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The Best Book About Wine

Thursday, December 18, 2008

I was busy working on a blog post last Friday, when I heard a large thud outside my door. Not knowing if it was two cars colliding or a someone falling on my steps, I got up to take a look. To my surprise, my copy of Wine had arrived. Wine is published by Langenschedit Publishing Group.

Wine Book

This book is awesome!!! A huge 928 pages full of wine info from around the world. Very well written, but what struck me the most was the maps and pictures. They are just plain excellent.


The tips are very informative and will really help those just starting out in the wonderful world of wine.


Here's a little more from the publisher:
This abundantly illustrated book is an atlas, reference work and buying guide to the world of wine. Following a classic organization, readers are introduced to the history of wine, wine production, wine cellars and the enjoyment of wine. The reader is then invited on a journey through all the wine growing countries and regions of the world. Expert authors introduce each area, illustrated with detailed maps, including Canada, Japan and China. Newcomers to the passion of wine will find Wine an invaluable resource to deciphering the vast wine offerings around the world while wine aficionados will savor browsing through this gorgeous volume and discovering new wines and regions.


  • More than 1,200 full-color illustrations and photographs

  • 150 detailed maps of the world’s wine growing countries and regions

  • Numerous producer tips that convey highly useful recommendations

  • Updated select producers, tables, maps and photographs

  • New and extensive information on southern and eastern Europe and the new European countries

  • Information on new wine growing countries and areas around the world

If you need to find a present for that special wine person, this should be the present that you buy.

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Is The IPA Myth, A Myth?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Written by DJ Spiess
Monday, 10 November 2008

Was the IPA invented or did George Hodgson shoot Liberty Vallence too?

I try to stamp out every beer myth I come across, so when Virgil G. another beer blogger pointed out I may be perpetuating a beer myth in my Thanksgiving, Pilgrims, and Beer Myths article I was surprised (and somewhat embarrassed). It would be pretty bad if I wrote an article about myths and perpetuated one of my own - especially in the same article. Damn.

The IPA legend

The IPA legend goes like this. Beer brewers were looking for a beer to take to India. The trip to India is hard on beer, since the beer is exposed to dramatically high temperatures including crossing the equator twice and a very long journey over time and distance. Time and high heat can be very harsh on beer.

Read more at: Fermentarium

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We Turn 3!!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Happy Birthday to Us!!! It's amazing to think that after three years, I would still be blogging about making wine and beer. I want to thank all of you that have visited or subscribed to the site over the past three years.

Now that we have turned 3, there will be some major changes with this blog. Weekly posts will now be done at and I will be posting on the original blog (this one) on a monthly basis. If you are a subscriber, I encourage you to change your feed to: or if you want posts delivered to your email, you can do that here.

Thanks, and see you soon at


Benefits of Red Wine

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Photo by: kingriversza's

We have heard over the past few years that drinking a couple glasses of red wine each day is good for you. So, is wine good for you. Let's look at some evidence.

"Many studies investigated the benefits of red wine suggested that moderate amount of red wine (one drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men) lowers the risk of heart attack for people in middle age by ~ 30 to 50 percent. It is also suggested that alcohol such as red wine may prevent additional heart attacks if you have already suffered from one. Other studies also indicated that red wine can raise HDL cholesterol (the Good cholesterol) and prevent LDL cholesterol (the Bad cholesterol) from forming. Red wine may help prevent blood clots and reduce the blood vessel damage caused by fat deposits. Indeed, studies showed that people from the Mediterranean region who regularly drank red wine have lower risks of heart disease.Source: Health Castle

"Research scientists in North Carolina have announced discovery of how a chemical found in red wine helps to fight cancer.

The study may help explain the controversial "French paradox," the apparent lower rates of heart disease and some cancers among the French, despite a typical national diet high in fat.

Compared to other nationalities in Europe, the French eat more beef, cheese, butter and other artery-clogging foods. But they also drink more wine, and researchers have speculated that certain compounds in grapes and grape products like wine offer some kind of protection from the negative effects of the high-fat diet.

The new research identified the workings of a key cancer-related substance: trans-Resveratrol, often called Res.

In addition to red grapes, Res is found in mulberries, raspberries, peanuts, muscadine grapes, including scuppernongs, and many other fruits and nuts, said the research scientists at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.   Source:

Ok, so far we have found evidence that red wine is good for the heart and may fight cancer. What are some of the other benefits?

* Reduced risk of death from nearly all causes

* Red wine, with or without alcohol, decreases the harmful effect of smoking on the endothelium - layer of cells that provide a friction-reducing lining in lymph vessels, blood vessels, and the heart.

* Heart disease

* Blood Clots - Red wine produces anticlotting, or antithrombotic, action.

* Atherosclerosis - Red wine may prevent the initiation and progression of atherosclerosis (hardening or "furring" of the arteries).

Hypertension - two glasses of red wine (250 ml), taken together with the meal, lower post-meal blood pressure in hypertensive persons.

* Kidney stones: Red wine intake reduces the risk of kidney stone formation.

* Alzheimer's disease: Moderate wine drinking correlates with a lower risk for Alzheimer's disease. Researchers found that resveratrol, a red wine polyphenol, produces neuroprotective effects.Source: C. Simmons of  
Dumb Little Man

So what makes red wine so healthy?

