Displaced Geek

Just a city geek and father coming to terms with being replanted in farm country

Posts Tagged ‘beer

Wherein I “Cook” with Beer.

Forgive the brevity, this is only even getting posted because I said I would.

Here we go. Somehow, despite being out of town the day before (and the morning of), I got it into my head that I was going to make food for the Superbowl. I also decided that rather than make food I’d made before, I would try out all new recipes I got from a podcast. Better yet, they were recipes that weren’t actually written down anywhere, but instead just copied by me while listening to said podcast. This is how it turned out.

The plan was sausage, peppers, & onions (cooked in a mix of Otter Creek’s Copper & Winter Red Ales); accompanied by a series of sides/dips like sour cream & caramelized onion dip (made with Copper Ale), guacamole (made with Black IPA), and a kickass restaurant style salsa with no beer whatsoever. I had pans for the Hop Cream, Beer Hummus, and possibly 7-layer dip, but that never manifested.

  • The sausage was delicious. But let’s face it, cooking sausage in beer isn’t exactly a novel idea, so no big surprise there.
  • Emma‘s restaurant style salsa was also delicious, but has nothing to do with beer.
  • The guacamole was perfectly tasty, but we were pretty split as to whether or not you could even taste the beer, so clearly not worth it.
  • The sour cream & onion dip stunk.
  • Allow me to explain. In my humblest of opinions, sour cream & onion dip should taste at least slightly, if not strongly, like …wait for it… onions & sour cream! In this recipe, however, you’re supposed to caramelize the onions, and then deglaze the pan with beer. Once you’ve done that, you’ve created a delicious, sweet mass of caramelized onions, with a slight beer flavor. However, it completely and utterly undoes any bite from the sour cream. And since the onions are now sweet, they lack any bite whatsoever, so you’re left with a sweet, creamy dip that’s so bland no one wants to eat it. One way this might be able to be salvaged, is to add a bit of fresh chive and use it as a vegetable dip, but even then I doubt it’ll even approach being the most memorable dish served at any party.

    Meh, I’ll continue to use beer as an ingredient from time to time, but in the future I plan on using a bit more common sense instead of blindly following directions.

    Written by Peter

    February 16, 2013 at 1246

    Posted in food

    Tagged with , , ,

    Recipe Site Showdown: The Finale

    Previously: Parts 3, 2, & 1

    Recipe Sharing:
    Recipe export & social sharing. 15 points possible.
    Look & Feel / Ease of Use:
    Pretty self explanatory, includes general website usability, and brew specific qualities like east of transition from search to creation, etc. Important but possibly a bit subjective. 10 points possible.

    It’s time to knock the rest of this out, because it’s gotten a bit depressing.

    Sharing:
    Brewersfriend allows recipe export to three formats: text, HTML, and BeerXML. the process is simple, and despite a plethora of warnings about possible discrepancies, I’ve never had any issues that a simple glance didn’t immediately identify, or any that were difficult to resolve. There are no so called “social” sharing options. 10/15

    Hopville currently offers no social sharing or export functionality. 0/15
    A quick E-Mail confirmed that active development of Hopville’s current version has been on hiatus for a while, but is planned to resume soon.

    Brewtoad should be the clear winner in this category. The entire site is social, with several community-driven aspects built right in, including integration with all the social sites you’d expect. But though their about page claims that “[...]Brewtoad follows the BeerXML standard and allows you to import (or export) your recipes into our database with barely any effort.[...]“, and their support forums have several requests for it, they have no export option available whatsoever. 10/15
    Although my query in their support forum went unanswered, Brewtoad did eventually claim via twitter that export is a “likely” feature for a 2013 rollout.

