Hightale Ale – The Result

16 Jan

Hightale ale HomebrewThe Hightale AleI brewed a few weeks back is now ready for a drink. I believe it’s probably the best beer I’ve done to date and I wonder if that’s because of the extra steps in the brew process. No doubt – it has more flavour complexity and depth than some of the straight up coopers can brews I’ve done in the past.

What’s it taste like?

It’s a great example of an Amber Ale which is expected. Very subtle hops, a nice bitterness and a deep malty flavour and colour. I’ve not yet learnt the IBU’s and colour metrics so can’t comment on those specifically.

One thing I wasn’t sure of was the difference between a golden ale and an amber ale. Both are from the Pale Ale family but are slightly different. From what i’ve read and without getting into the ingredients:

  • Golden Ale has a lighter colour (than amber ale) and stronger hop flavours.
  • Amber Ale has a darker colour and a stronger malt flavour.

So if I take colour as the prime differentiator (which is as a result of the ingredients) – what is darker vs lighter?

There’s a colour measurement standard known as “Degrees Lovibond” developed by Joseph Williams Lovibond. Based on this scale a beer can be lighter or darker as shown by this image (not mine).


However – as with most “standards” some people have got their hands on it and adapted it somewhat. That’s where the Standard Reference Method comes in and is explained well by BrewWiki.com in the table below.

1.0 - 3.0 SRM - Pale yellow color
3.0 - 4.5 SRM - Medium yellow
4.5 - 7.5 SRM - Gold
7.5 - 9.0 SRM - Amber
9.0 - 11.0 SRM - Copper
11.0 - 14.0 SRM - Red/Brown
14.0 - 19.0 SRM - Brown
20.0   SRM - Black

SRM beer colour chart

So for our discussion the Golden Ale needs to sit between 4.5 and 7.5 while the Amber is a little darker at 7.5 – 9.0.

All this makes me want to brew a Golden Ale next. However, my next brew will have some specialty grains (Chocolate and Crystal) and some extra Malt so it’ll come out darker such as the Amber. It’ll be an Amber Draught Ale. Will let you know how it goes.


“Agaricus bisporus” Mushroom box kit looks a bit dry.

8 Jan


Picked up a mushroom kit from Enfield Produce just after the New Year. Have been wanting to try it for a while but got a little stuck thinking I’d try and do it all from scratch i.e. making my own medium etc. These were only $22 for White Button Mushroom or the combination Portobello / white button kit was $24. Reasonably cheap but to make it cost effective I’m going to need more than 2kg of mushrooms – let’s see how that goes.

I opened the box up today to get it started but noticed the compost is still very brown. The instructions suggest it needs to be quite white and spiderwebby as the inoculated mycelium has “run” through the compost. So I’ve boxed it back up as suggested and will check it out in a few more days.

Do you think it looks a little too dry? I’ve sent a note to the manufacturer to see if I should be adding any moisture at this stage. [EDIT] Received a very quick response back and they have said to leave it till it goes white, don’t add water.

Dry mushroom compost

Stay tuned for more pics and updates. Have you grown mushrooms before? I hear they are pretty hit and miss! Any tips?

Hightail Ale

25 Dec

I’ve been pretty slack with my updates. A lot has been happening but will need to leave that for another post. For now though….

I have just put down a home-brew – my 6th. Ive tried some different styles and I’m a big fan of the extra malted ale that coopers call the “Unreal Ale”. I’ve tried the Little Creatures stye (American Pale Ale with cascade hops) so have a bunch of cascade hops left over which made it easy to try this recipe

The big difference in technique with this is that I boiled the wort for 60min and dropped the cascade hops is as per the schedule. Normally it’s just dump the extract and sugars in with some boiling water and top up with cold water.

Specific gravity on day 1 was 1.050 -much higher than 1.037 expected. Not sure if this means it’ll have a higher alcohol content or perhaps a sweeter flavour.

Update on this in 4 weeks or so.

Mountain Goat Hightail Ale 
Style: English Pale Ale/Strong Bitter

Amount Item Type % or IBU
1.00 kg Light Dry Extract (15.8 EBC) Dry Extract 35.09 %
1.70 kg Coopers Kit Real Ale (37.8 EBC) Extract 59.65 %

Hops –
15.00 gm Cascade [5.50 %] (30 min) Hops 7.4 IBU
15.00 gm Cascade [5.50 %] (15 min) Hops 4.8 IBU

15.00 gm Cascade [5.50 %] (Dry Hop 3 days)

I should say that this isn’t my recipe – it was taken from a HomeBrewAndBeer forums.

Baked Bacon for perfect crispiness

30 Dec

Bacon is one of those fickle things, we know we all love crispy bacon but for most of us it seems to be hit an miss. Is it something to do with the heat of the pan, the  type of bacon, when you put it in or how much oil you use? It seems however that the trick, and stop reading here if you get crispy bacon all the time, is the way it’s cooked.