All of a grape’s protective flavonoids are in the “must”, a chunky mixture of grape skins, pulp, seeds, and stems that is used to make wine and grape juice. When must is fermented to make wine, a lot of flavonoids are drawn into liquid. Since grape juice isn’t fermented, you get only flavonoids that are drawn into the juice during processing stages. The compounds that end up in the drink are still pretty strong...

Since flavonoids are what give juice its reach purple hue, if you’re looking for the grape juice with most flavonoids, pick the darkest variety. Source:  
Foods That Heal

Pretty strong evidence that a couple of glasses of red wine a day are good for you.    Just another reason why I make my own.


Wine Labels and More

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

It is not everyday that I take a paid endorsement for a website, today is an exception.   I was very impressed with all that has to offer.  One of their offerings is personalized labels for your wine.  The label above is one of their stock labels that you might want to use for the upcoming holidays.  I know that I prefer to use another person's printer than mine. (Mostly because I hate using up all my ink).  You can also get bottles of wine with your own labels.  Here's a little blurb from their site.

Personalize this bottle of wine in just four simple steps!

Select the text for your personalized label. You can either:

Use one of our Label Text Suggestions, or

Create your own custom label text. If you want to create your own custom text, please enter it in the “Customer Notes” section of the checkout after you add the bottle of wine to the shipping cart

Select one of our professional Custom Label Designs. If you prefer, you can also submit your own custom label design by uploading a high-resolution image.

Complete the To and From fields below

Add the bottle of wine to your shopping cart and proceed to checkout.

Want to have your wine placed in a wooden gift box? Simply select the appropriate size from our selection of gift boxes, and add it to your cart.

Pretty simple process.  What I really like most is that they have a nice selection of organic wines and as their site says:

Organic Wine has become a preferred choice among’s clients. Organic simply means that no chemicals have been used in the growing of the grapes, allowing the natural flavors to rise to the surface.  In addition to an all-natural approach, Organic wines still deliver the distinctive flavors and characteristics you’ve come to expect from traditional fine wines.

Besides having organic wines they also have a wide selection of reds, whites, regionals and more. And, if you need new glassware or accessories, they have it too.

They also have a brick and mortar location in Kansas City, Missouri.  Here is more info about their store.

About The Connoisseur

The Connoisseur is an upscale wine store located on the Country Club Plaza in Kansas City Missouri We feature premium wines and champagnes with personalized messages printed on each label, packed in handsome wooden gift boxes. In addition to the wines under The Connoisseur label, an extensive collection of "top-of-the-line" brand wines are also offered.


Gifts are available in 1-, 2-, 3-, 4-, 6-, 12- and 24-bottle assortments, and in a broad price spectrum to fit any budget. The unique and creative product line is constantly being evaluated and updated to meet the consumer's needs.   


The Connoisseur's distinctive packaging of rustic wooden boxes, surrounding fine wines and champagnes, crystal stemware and gourmet food items, are made exclusively for The Connoisseur. In addition to the personalized label on the bottle, each gift has a label with the recipient's name and a personalized gift card echoing the sentiment on the bottle.


For over five years, The Connoisseur has enjoyed being the perfect answer to gift-giving needs for countless individuals as well as businesses and professional people. The uniqueness of the gifts has attracted customers from across The United States. The Connoisseur gift leaves a lasting impression, whether it is business or personal. Perfect for all seasons, all tastes and all occasions, it carries with it a message of warmth, good will and appreciation.


Do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions.   The Connoisseur is locally owned and operated by the Monteleone family.
Store Hours: 
Mon - Sat 10am to 6pm
Sun 12pm to 5pm

Drop in to and see everything that they have to offer.

This post was sponsored by:


Cream Ale

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Photo By: thorntm

According to the BJCP a Cream ale or also referred to as a "creamer," is related to American lagers. They are generally brewed to be light and refreshing with a straw to pale golden color. Hop and malt flavor is usually subdued but some breweries give them a more assertive character. Two examples are Genesee Cream Ale (made by High Falls Brewing) and Little Kings Cream Ale (by Hudepohl-Schoenling Brewing.)

While cream ales are top-fermented ales, they typically undergo an extended period of cold-conditioning or lagering after primary fermentation is complete. This reduces fruity esters and gives the beer a cleaner flavor. Some examples also have a lager yeast added for the cold-conditioning stage or are mixes of ales and lagers. Adjuncts such as maize and rice are used to lighten the body and flavor although there are all-malt examples available.  Source: Wikipedia

Cream ale, also called American sparkling ale, is an American ale-hybrid style, now taken up residence in Canada. Coincidentally, it also came about in the late 1800s. It developed out of the need by the few remaining ale brewers to find a beer style with which to fight the battle of the marketplace against golden lagers. Lager won, and ale brewers continued their decline. As sales shrank, the remaining ale brewers cheapened and blandified their product until it was no longer worth a thought.

The style dwindled to just a few brands, but is now undergoing somewhat of a rebound--and a much needed improvement. Craft brewers, who have picked up the gauntlet of improving the style, are making it a more distinctive beer deserving of our attention.

A procedure that differentiates this hybrid from others is the cold lagering (age conditioning) it undergoes. It may be argued, as it long has been in some American brewing circles, that the primary determining factor in classifying beers is fermentation temperature, not yeast strain.