    Look & Feel / Ease of Use:
    Brewersfriend may be powerful, but it’s much more kludgy feeling than the other competitors. Working out recipes is about as much fun as using a slide rule. 5/10

    Hopville is by far the easiest site to just “whip something up” on. It’s clean looking, the UI is more than moderately responsive, and everything is always right where you expect it to be – a highly intuitive design. 10/10

    Brewtoad is pretty. When viewed on a touchscreen device, it’s probably perfect, which makes sense since it looks like that was their intent from the start. While mostly quick, the UI feels like those initial Web2.0 sites that did a lot of big floaty things with no purpose whatsoever. Every ingredient selection requires an entire new faux-window style popup, which feels like it slows things down. While clearly not the ideal interface for keyboard & mouse style interaction, recipe creation flows pretty well once you figure it out. 8/10

    So I guess our results look like this:

    Hopville: 11 + 40 + 10 = 61
    Brewersfriend: 16 + 30 + 5 = 51
    Brewtoad: 22 + 40 + 8 = 70

    Brewtoad is the clear winner, so why do I feel like I wasted my time? Possibly because despite (or perhaps because of) my half-assed attempt at being scientific & impartial, I’m expressly dissatisfied with the results.

    I started all of this nonsense because it felt like I’d been using a multitude of sites to brew, and I wanted to get it down to just one. But it doesn’t seem like that’s practical at the moment. Hopefully, Brewtoad or Hopville will work out their quirks, and I’ll be able to revisit the issue. They both show amazing potential, and make recipe creation a fun and engaging activity. But the inability of either one to let me export, coupled with my unwillingness to give up local access to my recipes,limits me to the option I described as both “klugdy”, and “about as much fun as using a slide rule”: Brewersfriend.

    I warned you it was a little depressing.

    Written by Peter

    February 8, 2013 at 1630

    Recipe Site Showdown Part 3: Recipe Creation

    NB:I’ve decided to remove BeerTools’ recipe calculator from the showdown, as the free version has proven too limited for my use, and the goal was to find the site that I plan on continuing to use in the future. I’m sure it’s a great tool for those who can use it, but it’s not right for me.
    From this point forward, we wil be comparing BrewersFriend (free version), Hopville, & Brewtoad.

    Previously: Part 2 Search

    Arguably the most important category, users should be able to import, create from scratch, & modify existing recipes as their own. Granularity of ingredient selection, assistance in matching style, and ability to “tweak” are key to this category. 50 points possible.

    Since I was planning on working out an amber ale recipe anyway, I’ve decided that’s how I’m going to test the recipe creation functionality of these sites – a completely new recipe from the ground up.

    My goal is to create a balanced 5 gallon partial mash American Amber Ale. I’ll be using The Brewmaster’s Bible as my recipe style guide.

    Armed with the simplest partial mash amber ale I can come up with, we turn to BrewersFriend first.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Written by Peter

    January 28, 2013 at 1619

    Posted in Homebrewing

    Tagged with , , , , ,

    2012 Brew in Review

    So 2012 was the year my lovely wife & I started brewing. Let’s see exactly how it went.

    2012 Brew List:

    1. Imperial Nut Brown – kit
    2. Red Ale – kit
    3. Pumpkin Spice Ale – kit
    4. Lemony Snicket Wheatslightly modified internet recipe
    5. Raspberry Wheat – modified internet recipe
    6. Denny Conn’s Vanilla Bourbon Porterinternet recipe
    7. Hard Cider 1 – Purple Turkey Alehouse Original
    8. Hard Cider 2 – Purple Turkey Alehouse Original
    9. Simple Saisonslightly modified internet recipe
    10. Pete’s X1-RIS – Purple Turkey Alehouse Original
    11. LHBS Pumpkin Spice BeerLHBS recipe
    12. Modified Midwest ESB – internet inspired PTA original
    13. Irish Red 2 – modified internet recipe

    Considering all the “real life” things that happened last year, 13 brews (12 brewdays) in 10 months is fairly respectable. But I’m certainly aiming for a higher number this year.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Written by Peter

    January 23, 2013 at 925

    Recipe Site Showdown Part 2: Search

    Previously: The Setup

    Recipe Search: It should be easy to find existing recipes by common criteria such as style, ingredients, and ABV. 25 points possible.

    What good is a collection of all the best recipes in the world if you can’t find the one you want?

    In a perfect world, we’d be able to find recipes by:

    • BJCP style
    • arbitrary text
    • ingredient
    • ABV
    • brewing style (all-grain, BIAB, etc)
    • ability to filter / sort results

    so those are the subcategories we’ll score on. 0 – 4 for each yields us a total of 24 possible points for search. Everyone gets one point to “round” the ideal search score to 25.

    First up is Hopville. Read the rest of this entry »

    Written by Peter

    January 18, 2013 at 1106