Wednesday, December 11, 2013

From water to beer: a homebrewing guide

Many of the modern luxuries we experience on a daily basis were developed with a sole purpose in mind: convenience. The television brought movies home, the treadmill brought running indoors; so why not beer?

Home brewing can be a fun and fulfilling hobby that is delicious to enjoy. Although it may seem like a complex science made only possible with equipment and ingredients on a large scale, most of the beers featured in bars and big time breweries can be made at home in smaller, 5-gallon batches.

“My parents bought me a home brew kit when I was young…I made browns, some lagers, lots of ambers,” said Community Beer Works founder Greg Tanski, a 15-year homebrewing veteran.
A batch of beer wort fermenting, photo courtesy of Seth Rios
Since becoming federally legalized in 1978, homebrewing has become the leading method for amateur beer lovers to create fresh, personally-made brews. It also allows homebrewers a chance to experiment with flavors and apply their own outside knowledge to brew a blend pleasing to their palate.
“My best friend bought me my first kit as a wedding present,” said Seth Rios, a chemical engineer graduate from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute with more than three years of homebrewing experience. “His reasoning was that I’m a chemical engineer, and this is engineering.”
Homebrewing is a relatively easy hobby to enjoy. To get going, many experienced brewers recommend buying a kit. These start at around $80 and include all of the necessary equipment and ingredients to brew beer at home.
“It’s probably the easiest way to go,” said Tanksi. "Start off with the malt extracts, like most people start off with. Moving into full grain allows you to experiment more."
Each batch of beer will cost about $25 to $45 in ingredients per 5 gallons, depending on the style being brewed. When finished, this will typically yield about 48 bottles of 12-ounce beers.

Rios warns that mistakes are bound to happen.

“I was brewing a bourbon vanilla stout when the fermentation lock blew off while it was fermenting,” said Rios. “This introduced bacteria into the brew, which skunked it. What made it worse was that the wort (the beer liquid before fermentation) tasted awesome and it would have been a great batch.”
Throwing away 16 hours of work and over four 4 weeks of patience may be tough to overcome, but experienced brewers recommend to avoid focusing just on the end product.
“You have to like the process of it, not just the beer,” said Rios.
As long as you have the patience, a love of beer and the determination, homebrewing can be a unique experience that yields a delicious result.
"Read up online or any of the books out there about it," said Tanski. "Learn to be a tinkerer, build your own brewing kit, join a local group; everyone's out there to help each other."

Blue and gold make green

It’s game night at the local tavern and the Buffalo Sabres just pulled off an impressive win in the last seconds of the third. After a few celebratory rounds you asked the bartender for your check, only to find that the final amount is more than you anticipated; a lot more.

Sports fans have long enjoyed beer as the beverage of choice while watching their favorite teams compete. It pairs well with arena food and can transform an average night into an energetic experience. What many may not realize, however, is that a team’s performance can directly influence the generosity and beer choices of their fans.
“When the Sabres play well, customers definitely tip better,” said Katherine Glaser, a concessions worker at First Niagara Center.
The effect isn’t limited to the fans. Suk Lema, a waitress at First Niagara’s Lexus Club, regularly works with the Sabres’ staff and said the results are similar.
“The [players] are more generous after wins,” said Lema, “they’re happier and more excited at lunches and it shows on the bill.”
When asked the reason for this phenomenon, both Glaser and Lema agreed that people with positive attitudes tend to be more lavish with their spending habits. Glaser also said that it’s a matter of urgency.
“When [the Sabres] are winning and fans are buying food, a lot of them leave twenty-dollar bills for $16 purchases,” said Glaser. “They’d rather tip more than wait the extra time for change.”
And those tips add up. On a winning night, Glaser said, she receives almost twice the additional income as opposed to nights that end in losses.
Along with the Sabres’ home arena, local bars and restaurants notice the effect as well. Melvin, a bartender at “Indulge,” shared his experience when Buffalo hockey fans witness a loss.
“The mood seems to turn upside down. It’s hard to sell to a group that can’t celebrate and wants to go home,” said Melvin.
Although the team’s performance may be less than satisfactory this season, Lema said that fans continue to enjoy their favorite beers at games. She also said the wins now have an even greater affect on spending than ever before.
“The Sabres are really lucky,” said Lema, “even with [their] record, fans come to every game to support them like we were winning every time.”
But supporting local restaurants and bars when the Sabres are losing? That's another matter.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Drink beer to your health

We’re all familiar with the three main parts of a healthy lifestyle: eat fresh, exercise often and sleep well. There could, however, be a forth element to this health trio that is both effective and enjoyable: drink beer.
“Beer is all natural and fresh. It’s not just a party drink anymore,” said Jason Fitzpatrick, a bartender at the Tappo Restaurant in downtown Buffalo.
Until recently, the common conception of beer has been that it makes you fat and unhealthy. But recent studies have shown that, when consumed in moderation, beer potentially has many health benefits.