Use of corn grits and/or flakes is typical of the grain bill for cream ale, but not always so. Expect better of any microbrewery brands, and those from regional brewers who actually care about what they sell. Some are kraeusened, often with lager wort and yeast, to induce natural carbonation, as opposed to artificial carbonation. Natural carbon dioxide tends to produce a smoother mouthfeel. A combination of American and German hops may be used, as well as North American grains.

Color is pale to bright yellow to medium gold. Body should be light to medium. Hops should be subtle on the nose, with possibly some fruity notes. Bitterness is moderate, and these beers are well carbonated, spritzy, and refreshing in the manner of blonde lagers. Cream ale is appropriate for those hot, muggy North American summer days. Poorer examples are best drunk as cold as possible and quickly, before they warm.  Source: All About Beer


Steam Beer

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Photo by Orin Optiglot

A name trademarked by the Anchor Steam Beer brewery of San Francisco. This brewery's principal product is made by a distinctive method of bottom-fermentation at high temperatures and in unusually wide, shallow vessels. This technique, producing a beer with elements of both lager and ale in its character (though also distinctive in its own right), is said to have been common in California when, in the absence of supplies of ice, early brewers tried to make bottom-fermenting beers. The very lively beer was said to "steam" when the casks were tapped.   Source: Beer Hunter

Brewing Process:

In 19th-century California, not only ice, but even sources of naturally cold water, were probably unavailable to brewers. California brewers were forced to use lager yeast at higher ale temperatures.

Final flavors of beer are influenced by the strain of yeast and the fermentation temperature. Lager yeast is best used at temperatures from 55°F down to 32 °F. Classic lagering of beers takes place over a period of time from weeks to many months at a temperature of 45°F. Lager yeasts are bottom fermenting, which is to say that they ferment the wort while sitting on the bottom of the fermenter. Papazian, Charlie (2003). The Complete Joy of Home Brewing: 3rd Edition.

Ale yeast is best used at temperatures from 55°F to 75°F. Fermentation by ale yeasts produces a beer that has a distinctive ale flavor. Ale yeasts are Top-fermenting, that is they settle out on top of the wort after fermenting (fermentation itself takes place in a suspension. Papazian, Charlie (2003). The Complete Joy of Home Brewing: 3rd Edition. Steam Beer uses bottom fermenting lager yeasts at ale temperatures, which results in a very distinctive flavor profile that includes both ale and lager characteristics.

While steam beer is considered a specialty microbrew style of beer today, it was originally a cheap beer made for blue collar workers. Wahl & Heinus’ “American Handy Book of Brewing and Malting” (1902) describes California Steam Beer as “a very clear, refreshing drink, much consumed by the laboring classes.” And while Anchor Steam is an all-barley malt beer, additives were often used in the early days. According to Wahl & Heinus’ book, “Malt alone, malt and grits, or raw cereals of any kind, and sugars, especially glucose, employed in the kettle to the extent of 33 1/3 percent…. Roasted malt or sugar coloring is used to give the favorite amber color of Munich beer.”


Other Articles Worth Reading

Steam Beer at Brew Your Own Magazine
California Steaming at Brewing Techniques
Anchor Brewing

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10 Tips for a Succesful Harvest Day

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Nice article from Winemaker Magazine.

Harvest comes once per year and being prepared is vital. You can’t make up for poor farming in the last week before harvest, but you can prepare your home vineyard for harvest just like the pros. An entire year’s work in the vine rows can either pay off in delicious wine or it can produce wine that underperforms and makes you wonder why you went to all the trouble of growing grapes.

My job is to shove you gently toward the delicious and away from the disappointing. I’ve written articles on most aspects of backyard grape farming. (I’ve also met many of you and answered your questions at the wonderful WineMaker Conference in Sonoma this past May.) However, I’ve never broken down my professional harvest experiences into a top ten list for what to do in the days leading up to harvest.

The take home message is this: farm smart all year and then make that hard work count by being fully prepared when the alarm clock goes off on harvest day. Happy snipping!

Get the 10 tips from Winemaker Magazine

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Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Alt is German for "old", and these beers are of a style older than the lagered beers, a remnant of the time before lager was invented. Altbier is top fermented then cold lagered for a few weeks. Altbiers are copper-bronze in colour and mostly brewed around Düsseldorf. Altbier is the closest Germany gets to the style of a British bitter but the lagering period gives them a quite different character. The best English bitters are cask-conditioned or bottle-conditioned but Germany does not have the tradition of cask-conditioning ales so Altbiers are not cask-conditioned and, when bottled, are not bottle-conditioned. Generally around 4.8abv, mildly fruity, with a typically dry finish, there is more hop bitterness here than in most German beers. A good sessional drink, and goes well with cheese. Source: German Beer Guide

A little history from

The Bavarian Reinheitsgebot (beer purity law; literally "purity order") of 1516 was drawn up to ensure the production of decent-quality beer; however, this decree did not affect brewers of the Rhineland. As such, the brewing traditions in this region developed slightly differently. For example, brewing during the summer was illegal in Bavaria, but the cooler climate of the Rhineland allowed Alt brewers to brew all year long and to experiment with storing fermented beer in cool caves and cellars.

