Brewing, Cooking & Eating, Folklore

October is the Cruelest Month; or, Beer and Crazies

So where have I been, you might ask, friends of the blog that you all are. I haven’t seen you ’round much, you might say. Have you been avoiding us? Have you stopped writing? Have you cooked at all this week?

The answer, dear friends, is that no, I have not abandoned you. But life, such as it is, has stuck out its big ugly foot and tripped me up. By which I mean that the meetings of the American Folklore Society are coming up all too soon, and I have almost more to get done than I know how to finish.

This week I have been:

  • Organizing the last-minute details of transportation to, and accommodations in, Bloomington, IN, where this year’s meetings are being held.
  • I have been getting some stuff organized for the organization’s Folk Narrative Section, for which I am one of the parties responsible.
  • I have been considering the paper I am supposed to be presenting — on the inadequacy of previous theories of the study of Folklore in Literature, and why we should instead look toward a study of Literature as Folklore — and mostly shaking my head in despair.
  • Because I’ve have this other huge writing project on my plate, that I strongly feel I need to finish before AFS: the introduction to my dissertation.

Why stress about finishing said introduction now, you ask? Two reasons: 1) much of what I intend to say in the paper I’m presenting belongs to the introduction, and it is easier to write the long version and cut it down than it is to do the opposite; and 2) I would like to be able to show my dissertation committee that I have made some progress this year — I’d like to bring them drafts of two chapters, and plans for finishing the rest — but if I am to do that, I need to actually have two chapters to bring them, which means that I need to finish this infernal introduction.

So I guess that my answers, in fact, are that yes, I have been avoiding you. And that yes, I have largely stopped cooking this week.

Though that is not to say that food — or at least beer — has not been on my mind. When I get stressed, I obsess about the details of all sorts of trivial things, and given my recent proclivities toward malt-based recreational activities, beer has been the object of my stress-relieving research.

So here’s what I’ve come up with:

  • The reason that Brown Ale failed, and that Brown Ale II: The Wrath of Khan was slow to start, I think, has to do with water chemistry. I’m pretty sure that I amended my water with too much sodium, and as we know from bread-making, sodium retards the growth of yeast.
  • Brown Ale II, though, was resilient. I moved it into secondary fermentation on Monday, and found that it had fermented all the way out. Then I tasted it on Saturday, and found that not only is it beer, it’s really good beer — the overdose of sodium isn’t especially noticeable on the tongue. And it is malty and toasty, with exactly the crisp bitterness I was trying to achieve when I started monkeying with water chemistry in the first place.
  • I’ve also been planning a new beer: a brown porter. It’s not a genre to which I’ve had a huge amount of exposure in the past, but I’ve liked the specimens I’ve had, and the more I think about it, the more a winter filled with heavy-bodied dark beer goodness seems like a good plan. Mmmm … warming.
  • Finally, I’ve made a decision about said brown porter: for the first time ever in my brewing life, I’m using a dry yeast. I had been wanting to try a strain from the Whitbread brewery for a long time, and had been planning on using Wyeast’s liquid version. But the more I read about it, the more I think that the Safale dry version of the same is the way to go. It is fast to start, fast to ferment, and from the reviews I’ve looked at, almost foolproof. And given my recent yeast problems, it seems like the right strain for me.

Anyway, here is my brown porter recipe. I would very much appreciate any opinions and advice that you, friends of this blog, might offer. As I said, this is my first time around the block with this style.

6.00 lb. Maris Otter Malt
3.00 lb. British Brown Malt
1.00 lb. Victory Malt
1.00 lb. Crystal Malt, 60L
0.33 lb. British Chocolate Malt

1.00 oz. Northern Brewer Hops (boiled for 45 minutes)

Safale S-04 — Whitbread Yeast