Forget the pan or the microwave – did you really think the microwave would work? The trick is to bake it. Now before you think that’s too hard it’s really not. Pre-heat the oven to about 180C, throw down some baking paper to reduce the clean up mess, save your oil and just bake the bacon for about 2omin. In just 20min I had the perfect bacon for me. The rind was nicely crispy, the meat was still a little tender and the fat all but drained off after a single turn.

Back by popular demand is another time-series photoshoot of the bacon cooking. Give it a shot, it’s really quite simple. And the best bit is it free’s the fry-pan up for the eggs so you get both cooked perfect and served hot with minimal fuss.

Baked Bacon

Bake your bacon for the perfect crispiness!

Roasting a frozen chicken in a slow cooker

16 Dec

We all love a roast chicken. The smell as it’s cooking, the tasty skin and the juicy stuffing all come together to provide something truly amazing. However, the cost vs effort of picking up a roast chicken from a shop means we rarely roast one up at home! Which is a shame because there’s so many different ways to roast a chicken with different stuffings. Also when you cook you own to can select your chicken and make sure it’s really a free-range grass fed   organic chicken.

So this experiment was inspired by a colleague at work who told me how he’ll put a frozen chicken in his slow cooker in the morning and come home to nicely roasted chook! It sounded both simple and novel so I had to give it a shot. Admittedly I was a little dubious mainly because I thought the slow cookers needed liquid up around the element to work effectively….

The recipie was quite simple.

  1. Get one whole frozen chicken
  2. Put some aluminium foil or upside down tray at the botom of the slow cooker to let the juices run away
  3. Turn it on low for 8-10hrs or high for 4hrs (I chose the low option).

Below are the results over the 9hrs it was cooking for.

9hrs from frozen solid to nicely roasted.

9hrs from frozen solid to nicely roasted.

One concern was will the slow cooker be able to heat up the internal temperature of the chicken to a safe level. According to the US Food Safety site the min safe temp for a chicken is 165 F (75C). To track this I kept an eye on the air temp inside the slow cooker then the internal temp of the chicken after about 8 hours. After the first 3 hrs the chicken must have thawed because the air temp moved up from about 75C to 100C and stayed there. After 8 hrs the internal temp of the chicken reached 86c and therefore fine.

Checking the internal temp of the slow cooked roast chicken.

Checking the internal temp of the slow cooked roast chicken.

You can see from the above that the color really didn’t kick in till the last 2 hours or so. Up until that point the chicken thawed, sweated, started to crisp up around less meaty sections and then finally browned up.

The main downside to using a frozen chicken is that you can’t stuff it. I love my stuffing so I’ve got 2 choices – go without, or stuff it before freezing. The later though obviously introduces some contamination risk so you’d need to be careful.

Roast Chicken plated up.

Roast Chicken plated up.

All up the chicken was super easy to to roast up and tasted pretty good. Another technique for the slow cooker.

John Farnham, Radish and Cooking?!

19 Aug

Sadly I was a John Farham fan as a kid. By kid I mean 10 years old or so and it was probably influenced by my parents. I remember vaguely going to a John Farham concert and I fell asleep on the grass mid-way through only for my excited parents to wake me up when “(take the) Pressure down” started up. I think I bounced up, listened to the song then went back to sleep.

Most geeks would disown me for that, and apart from the grass I fell asleep on there isn’t much gardening, so i’ll need to link this anecdote back to cooking somehow. 🙂

Yesterday I had a bit of Japanese day in the kitchen. Vegetable stuffed beef rolls for lunch then Terikyaki chicken and dashi flavoured pumpkin for dinner. While I was shopping for some of the ingredients I picked up a huge white radish aka Daikon for $2, it was such a bargin it was one of those moments where you buy the odd ingredient and challenge yourself to cook with it. So to tie John Farhnam, cooking and Daikon together continue:

Daikon, like most radishes, seem to be most suitable to salads. In my travels I came across this Tuna, Blacked peas and Radish salad and decided to knock it up with some pork cutlets. I only had some dried black-eyed peas and not alot of time to soak them overnight. So again, back to Dr Google and I found this interesting piece. All I needed to do was soak them for a few hours then simmer for 1 – 1 1/2 hours. That’ll hit my 7pm dinner deadline easy. But the amazing thing is the table towards the bottom of the page.

Soaked beans – simmer for 1 – 1 1/2 hrs OR use a pressure cooker for 5 – 8 min

5 – 8 min – are you kidding me! That’s super fast. You can tell i’ve never used a pressure cooker but with type of time savings I’m pretty tempted to.

Is that right? Does a pressure cooker really do the same job in a tiny tiny fraction of the time. If you’ve used

Smart food choice apps in Australia

10 Aug

I came across this brilliant run down of 9 apps to help you make better choices with your food choices. A few of them work in Australia but most, especially the locavore & track your food to the source type apps, are US based only.

