Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Vanilla…..a fruit, spice or flavoring?

vanilla_bean Well if you don’t know, this email will settle it.  Vanilla Ice is a hip hop artist from the 1990’s.  But seriously, vanilla is a vine, a flower and a fruit!  Really, a fruit…I would have guessed a “bean” if asked.  The Vanilla vine produces flowers which are pollinated and produce “little pods” of fruit that we call the vanilla bean.  Coincidentally the Spanish/Portuguese word for “little pod” is “vainilla.”  

This Wednesday at 4PM we are releasing our Vanilla Wheat at the Yak.  I wasn’t sure if the chefs had vanilla already in the kitchen, which would save me a trip to the store, so I asked.  Half our staff speaks Nepali and several of our kitchen staff speak little English but fluent Mexican Spanish, so when I asked for “van-il-la” I was responded with shrugs and blank stares….so I used my Babel app on my iphone to translate it from English and asked for “vba-een-ee-ya" (which is the best I can pronounce “vainilla” in Spanish) and this time I received smiles and eyes that lit up… “aaah, vainilla!!!”  I was so elated that I communicated my desire that I almost missed the next sentence…..”no….no vainilla.”   Dang, no app for running to the store and procuring vanilla.

To understand more about this flowering vine, here are some trivia points:

  • The vines can grow as long as 35 meters!
  • The flower is referred to as an Orchid but is technically a dehiscent capsule (I like Orchid better)
  • originally cultivated in Mexico on the Gulf Coast
  • the Aztecs referred to it as “tlilxochitl” or “black flower” (don’t ask me to pronounce that one)
  • the vanilla seed is actually flavorless and can’t germinate without a the presence of an unique fungi
  • the vanilla flavor we are all familiar with is a “phenolic compound”
  • other phenolic flavors that you are familiar with: smoky, medicinal, and clove
  • Vanilla that comes from Madagascar is called Bourbon Vanilla (over half the world’s production comes from here)
  • Mexico now only produces around 2% of the world’s production
  • Artificial vanilla is usually made from natural polymers in wood as the result of the paper/pulp making process

And uses for vanilla or vanilla extract:

  • Ice Cream (duh), pudding, cake, frosting, cookies, muffins, (okay, desserts..we get the idea), eggnog, etc
  • Vanilla Porter is increasing in popularity as a beer style (never heard of Vanilla wheat before, but it tastes really silky smooth)
  • use the extract to deodorize the microwave or refrigerator
  • add it to a glass of milk for a faux vanilla shake/smoothy
  • add a bit to your coffee or tea
  • bug repellant
  • perfume
  • old medicine books say “aphrodisiac and aroma therapy”
  • Candles/air fresheners/incense
  • Vodka flavoring

Wow, and I thought car air fresheners only came in Vanilla or Pine Tree.  My favorite use for vanilla is actually my French toast recipe that contains vanilla amongst other secret ingredients.  I’m sure it would be good in pancakes or pancake syrup too.   What are other favorite uses of vanilla?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Mashing it, Old School…

 Adam brewery1 When I was in Munich for classes, we were shown an old drawing of a person “stirring the mash” (grain and water mixture for you non-brewing types) This drawing was of a stick man using the top-edge of his wooden tun as a fulcrum and prying the thick mash away by pulling the end of his mash paddle towards himself.   We laughed outloud because this is so antiquated, especially with automatic mash stirring paddles and such.  I guess I laughed too soon.

This post is to show you my new workout program to keeping me in shape, or “how I mash,bring grain downstairs old school.”


After I order the grain, I need to pick it up myself (it is extremely cost-prohibitive to have it shipped across town to me).  I then unload the bags of grain and haul them into the brewery, down the stairs, past my office, across the room to my grain mill.  A typical batch might have 10 bags of grain at 50lb each, so 500lbs or a quarter ton!

adam's office

bring grain upstairs

      Then after I crush the grain, I put it in blue tubs (you know the Walmart kind) and haul the grain across the room, past my office, up the stairs to my brew house.  Did I mention this is like a quarter ton?

grain into mashtun

When I’m ready to “dough-in” (brewery lingo for adding the crushed grain to the water, or vice versa) I manually dump the tubs into the mash tun. (so that’s why they call it a “tun/ton”!)