The name "altbier" first appeared in the 1800s to differentiate the beers of Düsseldorf from the new pale lager that was gaining a hold on Germany. Brewers in Düsseldorf used the pale malts that were used for the modern pale lagers, but retained the old ("alt") method of using warm fermenting yeasts.
The first brewery to use the name Alt was Schumacher which opened in 1838. The founder, Mathias Schumacher, allowed the pale ale to mature in cool conditions in wooden casks for longer than normal, and laid the foundation for the modern alt beer - an amber coloured, lagered ale. The result is a pale ale that has some of the lean, dryness of a lager, with the fruity notes of an ale.

I have tried a few locally brewed Altbiers and have found them to be quite tasty. For a recipe on how to make an Altbier, try this one: German Altbier.

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Beer and Wine Resources

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Here is a list of e-books that you can purchase to help you make your own wine and beer.

641 Beer Recipes

Easy Brewing Techniques

The Complete Grape Growers Guide

Tips and Secrets To Making Great Wine

Wine Making Made Easy

Home Winemaking: Step by Step


How Beer Works

Monday, June 09, 2008

Nice little article on how beer is made. Great reminder that it really is a simple process.


Brew Pub Video

Thursday, June 05, 2008

One can only wish that you could have a brewing set up like this.


Where in The Helles Munich

Thursday, May 29, 2008

This recipe is taken from Victory Beer Recipes and is an all grain recipe.

Makes 5 Gallons

8 pounds two-row malt
2 pounds light crystal mat
2 pounds Munich malt
1 1/4 ounces Hallertauer hops - 90 minutes
wyeast no 308 liquid yeast

Boiling time 90 minutes
Primary fermentation 3 weeks at 50 degrees
Secondary fermentation 4 weeks at 32 degrees
Mash grains at 151 degrees for 1 hour.
Force carbonate


Robert The Bruce Barleywine

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

This recipe is taken from Victory Beer Recipes. To learn more about barley wine, check out this link at Making Homemade Wine and Beer.

5 gallons


12 pounds Wander light malt extract

4 pounds pale ale malt

1 pound crystal malt 20 degree

2 ounces British bold hops - 10% for 45 minutes

1 1/2 ounces Centennial hops 7.5% for 45 minutes

2 ounces Kent Goldings hops 5.9% finish

1 ounce Kent Goldings hops 4.8% finish

Wyeast no. 1084 Irish ale yeast

Vierka champange yeast

Primary fermentation 10 days 72 degrees

Secondary fermentation 21 days 60 degrees in oak or oak chips


Fountain Head Black Magic

Thursday, May 22, 2008

This recipe is taken from
Victory Beer Recipes and makes 2 1/2 gallons

3 1/3 pounds Munton and Fison old ale kit malt extract
2 1/2 pounds Munton and Fison light dry malt extract
6 ounces black patent malt
6 ounces roasted barley
6 ounces caramel malt 40 degree
1 1/2 ounces Nugget hops - 60 minutes
1/2 ounce Nugget hops - 10 minutes
1 1/2 teaspoons gypsum
1 packet Red Star champagne yeast
2 ounces corn sugar to prime

Boiling time 60 minutes
Primary fermentation 7 weeks at 70 degrees
Secondary fermentation 6 weeks at 70 degrees

Crush grains and add to 3 quarts cold water. Slowly raise temperature to gentle simmer and hold for 10 minutes. Sparge with 2 quarts hot water. Add to brewpot to make 3 gallons. Heat to boil and add malt extract.


BME Pilsner

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

This recipe is taken from Victory Beer Recipes and makes 5 gallons.

6 2/3 pounds BME Munich gold malt extract
1 1/4 Ounces Halleratuer hops - 45 minutes
3/4 ounces Saaz hops - 30 minutes
1/2 ounce Saaz hops - 2 minutes
1/4 ounce Saaz hops - dry
1 pint m.ev. no 001 German yeast

primary fermentation - 1 week 50 degrees
secondary fermentation - 2 weeks at 35 to 40 degrees
force carbonate


Beam Me Up Scotty

Thursday, May 15, 2008

"Beam Me Up, Scotty"

This recipe is taken from Victory Beer Recipes boiling time 75 minutes

Makes 5 Gallons

5 pounds Diamalt light malt extract
5 pounds Diamalt amber malt extract
1 pound caramel malt
2 ounces chocolate malt
2 ounces Oregon fuggles hop pellets - 60 minutes
1/2 ounces Styrian golding hop pellets - 30 minutes
1/4 ounce Wlliamette hops - 10 minutes
2 teaspoons gypsum
1 tablespoon irish moss
Wyeast Irish Ale Yeast
1/4 cup corn sugar to prime

boiling time 75 minutes

primary fermentation 1 1/2 weeks at 68 degrees

Add grains to 6 gallons cold water, bring to a boil and remove grains just before boiling.


Wine Video

Thursday, May 08, 2008


Making Malt Extract

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Very excellent article from Brew Your Own on making malt extract. It's amazing how many things contain one of the basic ingredients of beer. Here's a little excerpt:

Malt extract is in everything from pretzels to breakfast cereals to, well, beer. But how is it made, and where did it come from? Learn about its history and creation and what it means for your brewing.

