a full time job. I would love to do a little extended weekend thing. Maybe go down to D.C. and back or up to Portland and back. That’s probably all we can realistically do. Unless some label picks us up and wants to pay my mortgage for the next year.

You recently contributed to the “It Came From Connecticut” compilation; can you tell me a little more about it?

JT: Tom at Bonehead studios did a compilation many years back that showcased Connecticut punk bands called “Connecticut Fun “(bands like Youth of Today and Rude Awakening were on there). He wanted to do another one for underground bands of today. He actually asked me what bands he should be on it and together he and I contacted a bunch. Every band recorded a few songs at Bonehead Studios in Cheshire. There are 13 bands on the comp. It’s been a fun process and the best part is all the proceeds are going to the Red Cross disaster relief effort from hurricane Sandy. The Hulls & The Defcon Five are also on the compilation. Getting a sneak peak at all the songs was fun and there are some talented bands on it. Should be a good compilation.

What else can we look forward to as far as recordings from you guys?

JT: We have been working on a 7” for our single “Downtown” which should be arriving at Die Hipster! Records soon. Also 2013 is going to be a big year for us. Our plan is to get out as many ep’s as possible One every few months on some sort of format (Cd, Cassette, or 7”). We also want to do a bunch of splits with bands. So no need to worry there will be plenty of new stuff coming out in the next few months.

THE DEFCON FIVE

What’s your band beer of choice?

Sean: Anything free…although on the sliding scale, PBR means you want to make-out by the dumpsters while Delirium Tremens means we’re shacking up and getting a puppy.

Brett: I don’t know if we have an official “band beer” because we all have such unique personalities that manifest themselves in our beer choices (though if we did it would probably be PBR) But as for me personally I greatly enjoy a good Newcastle.

Mike: anything cold!

Moe: Schaefer…it is the one to have, when you’re having more than one

You guys got the band back together last year after a hiatus- how are things different now?

Sean: I’ve got twice as many records, and phones have cameras in them. Our practice space also has a sink in it, while our old one only had ceiling to floor mirrors and a stretching bar.

Brett: Technology exists now that didn’t before, such as iPhones, Facebook and Lady Gaga. It’s truly a different world. But due to our advanced ages I believe we have more experience and we’re playing at our peak because we understand each other musically now better than ever.

Mike: I’m older and more divorceier.

Moe: I’m a little older, a little smarter, act a little stupider, play a little better.

What’s one of your most memorable moments playing a show in the past year?

Sean: Watching Mike incite a riot at Ideat Village while quoting Black Flag lyrics as the tear gas was being unholstered. I keep thinking “if he had only chanted Bee-Gees lyrics, it would have been an orgy instead”.

Brett: Probably playing with David Liebe Hart (of Tim and Eric fame) at Cafe 9, and while this didn’t happen at a show, being nominated for best band and best punk band in Connecticut by CT.com was nice. We’re always pleasantly surprised when people have heard of us.

Mike: Falling flat on my ass at the space 2 secs into a song.

Moe: Getting to play with The David Liebe Hart Band was a real treat and Mike tanking during the first song of our show at The Space is classic.

Since this is an analog beer blog after all, I’ve heard you guys are planning to put out some 7-inches. Tell me more about what’s going to be on them.

Sean: Put out?! We’re not that type of band. Unless you buy us pizza. 2013, Mayans willing, will see even more new recordings, a split single with North Shore Troubadours, a single of our own, some more compilation and cover songs, so start investing in dancing shoes and mouth guards now!

Brett: Without giving away too many “spoilers”, I would say that there are some fan favorites on there, such as… ah the hell with it, it’s going to be The Girl With the Rock and Roll Belt on the A side, and Benzoyl Peroxide and Do You Have a Following on the B side. We’re also planning a split 7″ with the North Shore Troubadours, a great band that we share a practice space with. Look for those in 2013.

Mike: Only my hair dresser knows for sure. Sean Brett and Moe know too.

Moe: We’ve got a couple 7″s, a 10″, and a 5″, but I won’t tell who has what! But seriously, we’re planning two 45’s in the coming year. One with all new material and a split with North Shore Troubadours…so look for those!

THE HULLS

I’ve seen some posts on facebook that you guys are working on a new record. When is it slated to come out, and can you tell me a little about what the production process has been like so far?

Kevin: We’ve recorded 12 songs with Jason Duguay up at Project Sound Recording in Haverhill, MA. He’s got a 40+ year-old 16 track 2″ tape machine that we recorded all the basic tracks on. I think it’s the first time any of us have recorded on to tape, given the modern day methods of recording straight to computers. It’s basically just us, no computer tricks or fixes. It was really important to us that this recording is as close to what we sound like live as possible. We recorded everything in 2 days and the mixing took another 2. We’re really over the moon about what we’ve heard so far, we’ve got a really excellent record on our hands!

Do you have any plans for release shows or a tour in support of it when it comes out?

K: We don’t have any set plans currently, we’re still waiting for the mastering to be completed. First we’re going to look around for a label that can put it out. Once we figure out who and how it will be released, shows and touring will follow. In a perfect world, I’d say a summertime release would be the earliest we could hope for.

Since this is a beer blog, what’s your beer of choice to have at a show?

K: Well, beggars can’t be choosers, so I’d have to say the beer of choice at a show would be the free kind! Personally, Guinness tops my list, but anything imported, craft, or micro-brewed would be ideal. Not such a fan of the Buds, Coors, or Millers of the world – unless it’s free of course!