I probably forgot to mention that our brewery has no air movement and even though it is dry in Colorado, when you are boiling water in a closed room, you have perfect conditions for emulating the humidity of the Midwest.   I try to combat my sweating by using a bandana headband.  (not shown in pictures since I look too scary with my headband on.)  I then swap it with a dry one after a 1/2 hour, rinse the drenched one and put it outside to dry.  A half hour later it is dry and ready to swap (can’t do that in 95% humid Midwest climates)

stir mash1

stir mash2

This looks awful familiar.  Photos showing me with my stainless steel mash paddle (extremely high tech since it is made out of stainless) and hovering over a 152 degF steaming tun of mash.  This is the hottest of the all the jobs I do and keeps me in shape stirring over one ton of grain/water mixture manually.

graining out3

After doing my normal brewing duties of vorloffing, sparging and lautering the wort into the kettle, I drain the remaining weak wort and then mash out.  In a typical brewery this involves putting a large skid-sized crate under the mash tun and opening the man-way and you either have an automatic pusher to push out the grain or you use a big squeegy and pull/push it out the man-way.  Notice my mash tun doesn’t have a man-way.  This requires a special tool I call a “brewer’s shovel.”  How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Toosie Pop?…..answer, the same number of scoops it takes to empty my mash tun with spent grains.  I put them into large Rubbermaid garbage cans and haul them outside using another brewer’s tool—the hand-truck.trucking spent grain outside There is about a 2.5” step that I have to go up in order to exit the brewery.  As soon as I have my tools at home I’m going to make myself a little wooden ramp that will help ease my pain.

Where does all this spent grain go?  I call a phone number and leave a message for some guy named John (I don’t know his last name) and he comes and picks up the grain for cattle feed. 

So there you have it, mashing it old school.  Isn’t there any other way?  There really isn’t a way to justify a new or used mash tun, so I’m stuck with most of this process until my volume is like hexa-duple-tuples or something.  But I did come up with the idea to move the grain mill to a shed outside, all I need is a 220V receptacle.  So that will save me hauling a quarter ton of grain down and back up the steps again (not only is it time consuming, labor-intensive, and un-ergonomic, it is also quite unsafe)  So that will be one of my next brewery improvements coming up.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Cherry Wheat - this Wheat Wednesday at 4PM

After last week's Wednesday tapping party, we'll be releasing another beer in the Wheat Beer Series: Cherry Wheat. Only $3.50 a pint during Happy Hour or try samples of any of our beers for $1 a sample. (Try the Cherry Wheat and Hefeweizen side-by-side for comparison.) This sucker is RED, not "amber" like most red ales, but RED like fruit punch! It's made with fresh whole cherries from Oregon. Come and impress your friends by tying cherry stems with your tongue (each glass will be garnished with a whole cherry on Wednesday night only, !caution! still contains a pit).

Now a little info about cherries:

  • Unlike strawberries, cherries are definitely a fruit.

  • Technically a "stone fruit" due to having a pit, this tree-grown fruit is of the same genus as plums, peaches and apricots.

  • The cherry blossoms in spring are always a sight to behold (and smell).

  • The Bing Cherry was developed in Oregon in 1875. (no relation to Bing Crosby)

  • 75% of the nation's "tart" cherries come from Michigan

  • cherry flavored cough syrup probably came to be since the bark of cherry trees was used to make cough suppressing teas

  • Rose's Grenadine is not made with real cherries, but high fructose corn syrup

  • "Cherry Pie" by Warrant - 1990 on Columbia Records

  • New Glarus' Belgian Red is probablythe nations most winningest cherry beer

  • Cherry wood makes beautiful woodwork

  • Cherry Bombs were 3/4" spherical firecrackers (painted red with a fuse stem) that have been outlawed in the US since 1966

  • Why is this song stuck in my head the whole time I'm writing this blog?

Common uses for cherries (that is besides putting them in beer....) include:

toppings on ice cream (maraschino cherries); pies/cakes; jams/jellies; chocolate covered; used as flavorings for soda, ice cream, yogurt, candy, cotton candy, slurpies, donuts, pop tarts, Twizzlers! (addicting aren't they?) and as cherry wine.

Door County is the "thumb" of Wisconsin and is famous for growing cherries, I remember when I was around 21 going to a winery and trying some EXTRA tart cherry wine. I know it ain't that healthy but my favorite way to consume cherries is in a Hostess Cherry Pie. What other uses or ways do you like to eat cherries?


Adam Draeger

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Isn't she a beaut?!

Meet Karla the Keg Washer. Karla has some sort of corrosion on her surface, but it's just esthetics...I'll get her up and running in no time.

We just purchased this used washer from a brewery near my old stomping grounds in Iowa. This keg washer is outfitted to be able to clean standard Sanke as well as well Cornelius kegs, which will be nice because we tend to use the Corny kegs a lot at the Yak.

She is currently sitting in her resting place, but needs H2O, CO2 and electrons (220VAC worth) hooked up to her. I have all the chemicals ready put her to use, just waiting on the utilities.