Connecting with your food and its ingredients is one of the most rewarding parts of being a brewmaster or chef. Learning where ingredients come from and how they are made gives an understanding of how the variance in breeding, growing conditions, harvesting, storage and processing creates the ingredients’ different flavors and colors. For homebrewers, there are many articles on the “life and times”of different
malts and hops, yet little information on the origin of one of their most widely-used ingredients — malt extract.

Read the whole article by clicking here.


Vegan Wine

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Vegan wine is wine made without animal products. As such it can be part of a vegan diet. While wine is essentially made from grapes, on occasion animalic products are used in small amounts in the production process. Wineries might use animal-derived products as finings. To remove proteins, yeasts, and other organic particles which are in suspension during the making of the wine, a fining agent is added to the top of the vat. As it sinks down, the particles adhere to the agent, and are carried out of suspension. None of the fining agent remains in the finished product sold in the bottle, and not all wines are fined. All Kosher wines are vegan.
Source: Wikipedia

This is something that I really never gave much thought to. Generally, I don't use any finings in my wines primarily because I think just a little bit of sediment leaves some extra flavor. For those of you that want to try a vegan wine prior to making one, check out this list.


Earth Day, Elections, Tax Freedom Day Thoughts

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

With today being Earth Day and Election Day (here in Pennsylvania) and tomorrow being Tax Freedom Day, I just felt that it was time to sit down and evaluate how making your own wine and beer relates to all 3 days.

Earth Day - The biggest thing this Earth Day is the climate changes and our carbon footprint. Personally, I'm still not sure on the whole global warming/climate change thing but carbon footprinting is something that I can see. If possible, you should grow as many of the ingredients for your wines and beers. Hops and grapes are rather easy to grow and harvest and will cut down on use of fossil fuels (harvesting and transportation). Another benefit is that you can control the amount of chemicals that go on into your beer or wine.

Election Day - It is our duty as a good citizen to vote on election day. Today our problems are a lot more complex and laws making wine and beer and nowhere on the candidate's radar. But a little over 200 years ago, it was a major issue in Western Pennsylvania. The Whiskey Rebellion was all about taxes and taxes and government spending should be something everybody should be concerned about. Take a little time and find out more prior to casting your vote.

Tax Freedom Day - is the first day of the year in which a nation as a whole has theoretically earned enough income to fund its annual tax burden. It is annually calculated in the United States by the Tax Foundation—a Washington, D.C.-based tax research organization. Every dollar that is officially considered income by the U.S. government is counted, and every payment to the U.S. government that is officially considered a tax is counted. Taxes at all levels of government—local, state and federal—are included. Tomorrow, April 23 is tax freedom day, the day start keeping the money that we make. Personally, I think paying 30% of my income to the government is way too much money. I would prefer 15% or less. I am thankful though that I don't live in some other countries where 40 - 60% is the norm. Enjoy your tax free day by drinking some of your homemade wine or beer.

Ok, enough of my thoughts and rants. What do you think about these subjects?


How To Prune Raspberries and Blackberries

Thursday, April 17, 2008

This is a nice video on how to prune your raspberries and blackberries. Both make fine wines.


How To Brew Antioxidant Rich Beer

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

My son sent me an e-mail about this brew that he found on Wikihow. It's a very interesting article and closely mirrors my techniques when brewing. Here's a snippet of the article.

Beer is a source of readily absorbed antioxidants. Scientific studies indicate that the moderate consumption of beer, as well as beer-specific antioxidants, may help to promote cardiovascular health [1] and help to reduce the incidence of certain types of cancer.[2] Beer that is particularly high in antioxidants may have a longer shelf life, as it may be more resistant to oxidation.[3] This should result in higher quality, more stable sensory characteristics, such as flavor and aroma. Certain hop polyphenol antioxidants can also contribute to desirable foam stability. Beer is a complex beverage that is brewed using various ingredients and various types of equipment. Therefore, beer can be brewed to contain greater concentrations of antioxidants.

If you want to read the steps on to make this beer, you can read more here.


Maddalena Wines From The San Antonio Winery

Thursday, April 10, 2008

San Antonio Winery

Since 1917, The San Antonio Winery has added flair and flavor to celebrations of friends and families throughout Los Angeles and the West.

Today, it is the last of more than one hundred producing wineries that once lined the Los Angeles River Basin. It is a popular restaurant and legendary banquet location, a comprehensive tasting room, and an international wine shop with hundreds of domestic and imported labels.

The winery is an oasis of good living in the heart of the city.

Family matriarch, Maddalena Riboli, has inspired both a restaurant and a brand of high quality varietal wines from California’s Central Coast. Grapes are grown in renowned viticultural regions that include Monterey and Paso Robles. Maddalena Vineyard features balanced wines with ripe fruit flavors and an elegant finish. They include Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Grigio, Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Muscat Canelli and White Zinfandel.

Living in Central Pennsylvania and having never visited LA, I don’t get a lot of chances to try this winery’s fine selection of wines but the nice people at San Antonio Winery sent my a couple samples to try.

Also, being a home winemaker my style of evaluations are completely different than those done by more “experienced” wine tasters. You won’t find that it has such and such a nose, or nice legs, etc. My rating scale is this: I’d spend my money on it, Maybe, Not worth it. Plain and simple, no numbers, no in-depth descriptions.

