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By in Cooking 0

Here’s a Tip for you… A Tri-Tip

With unseasonably warm weather rolling through San Francisco, I had a chance to fire up the gas grill and cook up one of my favorite cuts of beef: tri-tip.  In the recent past, tri-tip was generally used for ground beef or cut into steaks.  Today, it is begining to gain momentum as a grilling favorite – especially in the Central Coast of California.  The tri-tip is taken from the bottom sirloin of the cow and is a leaner piece of meat than other cuts.


Tri-tip cut

I prepped the meat by applying an ample dusting of rub.  The rub I used for this cook included salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, and cayenne pepper.  Next, I fired up the gas grill, closed the lid, and let it heat up.

        
Tri-tip with rub                                                             The gas grill

I turned on all three burners and let the grill get very hot; in the 480-500 degree range, so I could sear the meat.  The purpose of searing is to cook the outer layer of meat to seal in all the natural juices.  I put the tri-tip on the hot grill for about eight minutes, flipping it every minute.  The outside of the meat took on the dark brown color (but not charred black) indicative of a good sear.

        
Tri-tip before searing…                                                 … and after

After getting a good sear on the meat, I pulled it off the grill, turned off the left hand burner, set the middle burner to low and kept the right burner on high.  The purpose of adjusting the burners as such is to cook the meat with indirect heat at a constant temperature of 400 degrees.  This will avoid flair ups that can burn and char the meat.  I also added mesquite wood chips to the smoker box.

        
Wood chips in the smoker box                                      Cooking with indirect heat

The grill top stayed closed for the cook and I flipped the meat once at the 25 minute mark. After 50 minutes I took the internal temperature and had a reading of 145 degrees which is just right if you like your meat medium-rare.  I pulled the tri-tip off the grill and let it sit for 20 minutes before carving to allow the juices to redistribute. 

From past blogs, it may seem like I subsist on a diet of only meat.  The truth is, I do actually eat vegetables and since I already had the grill fired up, I decided to cook up some bok choy.  Bok choy is a vegetable in the cabbage family and looks little like a green version of “Wilson,” the volleyball from Cast Away. 

        
Bok choy                                     “Wilson”

I cut each stock of bok choy in half and seasoned with olive oil, salt, pepper, and diced garlic.  It then went onto the left side of the grill just like the tri-tip.  The bok choy cooked for about ten minutes with indirect heat until the stalks became tender and the leaves were limp. 


Bok choy on the grill

With the tri-tip and bok choy done cooking, it was time to eat.  I cut the tri-tip (against the grain) into strips and served with the bok choy.  Delicious!

        
Let’s eat!

By in Brewing 0

Bay Area Brew Fest

This weekend was the inaugural Bay Area Brew Fest and you better believe that Hapa’s Brewing Company was there to check out the scene.  Over 60 breweries were there to strut their stuff and pour samples for the thousands of attendees.  Here are some of the highlights:

        
Beer sampling mugs                                                        Inside the festival

Attendees were each given a 4oz mug for sampling which was plenty big enough considering these mugs could be filled an unlimited number of times.  The festival was held at Fort Mason in San Francisco and was sold out.

We started the day with a visit to Anderson Valley Brewing Co’s sampling table.  I chose to sample their oatmeal stout.  The beer was very dark in color with a thick billowing head.  The beer has a full bodied feel and hints of coffee.  It was very enjoyable and a great way to start the day!

        
Anderson Valley Brewing Co.                                         Mad River Brewing Co.

Our next stop was the Mad River Brewing Co. display.  There, they were serving up samples of their John Barleycorn Barleywine.  If you are unfamiliar with Barleywine it is a strong ale with a high alcohol content.  This barleywine had a sweet malty flavor and warmed the body with its high (9.5%) alcohol content.

After several other samples I found Rogue Brewery.  They were sampling their Hazelnut Brown Ale.  I wanted to compare this brown ale to the one I currently have in the kegerator.  This version of a brown ale was sweeter with less punch from its hops.  It is also brewed with hazelnut giving it a nuttier aroma and flavor. 

The next sampling was the Little Sumpin Wild Ale from Lagunitas Brewing Co.  This was a very interesting beer as it uses a lot of wheat malt but does not have the light citrus flavor of a typical wheat beer.  Lagunitas brews this beer with ample hops that give an otherwise light summery beer strong and complex flavors.

        
Rogue                                                         Lagunitas Brewing Co.

The last sample I’ll discuss is called Batch 19 and is brewed in limited amounts by MillerCoors.  The name of this beer is owed to the fact that Prohibition began in 1919 and the recipe used for this beer is dated pre-Prohibition.  This was also the only lager that I sampled while at the festival.  Batch 19 has a clear golden color and the malty notes are balanced well by its hoppiness.