This will allow us to clean kegs for filling/sale to other bars and restaurants in the Denver metro area.

Isn't she a beaut?!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Strawberry Wheat release on Wednesday

In addition to the Bavarian Hefeweizen that will be released at 4PM this Wednesday, we will be releasing the Strawberry Wheat at this time as well. Only $3.50 a pint during Happy Hour or try samples of any of our beers for $1 a sample. (I'd recommend trying the Strawberry Wheat and Hefeweizen side-by-side for instance.)

Now a little info about strawberries: Technically we call this a berry and a fruit and it is neither. This plant is part of the Rose family and since the seeds of this are on the outside skin, it makes it just an extension of the Stamen. This plant grew wild in America but the Europeans "discovered" it and began cultivating strawberries even though the American Indians have used them for centuries. The strawberry is very rich in vitamins (like Vitamin C) and is a healthy food that has a lot of natural fructose sugar (opposed to concentrated high fructose corn sugars that are man-made). Fructose is the most sweet tasting of all the natural sugars and gets a bad wrap because we like to indulge too much in this delight (pure fructose has a relative sweetness of almost twice that of honey, for instance).

Strawberries also are one of the foods that aren't recommended for kids under the age of one (along with peanuts, eggs and honey) They are a common food allergy that can be grown out of if avoided for the first year.

Common uses for strawberries (that is besides putting them in beer....) include

toppings on cereal, yogurt, ice cream, waffles and salads; pies/cakes; jams/jellies; ice cream drinks and smoothies; chocolate covered (are you hungry for strawberries yet?); freeze dried and dehydrated; used as flavorings for ice cream, yogurt, candy, donuts, pop tarts, etc; and strawberry shortcake (duh!).

From a personal point of view, strawberries always remind me of my maternal grandmother who passed away many years ago. She lived near many large strawberry farms in Central Wisconsin that she would bring us to so we could "pick your own." The farmers would let you eat as many as you wanted as you were collecting them....I would get very close to eating until I was sick. My personal favorite way of eating them is strawberry jam on my scrambled eggs. What other uses or ways do you like to eat strawberries?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

I can't remember my first brewery tour

My wife probably has been on more brewery tours than most beer lovers only because I've dragged her to the lion's share of them. It's too bad but for the life of me I can't seem to remember my first one.

On the other hand, I gave my first brewery tour about two weeks ago to a homebrew buddy of mine from Des Moines, IA and today I gave a tour of the Yak to a group of 10 people! I fielded my fair share of brewing newbie questions and it felt strange being on the other side of the tour for a change. I remember at least two of the attendees saying to me that this was their first brewery tour ever. Hmmm, I'll toast to that...

Adam, das braumeister and tour guide extraordinaire

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Wednesday Wheat Beer Series

To draw upon an old pork advertising slogan..." Wheat" is the other white grain, opposed to "barley" which is ubiquitously the main source of brewing malt.

The Bavarian-style hefeweizen (or unfiltered wheat beer made with 50% red wheat malt) will be ready to tap on Wednesday, July 13th. I am also going to do a new wheat beer each week with a flavor addition. On the first Wednesday, I've chosen strawberries because they have been in season recently. Future weeks will include: blueberries, cherries, vanilla, cloves, cantaloupe, raspberries, chili peppers and more surprises as well.

So clear your calendar for Wednesday evenings and stop by the Arvada Yak for some beer bliss. There will only be one keg of each so when it runs out, it's gone! Join us on the 13th for the release of the Wheat beer as well as our Strawberry Wheat.

Prost! Adam

ps. follow our facebook: yakandyetiarvada or twitter @YakandYetiPub for weekly updates of what's new on tap

Monday, July 4, 2011

Welcome our New Brewmaster, Adam Draeger!

If you live in Denver and you like good food and beer, you might have stopped in at the Yak & Yeti Restaurant and Brewery in Arvada or Westminster.  The Yak & Yeti is a full-service restaurant featuring a wide range of Indian, Nepali, and Tibetan cuisine.  Alongside the food are handcrafted brews, which complement the food well.
Recently a new brewmaster was hired, Adam Draeger, of Arvada, Colorado, who recently graduated from Siebel Institute of Technology (Chicago) and Doemens Academy (Munich, Germany).    He and his family moved to Colorado from Iowa in April.
Adam plans to keep the standard brews on tap (Himalayan IPA, Namaste Pilsner, and Chai Stout).  But, he also plans to bring back the AbominAle ESB and soon will have a Bavarian-style wheat beer on tap, with plans for weekly releases of infusions to the wheat.
Please join us in welcoming Adam and stop by the Yak & Yeti for a nice cold one.  He can be found at the Arvada location throughout the week.