Maddalenna Wines

The two wines that I sampled are:

Maddalenna Sauvignon Blanc 2006

Maddalenna Cabernet Sauvignon 2004

The first one that I tried was the Sauvignon Blanc. Honestly, I am not a white wine drinker because white wines are usally too light for my palette. I would not purchase a white wine for my own consumption, but if I had to buy one this would me the one that I would buy. Biggest reason is that it did not have that “yucky” white wine taste.

Maddalenna Sauvignon Blanc 2006 - rating - I’d spend my money on it.

The second one, Cabernet Sauvignon, all I can say is WOW!!! I haven’t tasted a wine that good since Valentine’s Day 2002 when I took my late wife out to a very nice resturant. This is a definite spend your money on it if your a red wine drinker. Hey, winery guys, could you send a case of this for me sample.

Maddalenna Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 - rating - A definite spend my money on it.

Overall, I was impressed with the quality of both wines. Seems like the family takes pride in making an excellent product. Too bad that it is a special order here in Pennsylvania because I could drink massive quantities of these wines while waiting for my wines to mature. Good job San Antonio.


Loos Lucy Ginger Beer

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

This recipe is taken from Victory Beer Recipes

4 1/2 pounds Laaglander light malt extract
1 1/2 pounds honey
3 ounces freshly grated ginger root
1 ounce Cascade hops - 60 minutes
1/2 ounce Cascade hops - 30 minutes
zest of 4 oranges - 10 minutes
1/2 ounce Cascade hops - 2 minutes
American lager liquid yeast
3/4 cup corn sugar to prime

Boiling time 60 minutes
Primary fermentation 6 days at 50 degrees
Seconadry fermentation 13 days at 50 degrees

Spices added at beginning of boil, orange zest for last 10 minutes of boil.


Easy Beer Labels

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Normally I don't make labels for my beer (I mark the crown), but every so often I make batches of beer to give away. For those batches, I always like to make the bottles look attractive by putting on labels. I've always used Photoshop or Microsoft Publisher to make my labels and spent hours making them. I made the label above in less than minute at Beer Label Builder (sponsor of this post).

Not only did I find this as a real time saver but if your making several cases for that special occasion you can have professionally looking labels. Price wise, Beer Label Builder is very reasonable and they also have quite a few styles to chose from. You can also upload your own custom label and have them print them for you.

So, if your looking for some professional looking labels, give
Beer Label Builder a try.


Beers Reviewed

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

I've started to do video beer reviews and have started a new blog for those posts. I have also decided to provide captions on these videos for the hearing impaired. This beer review is the first one to have captions and I'm still a little rusty on getting everything correct. You can view the other videos at Beers Reviewed. If you have any suggestions on improving the reviews, please contact me.

Highlights: Kind of a bland beer. Good beer to drink after cutting the grass. I give it a Good, middle rating.


Easy Wine Labels

Thursday, March 27, 2008

If you happen to stop by my house, you would find that I generally store my wine in gallon jugs. I'm just too darn lazy or getting too old to mess around with filling wine bottles.

Christmas time is a different story. I love to give my better wines away as gifts to friends and family. My problem is that I generally spend hours making the perfect wine label to make my bottles look professional.

This year my problem is solved. At Wine Label Builder you can make a professional looking label in less than a minute.

Not only did I find this as a real time saver but if your making several cases for that special occasion you can have professionally looking labels. Even though Wine Label Builder paid for this review, I found their collection of labels to chose from quite extensive.

Price wise,
Wine Label Builder is very reasonable. You can also upload your own custom label and have them print them for you.

So, if your looking for some professional looking labels, give Wine Label Builder a try.

Having too much fun making labels since it was so easy.


Stu Brew

Friday, March 21, 2008

This recipe is taken from
Victory Beer Recipes and makes 10 gallons.

17 pounds two-row pale malt
2 pounds Munich malt
1 Carapils malt

6 ounces crystal malt
1 ounce Perle hops - 60 minutes
3 ounces Saaz hops - 30 minutes
1 ounce Tettnanger hops - 12 minutes
1/2 teaspoon gypsum
Wyeast no 2206 liquid yeast

Boiling time 60 minutes
Primary fermentation 14 days at 49 degrees
Secondary fermentation 28 days at 49 degrees

Mash grains at 120 degrees, raise to 153 degrees, then to 165 degrees. sparge with 175 degree water. Force co2 to carbonate.


De-Gassing Your Wine

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Searching through Youtube and I found this unique way to de-gas your wine. Really worth watching.


Redesigning Site

Thursday, March 13, 2008

I'll be spending the next few days doing an overhaul of the site. Those of you that subscribe to the site's feed my get several feeds during this process. I hope to be back on schedule next Tuesday.


India Pale Ale

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

India Pale Ale, otherwise known as an IPA, is a distinct style of beer and is characterized as a sparkling pale ale with a slightly higher level of alcohol and hops than a typical Pale Ale; the hops lend it a distinct bitterness.

The IPA came about in the mid 1700's as a way for British brewers to ship unspoiled beer to India. The increase in hops and alcohol prevented the beer from spoiling and made for a rather strong tasty brew.