Batch 19


By in Cooking 0

Beer: Not Just for Drinking

The beer has been brewed, it’s been kegged and carbonated, and the draft system has been balanced.  Only one thing left to do… right?  Obviously use the beer to cook!  What could be better than using beer brewed yourself to cook beer can chicken!?  That’s exactly what I did recently.

I bought two whole chickens and prepped them with a rub that included paprika, ground black pepper, salt, sugar, chili powder, granulated garlic, onion powder, and some cayenne pepper for some kick.

        
The rub                                                                        Chicken with rub applied

Next, I prepared the beer cans.  Not being one to waste perfectly good beer, I first drank the contents of two 12 ounce cans, punched a couple extra holes, and then filled them both halfway up with Hapa’s Brown Ale.  The cans were then stuck in the business end of the chicken.  I used the legs of the chicken to create a tripod so the birds would stand up during the cook.

        
Can with extra holes punched                                    Chicken was upright during the cook

I fired up the Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker and used three chunks of apple wood for smoke.  When the grill reached 220 degrees I put the birds on the cooking surface (still standing up).


On the grill for cooking

I cooked the chicken at ~275 degrees and didn’t concern myself with basting.  The idea behind beer can chicken is that as the beer heats up it creates steam that keeps the meat moist.  Some people will also tell you that the beer imparts flavor into the meat, but I personally, couldn’t taste it.

After cooking for 3 hours the internal temperature of the chicken was 165 degrees so I pulled them off the cooker.  They looked and smelled great!  I let the chicken cool for five minutes before carving them.

        
Hot of the grill!                                                             Ready to be enjoyed

The meat was very tender and moist, so I’m assuming the beer helped with that.  As I mentioned, I wasn’t able to taste any effect from the beer but it didn’t matter; the rub and smoke added great flavors and the meat had just the right amount of spice. 

By in Brewing 0

A Delicate Balancing Act

Warning: Science content below!

The beer has been brewed, it’s been carbonated, and the kegerator has been made.  All that’s left is to pour yourself a glass.  It seems like a simple thing: pull the tap handle and have beer flow into a glass with a perfect frothy head.  However, like many things, this is easier said than done.  For beer to pour properly from the tap, the draft system must be balanced.

There are several factors that need to be considered when balancing a system.  All of these factors ultimately affect the way beer will pour out of the tap:

  • The temperature of the beer
  • The beer’s level of carbonation
  • The CO2 pressure kept in the keg
  • The length and diameter of the beer line
  • The height the beer must flow to reach the faucet

The first step in balancing a draft system is to determine the level of carbonation for the beer.  The level of carbonation depends on the style of beer, but is ultimately based on opinion.  As mentioned in The Great Carbonation Debate, beer is force carbonated by first cooling it and then adding CO2 at pressure. Click here to view a chart that outlines the level of carbonation achieved with a given temperature and pressure and the recommended volumes of CO2 for a given style.

The pressure needed to properly carbonate beer is an important number.  Not only is this pressure keeping the beer bubbly, but it is also going to be used to force beer up the lines and out the faucet.  The concept behind balancing a draft system is to drop nearly all of that pressure in the time it takes for the beer to travel from the keg to the faucet leaving just enough to get the beer to flow out.

There are several forces that work against the pressure exerted by the CO2 in the keg.  These are gravity, the length of the beer line, and the resistance of the beer line.  We can create a formula that describes how the pressure from the keg (measured in PSI) will be affected by these factors:

P = Pressure of CO2 in keg (in PSI)
H = Height from middle of keg to faucet (in feet)
A = Pressure lost per foot of height due to gravity (in PSI/foot)
L = Length of beer line (in feet)
R = Pressure lost per foot of beer line due to resistance (in PSI/foot)

Essentially what we are doing in this formula is subtracting PSI lost due to gravity and the PSI lost due to the resistance of the beer line from the pressure in the keg.  If the net of this equation was zero, there would not be enough pressure to get beer to flow from the faucet.  There needs to be at least 1 PSI left to get beer to flow, so we set the equation equal to one:

Time to fill in some of these numbers: Gravity accounts for a .5 decrease in PSI per vertical foot the beer must travel and in my system the height is 2.75 feet.  The resistance of the beer line depends on its inside diameter.  For 3/16″ beer line (which is what I use) we will lose an average of 1.8 PSI per foot.  The pressure of my keg is 9 PSI which at 38 degrees gives me a carbonation level of 2.3 volumes.  Plugging these numbers into my equation I can figure out how long my beer line should be to have a smooth pour.

Solving for L (assuming my math is correct), I get 3.7 feet of beer line is needed.  The tower came with 5 feet of beer line, so I just cut away what I don’t and reattach the liquid out ball lock disconnect.  Just in time too, after all that math and science, I need a beer!

By in Other 0

Not a Bad View

No one will ever argue with the statement: “San Francisco is a beautiful city.”