I’ve started digging but would love your help tracking down some good Australian based apps of similar theme. Topics I’d love to see are:

  • Grow your own food
  • Eat local
  • Responsible restaurants
  • Sustainable companies and industries (seafood etc)
  • Healthy food options – best I’ve found is the FoodSwitch app from BUPA
  • Seasonal produce
  • “What’s on” in terms of farmers markets etc.

What other topics can you think of? Shoot me your thoughts!

How things have changed!

18 May

I’ve been thinking about a series of posts over the last few months all about “how life has changed!”. I like to think of myself as a fairly social “young man” and I certainly lived that life but with the introduction of my daughter 2 years ago Life Has Changed. In all reality it was an easy transition but every now and again something clicks and I realised that my life has changed. I’ll be the first to admit that it’s for the better but it’s still fascinating that I reminisce the differences.

Tonight is one such moment. First up I’ve left work early not to goto the pub but to go home and see the kids (and of course help my wife).

I’ve spent the night dancing to Katie Perry, reciting “new words” & admiring finger paintings.

Most telling though is I’ve watched Tinker Bell all the way through for probably the 20th time and I still laugh harder and louder that my 2yo. My favourite line …..”your mouse’s name is Cheese” says Tinka, “it must be because he always comes when we say cheese” says her tinker friend. And that’s just one of many!

While I love being at home with the girls I do however need to maintain some grip on my manlyhood. So Pizza and beer is on the menu while I watch Tinker bell with my lovely girl snuggled beside me. What more could you want?!?

Day 2 – no Microwave.

5 May

Boiling the Bottles by CraftyGoat, on Flickr

Day 2 lacking a microwave has been fairly uneventful as far as the microwave goes. It’s amazing how you just adapt.

  • The usual breakfast of porridge was substituted for weetbix though had I got up a little earlier I would have made it on the stove top! Maybe tomorrow.
  • Lunch was simple tuna and tomato mini-pizza’s. Lunch is usually defrosted left over’s so here’s another example of eating fresher. Though we kinda of cheated somewhat by using the toaster to defrost the bread. 🙂
  • Baby bottles were boiled using my largish sauce pan on the stove. I agree with some of the comments I’ve received that you don’t have to sterilise them but something in me thinks I should.
  • As a facebook friend says she does we bought some diced lamb fresh and marinaded in a souvlaki-ish marinade of 4 squeezed limes, bay leaves, garlic, salt, pepper, oregano, rosemary and olive oil. Pan fried and served in some left over tortilla wraps with lettuce, tomato and onion.

So all in all we didn’t “need” the microwave. Sorry for the mundane post. 🙂

Tomorrow’s sunday and I love a good Sunday cookup so the original plan was to make a corned beef silverside from the freezer and get it out to defrost overnight but we’ve switched to some freshly bought chuck steak for a slow cooked casserole of sorts – recipe to be decided at time of cooking.

While it’s only day 2 I’m starting to think of other seemingly essential kitchen items as a waste of space. Could I get rid of my kettle? I know I “could” get rid of the dishwasher but that’s just a supplement for me. What else do you have that you could get rid of and free up the space?

Day 1 microwave free!

4 May

Today I received a call from my wife that our microwave had started “sparking”. She had already called the manufacturer and explained that it’s taken a beating recently due to the seemingly endless 4min cycles of baby bottle sterilization. As expected they claim misuse while we claim faulty unit but at least they’ll supply a loan while they look to repair. But that leaves me with the dilemma of no microwave for 2 and a bit days! I’m sure many of you are probably thinking “Why are you using a microwave anyway” but truth be told I haven’t stopped using it since my pre-gardening / cooking / bachelor days.

Beyond baby bottle sterilization it’s used for defrosting (which is all reality should be called defreeze, the frost isn’t my problem, it’s that it’s frozen!) meat, cooking rice and even steaming vege’s (yes I know this is bad). However despite the inconvenience I’m taking this as an opportunity to move away from the (apparently – still need to research it properly) dreaded microwave.

Which brings me to day 1 – no microwave. What did we have for dinner. Quite simple really and on reflection it makes sense to do this more often:

  • Pan fried pork loin chops – bought today so they weren’t frozen which is probably a good thing.
  • Oven roasted root vege’s and capsicum – always a crowd favourite and we ended up with 2 lots of vegetable delivery from Aussie Farmers Direct (trialling them) and an accidental top up from the grocery store.
  • Steamed broccoli and bok choy.

It’s the steamed vege’s that brings the a-ha moment for me. I pulled out my bamboo steamer and I’m pretty sure that with the help of boiled water from the kettle I had them steamed up in about the same time as a microwave would take. And assuming microwaves aren’t ideal I had the desired outcome without additional effort.

I’m still yet to boil up and sterilise the baby bottles old school like my parents did but it’s certainly an eye opening experiment to go without the microwave.

Do you use a microwave? If you’ve given it up why? and how have you found the transition.

Let’s see how day 2 goes. Stay tuned!