Characteristics of this beer can, as with other styles, vary somewhat, but an IPA will always exhibit the alcohol and hopping that distinguished the original. English brewers designed their IPAs with original gravities of 1070 and above, which translates to alcohol levels of a whopping 7.5 to 8%. Modern recipes usually attain a more modest level of 1050 to 1060 OG, for a subdued, yet still noticeable strength of 5.5 to 7%. Specialty malt additions of carapils and crystal contributes to the deep copper\amber color and provides an undertone of faint but perceptible caramel. Conditioning favors the mild end of the spectrum but at times might be considered quite lively when compared with other English ales.

In general, a traditional IPA will possess a nose of perfumey alcohol, fruitiness, and malt, although newer versions frequently overshadow the malt with strong hops. English brewers typically use hop varieties of Goldings and Fuggles, while American renditions of IPA employ Northern Brewer, Cascade, and Chinook, which project notes of citric or grapefruit-like flavors.


Blogging About Wine

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Who blogs about wine? Why, me of course. I did find this article somewhat amusing in that it seems that the casual internet user has no clue about blogs. Also amazing that newspapers are just getting around to the idea of blogging as a source of info. Hope you enjoy the article.

*** Note *** Feed readers may have to visit the blog to read the article.


Diabetic Strawberry Liqueur

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

I have decided to experiment with an all natural sweetener called Stevia that basically has zero carbs and is a good substitute for those who are diabetic.

1 bottle of vodka (750 ml)
1 lb strawberries
12 packets Stevia

Cut the strawberries into small pieces and place into a crock or tupperware container

Add the Stevia and stir the berries

Cover and let stand for 6 to 7 hours

Add the vodka

Cover tightly and leave for 3-4 months, shaking (shake every day for first 2 weeks then once a month)

Strain into another bottle or strain as you pour the latter will add the interest of having the fruit in the bottle as you pour

For a Stevia conversion chart, check out Cooking With Stevia.


Pouring a Black and Tan

Thursday, February 28, 2008

It's almost St.Patrick's day and everyone likes to act like they are Irish. And what's more Irish, than Guinness. Use a bottle of your homebrew and a can of Guinness to make your own Black and Tan's. This article tells you how to make a Black and Tan along with some other background. Experiment and have fun.


Making Your Own Wine

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

So, you want to make your first wine? How do you get started and what equipment do you need? Hopefully I'll be able to guide you through the process.

The first step is to decide what kind of wine you plan on making. Do you plan on making it from fresh fruit? Or, do you plan on using juice? Let's start with using frozen juice.

One of the simple ways to make wine is to use frozen juice concentrate. I have used Welch's frozen concentrate for numerous wines. For a recipe, click here. You must use the frozen since it does not contain potassium sorbate. The potassium sorbate will prevent your wine from fermenting. So make sure you buy the frozen kind of juice.

You can also buy juice in 5 gallon containers and these are usually specific kinds of juice. ie Merlot, Syrah, etc

Another kind of juice that you can buy is Vintner's Harvest. Usually this comes in 46 ounce or 92 ounce cans and is usually fruit. Ie. Peach, Cranberry, Raspberry, etc. The side of the can provides generic instructions on making your wine.

Ok, back to the frozen juice. Next you have to decide if you want a light bodied, medium bodied or full bodied wine. The recipe is pretty easy to remember. 1 can per gallon for a light bodied wine, 2 cans for a medium bodied wine, and 3 cans for full bodied wine.

Next pour your juice into your fermenter. I use an Ale Pail. Fill it to about the 3 gallon mark with juice and water. This fermenter has a lid and airlock, which I do not use for the primary fermentation. You can if you want, but I kinda' like to watch my wine ferment.

If you plan on using fresh fruit, then you must crush the fruit first. For a batch that is less than 5 gallons, I use a potato masher.Crush your fruit and add it to your fermenter.

At this point we need to test for sugar and acidity.

At this stage, it is easy to adjust your acid content as well as your sugar content. Trying to test after the fact is a major pain in the butt, so you want to do this part every time you make wine.

Let's start with checking for acid. You can use Ph paper but a more accurate way is to use an acid testing kit.

Acid testing kit

You can usually purchase a kit for around $7. Depending on the type of wine you are making, the acid percentage should be around .60% to .85%. The kit tells you what your percentage by generally fruit (peach, strawberry, etc.) and red wines should be lower in acid and the whites should be higher. The kit includes a bottle of sodium hydroxide, coloring agent, testing tube and a syringe

Parts of the acid testing kit

The process to test is rather simple. First you take the testing tube and fill it 15 cc of your must.

Testing tube with 15 cc of must

The second step is to put 3 drops of the coloring agent into the testing tube. Third step involves filling the syringe with 10 cc of sodium hydroxide. Caution -- Sodium hydroxide is very poisonous, be extremely careful around pets and children. The last step is to slowly put 1 cc of sodium hydroxide at a time into the testing tube until it changes color. At that point, you will know the percentage acid in your must. Basically, if you put in 5 cc of sodium hydroxide, then your must has .50% of acid content.