View of the Golden Gate Bridge at sunset on 11/4/2010

By in Brewing 0

The Great Carbonation Debate

The final step in brewing beer (aside from drinking it!) is to carbonate it.  You would be hard pressed to find someone who enjoys a flat beer.  Carbonation gives beer a light and refreshing feel in the mouth when consumed and also enhances flavors and aromas.  The questions is: how is beer carbonated?

As I eluded to in The Final Countdown, there are two ways to carbonate beer: force carbonation and natural carbonation.  Both have their advantages and disadvantages:

Natural Carbonation

To naturally carbonate beer, a small amount of sugar (called priming sugar) is added to the beer after fermentation has completed.  The beer is then put into bottles, growlers, kegs, etc. and sealed.  Residual yeast will then ferment this sugar and produce alcohol and CO2.  Because the vessel in which the beer is being held is sealed, this CO2 dissolves into the liquid thereby carbonating the beer.

Advantages:

  • Some people say that natural carbonation results is a thicker head, smaller bubbles, and more lacing (lacing is the ringing of foam around a glass that is left when the head dissipates.  It is considered a good thing.)
  • It requires less equipment than force carbonating
  • It’s traditional and all natural

Disadvantages:

  • It takes longer to carbonate your beer.  Beer that has been naturally carbonated needs an additional 2-4 week for fermentation and conditioning to take place
  • If too much sugar is added, beer can be over-carbonated or bottles can explode
  • More yeast will settle on the bottom of the bottles which doesn’t look pretty

Force Carbonation

To force carbonate beer, it is transferred to a keg where it is chilled.  CO2 is then pumped into the keg and kept at pressure.  Over the course of a few days this CO2 will dissolve into the beer carbonating it.

Advantages:

  • It takes much less time to carbonate beer; only 3-7 days
  • Results in cleaner looking beer
  • Takes guess work out of adding priming sugar
  • Doesn’t result in added yeast flavors in the final product

Disadvantages

  • It requires expensive equipment
  • Can result in a head that is less billowy and has worse lacing
  • Deviates from the all natural brewing process

 In the end how beer is carbonated is a matter of personal preference.  I happen to have all the equipment I need for force carbonation, and combined with my lack of patience, results in my preference of force carbonating beer.

By in Other 0

One ‘Giants’ Leap for Mankind

Today was a special day in San Francisco.  It was a day for the entire city to come together and celebrate with our hometown team: the World Champion Giants.  The Giants ticker-tape parade marched through downtown San Francisco and I was lucky enough to have a front row seat for the show.  It was an incredible sight to behold as 100,000+ plus people lined Market Street to cheer on the team.  All I had to do was put on my Giants hat and I instantly had 100,000 new friends.

            
Montgomery Street                                                              Market Street

Some highlights of the parade included seeing the “Say Hey Kid” Willie Mays, Bruce Bochy with the World Series trophy, and San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom.  I actually made eye contact with the mayor and gave him a thumbs up that even he would be proud of. 

        
Willie Mays                                                                    Bruce Bochy

Gavin Newsom

Of course the grand finale of the parade included the entire team.  From my vantage point above Market Street I saw all familiar Giants faces: Cody Ross, Matt Cain, Buster Posey, Brian Wilson.  I also saw the faces of all the Giants no one knows, whose names I’ve already forgotten but cheered for anyways!

        
Cody Ross                                                                       Buster Posey

By in Other 0

Giants = World Champions!!!

The Giants won their first World Series since moving to San Francisco in 1957!  It seemed like the entire city was pulling for this team and last night it seemed like the entire city was drinking for it!


Chestnut Street, San Francisco, CA

Sorry for the poor picture quality, I had to use my phone.

Watching Tim Lincecum dominate the Rangers begs the question: can he throw a football as well as he throws a baseball?  The 49ers need the help!

By in Brewing 0

The Final Countdown

This weekend was Halloween which meant it was time for candy, costumes, and of course beer!  Between some great football games and the World Series, I was able to transfer the Brown Ale to the keg.  The process is very similar to the one used when moving the beer to the secondary fermenter; using an auto siphon to carefully transfer the beer. 

        
Glass carboy and 3 gallon keg                                 Siphoning beer to the keg

The next step is carbonating the beer.  There are two methods for carbonating beer: natural vs. forced.  The difference / advantages / disadvantages of these two methods will be discussed in a future posting, but because I have a draft system and because I don’t have enough patience to wait for natural carbonation, I have chosen to force carbonate my Brown Ale.

The process of force carbonation begins with cooling the beer down as gasses dissolve easier in liquids at lower temperatures.  Once the beer has been cooled, CO2 is pumped into the keg at kept at a pressure of around 10-12psi.  Over the course of a couple days, the CO2 will dissolve into the beer and an equilibrium will be reached.  At that point the beer is ready to be enjoyed!


Keg at CO2 tank in the fridge

As you can see, I keep my draft system in a mini fridge.  This set up works for now, but I’m planning on coverting the fridge to a kegorator… stay tuned!