For instance, beer may promote good cardiovascular health. In a study conducted by Emory University in Atlanta, elderly men and women who consumed at least 1.5 drinks daily had up to 50 percent less of a risk of suffering from heart failure.

History has also revealed the benefits of alcohol consumption. France, the country with the highest per-capita alcohol consumption, also has one of the lowest rates of coronary heart disease mortality worldwide.

The ingredients of beer have proven to be full of potent antioxidants. At the annual international conference ‘Beer and Nutrition,’ hosted by the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, scientists concluded that hops contain a number of nutrients that appear to prevent a variety of diseases. These include Alzheimer’s disease, obesity , and depression.

But before you celebrate this proven health trend with a few pints, keep in mind that anything above moderation can be harmful.

Carol DeNysschen, an associate professor of nutrition at SUNY Buffalo State, warns that if drinking in excess, the risks of beer can well outweigh the benefits.

“Beer has health benefits on lowering blood pressure (potentially) with one can,” said DeNysschen, “but other than that, it has alcohol (empty calories), it is a diuretic, it can impair one's judgment in making wise food decisions and is often abused.”
According to scientists and nutritionists such as DeNysschen, to see any benefits from beer the consumer must drink in moderation. This is about one to three glasses a day with a healthy meal to help absorb alcohol. This intake must also be consistent, meaning that the consumption is spread evenly throughout the week.

Also, these effects have only been studied in men and women over the ages of 30. Scientists indicate that drinking beer for any benefits is only advisable at a later age, when the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and high blood pressure increase naturally.

So yes, drinking beer under some circumstances is beneficial to your health. Is it the secret holy grail of healthy living tips? No, but as long you drink in moderation and enjoy responsibly, beer can be another method to maintain a healthy lifestyle and truly give meaning to the classic toast: “to your health.”

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Food & beer: A recipe for delicious

There’s a special moment that occurs when taking the first bite of food at a restaurant. Immediately your taste buds organize a collection of flavors to create a single, mouth-watering experience that is unique and satisfying in every way.

But after a few more bites, the sensation begins to lose its potency. The flavors your mouth once enjoyed are now taken for granted, so you reach for your beer to fill the void. Then the sensation returns, and with vengeance.

Good beer doesn't just go well with food; it enhances it. Finding the right brew to pair with food isn't always easy though. With thousands of craft breweries in the U.S. producing hundreds of beer varieties, it can be tricky finding the right one to compliment your meal.

“People discovering what they like to eat and what they like to drink is unique,” said Tammy DeLong, a bartender at the Pearl Street Grill & Brewery.
“Pearl Street” is unique because it offers both in house-made food and beer. This puts bartenders like DeLong at an advantage, making beer pairing a sixth sense for employees.
“Anytime you work with food and alcohol, you take in more options,” said DeLong. “You get a greater knowledge of both.”
To find good pairs, DeLong recommends that you trust your senses and decide what flavors make up your beer. Smell, look, and taste are all key components in this step of the beer pairing process.

Next, decide what flavors from your brew complement flavors from similar foods. Maria, a waitress at Pearl Street, said pairing a beer and food can be much like a tight rope balancing act.

“The two need to be equal,” said Maria, “otherwise one will overpower the other.”
If you allow one to dominate the other, many of the subtle flavors from the lesser will diminish, which could potentially ruin a great meal.

Lastly, DeLong believes that you must take risks. Many of the best beer pairs were created by breaking the rules, so you need to be adventurous when creating good combinations.

“I always ask people what they like to drink; then you can’t go wrong,” DeLong said.
Below are some of DeLong’s personal pairing recommendations to give you an idea of a few beers that compliment certain foods. She warned, however, that these tastes are unique to her own palate and should only be used as guidelines when searching for pairs of your own:
  • Blueberry Blonde Ale with Buffalo hot wings.
  • Pearl Street’s “Trainwreck” German Amber Ale with any burger.
  • Pearl Street’s “Lighthouse Premium,” a Blonde Ale, with any sauce-dense pasta.