Testing tube after it has changed colors

After you determine the percentage of acid in your must, then you can make the necessary adjustments. If you need to raise your acid content, add acid blend according to the directions on the kit. If your acid content is too high, then add water and retest. I usually shot for anything between .60 and .70 for most of my wines and I usually don't sweat it if it comes to .70 when it should be .65. What you really don't want it a wine that is too low in acid or too high in acid because it will make some very nasty wine. And, I mean nasty in a bad way, not a good way. Now that the acid testing is complete, we can move to testing for the amount of sugar.

To measure sugar content we use an instrument called a hydrometer. A hydrometer looks like a thermometer but with a bubble at the end. For more info on how to read a hydrometer, click here. Basically water will read 1.000 on a hydrometer and most wines will ferment a few steps below that level. For most wines, you want the hydrometer reading to be 1.085 - 1.095. Most hydrometers will have 3 scales on them. Personally, I like the 1.000 system instead of Plato or Brix.

Hydrometer in testing tube.

Notice that the hydrometer is barely over the top of the tube. This liquid was 1.000

Pour some of your must in the testing tube and then put the hydrometer in. Check the scale, if not enough sugar, add white table sugar a cup at a time. If you have too much sugar (over 1.100), then add some water

. Added some sugar.

Notice that the hydrometer sticks up higher in the testing tube. This measured about 1.020

In the first post, I mentioned when using juice concentrate to fill your fermenter to the 3 gallon line before adding sugar. What I usually do at this point is to warm up 1 gallon of water and stir in 1 1/2 bags (5 lb) of table sugar. Once that is dissolved, pour it in the fermenter and stir for about 30 seconds. Then test your must for its sugar content. Too high, add some water, too low add some sugar.

We are now ready to add all the other things that go into your wine so that it can ferment properly.

One thing that almost all wine needs to get it going is yeast nutrient. This acts as a jump starter to get the yeast cells motivated to turn the sugar into alcohol. You don't need to use a lot of this so follow the directions on the label for dosage .

For wines other than grape wines, you usually have to add a little grape tannin to your must. I generally only use 1/8 of a teaspoon per gallon. If you are in a pinch you can use raisins instead of grape tannin. A handful of raisins per gallon should be enough.

Certain types of fruit will require you to add pectin enzyme to your must. This breaks down any pectin that is in your wine. Pectin in your wine makes it very difficult to fine and clarify. So, for things like peach wine, strawberry wine, apple, wine, etc, use the pectin enzyme.

Campden Tablets

Campden tablets or sulphur dioxide is the last thing that you add to your must before adding the yeast. This will help to sterilize the must and kill any wild yeast cells that are hanging around. Generally, most people will tell you to add 2 tablets per gallon of must. Personally, I use about 1.5 tablets to a gallon before the fermentation, 1 tablet per gallon on the second racking and for the last racking prior to bottling.

After these items have been added to your must, leave the must alone for at least 24 hours. Do not add yeast until the after 24 hours because the capmden tablets will kill it if added now.

Last item to add is the yeast. There are quite a few different yeasts out there, but they fall into 2 categories, dry or liquid. With the liquid variety, you are able to make more style specific wines. Personally, I use the dry wine yeast because it is a lot cheaper and because most of my wines are fruit wines. The 2 major dry yeast companies are Red Star and Lavlin. I prefer the Lavlin yeast since it seems to make a smoother wine than the Red Star.

Now, it is time to begin fermenting.

There are two types of fermenting styles. One style is closed and the other is open. Personally, I prefer and open style of fermenting. This is quite contrary to what most books and other wine makers will tell you. My rationale for an open system is that since yeast need oxygen to convert the sugar, then more oxygen will help the yeast.

This is the system that I use for my primary fermentation.

This system is primarily a bucket with a large grain/fruit bag tied to the top. If you plan on using this system, keep it up and away from children and pets. Primary fermentation will take about 5 - 7 days. During this time, the solids will float to the top due to the activity of the yeast. This should be "punched down" or gently stirred back into the fermenting wine at least once a day and if you are able to do it, twice a day.

This is what the solids look like.

When it is time to transfer to your secondary, the one thing that I do is to skim the solids off prior to racking over. Most times I use a slotted spoon to allow any liquid to flow through. These solids are pretty thick, so they tend not to fall back into the wine when you are scooping it out.

Scooping out the solids.

To rack over to my secondary, I use a funnel. Other people will tell you to use a siphon system. Personally, using the funnel is easier and quicker so that is what I use.

Secondary fermenter ready for the wine.

Notice the handle?
Best investment when using glass carboys.

Pour the wine into your secondary, put an airlock on it and let it be. Generally, I'll let my wine sit for a month or two before racking it over again. It really depends on how many solids have settled at the bottom. If a lot have settled then I rack it over in about a week or two. Otherwise, let it clear up a bit before racking again.

After about the third racking, I rack the wine into a one gallon jug and put an airlock on it for about two weeks. Then I cap it. The one gallon jugs are easier to handle when it comes time to bottle, because I use a funnel to bottle .

One gallon jug with airlock

At bottling time, clean and sanitize your bottles along with your corks or screw caps. Use a funnel and pour your wine from the one gallon jug into your bottle. Cap it and let it age for a few months. I have gone to using screw capped bottles because they are easier to open. Also, with the screw cap bottles, you can open it and sample it before given it to someone. It saves on being embarrassed about given your friends some really nasty wine.

Well, that's it in a nutshell. Time, to kick back and enjoy some wine.


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