Beer is great, beer and meat is better

Over the last few months with the shed build in progress I have been un able to brew, and I guess I have been looking for other food and drink related projects, or to put it another way not brewing has given me time to indulge in a couple of other food related interests which I have been thinking about for the last year or so.

One of these interests is smoking meat -cooking low and slow, I have been wanting to try and do this for well over a year and I finally after a bit of internet based research have jumped in with both feet.

The two smokers I looked at were the ProQ Frontier Elite and the Weber Rocky Mountain and after a bit of research I settled on the ProQ Frontier Elite. Both smokers had good reviews but what sold it to me was the quick response to my questions when contacting Mac’s BBQ. It’s very reassuring when spending a few hundred quid to have questions answered quickly and it’s great to have the ability to just call up the main distributer and speak to someone about their products.

Here is the smoker

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One thing which became very apparent when it comes to smoking is temperature control; the ability to maintain low temperatures for extended periods of time and to be able to monitor the meats temperature is paramount. This really is the key to smoking and I realised I need to be able to tightly monitor and maintain the cooking temperature – in this aspect smoking is very similar to fermentation!

So after a bit more research and a couple of emails to Mac’s BBQ I settled on the BBQ Guru Cyber Q, this is a pretty high end temperature controller with some great features, like most things you get what you pay for.

The Cyber Q had 3 food temp probes, a pit probe which feed into the controller when then controls the Pit Viper fan and the whole thing wireless connects to your house router and with a bit of configuration you can track all the temperature over the internet and make any changes using your mobile phone or any pc with an internet connection. All very handy when your sat in a pub having a few beers!

Here is the controler with all the probes and fan attached

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The day before the first cook the new smoker was seasoned, the idea being that you just try and coke up the inside of the smoker so that a few of the gaps are sealed and it’s a bit more airtight.

The one thing I have now realised is that smoking requires an earlier than usual start on the day! If a 12 hour cook is required that means a 6am start which can be a bit tricky if a few too many beers have been enjoyed on the previous night!

The day before the first smoke I went and picked up the short rib of beef and that evening I applied the rub and left the meat in the fridge overnight to marinade in the rub. The rub consisted of the following:

  • ½ cup sea salt
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup chilli powder
  • 2 tbsp ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp cumin
  • 1 tbsp mustard powder

First job the following morning was to get the charcoal going, a pretty big pile of them for a long slow cook. I had also purchased a BBQ charcoal chimney which is a great invention that means you no longer need to buy any sort of BBQ fire lighters.

Once the charcoal was alight more were added and the unit was assembled with the water bath full of boiling water in the bottom of the smoker.

The meat was then added to the smoker and the pit temperature was set to 225degF looking to achieve a meat temp of 195degF after the 10-12 hour smoke.

Here is the smoker all set up with the temperature control in action

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The following pictures were taken of the meat at 3 and 6 hours

As already mentioned the CyberQ allows you track the temperatures of the smoker from your mobile phone and this proved invaluable as at 8 hours in I found myself sat in a pub with beer in hand and I was able to notice that the pit temperature was dropping off slightly, this meant that I had a quick 3 pints then headed home to add some more charcoal to the smoker and soon the temperature was back up where it needed to be.

This was the short rib after 11 hours in the smoker, with the meat and pit probe in place.

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The meat went down pretty well, the main evidence being that there was not much left! But my one main comment  and a change I will make when I do this recipe again is to remove as much of the rub as possible before putting the meat into the smoker, as it was a little salty if you got a bit too much if the rub when you bit into the meat.

All in all I was very pleased with the first effort; next on the list will be lamb shoulder closely followed by some pork ribs.

Will post further pictures and details of smokes over the coming months.

Cheers

Richard

Building a brew shed at the end of the garden – part 2 almost ready to brew

It’s been another bust 5 weeks and although progress on the brewery shed is slowed I’m not too far from getting the first brews on.

So what has been achieved? Well the building is clad in the Siberian Larch, the electric supply is in, as well as water, and there is even a sink! And most importantly from the view of the missus the back room now had a dining table and all the brew kit is in the shed.

So the shed from outside is looking smart, clad and it even has doors!

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The only thing missing now is the patio but that may be a while due to what could be best described as renovation complications in the house, lets just say the roof has been leaking for a while and when the windows were taken out some of the lintels were a little rotten and in some cases non-existent!

The floor has been painted, the block walls have also been painted

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The walls behind the brew kit have been covered in 2mm hygienic plastic cladding

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One of the most important (and expensive) jobs was getting electricity to the shed, and now there is a 60amp supply run from the house via a nice bit of 16mm2 armoured cable. I have a 32 amp supply for the control panel, 12 double sockets, and 5 LED strip lights all running from  the sheds own distribution panel.

The brew kit is in its new home with the main brewing vessels in about the right place.

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A water supply has been hooked up, along with drainage and the RO machine has been mounted above the sink and plumbed in, along with a UV filter with has yet to be plumbed in. A sink was bought via ebay and is in and working – cold water only. But from the picture below you will see the plug socket needs to be moved, bit of a miss calculation on my part there! Hopefully in the future I will get a small wall mounted hot water heater just need to find the right product.

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And this is why i need an RO machine – total disolved solids (TDS) in is 350 and out is 11! The water where i have mooved to is very hard – not ideal.

My barrel collection has taken up residence at the back of the brewery, so far 5 barrels have been moved in, of the 4 wine barrels I had 1 of them looks to have been lost to an infection. It may be salvageable but I need to wait and see what happens after some intensive cleaning, worse case it will be recycled into a couple of planters. And once I get properly sorted out I should have room for 10 barrels at the back of the brewery if needs be.

These barrels are the future of any commercial aspirations I may have and will be filled shortly with a range of mixed culture sour beers and also hopefully some truly spontaneously ferment wort.

Most of the fermenters are where they will spend the next few years and now they all need connecting up to chillers and temperature controllers and will then require a deep clean before use.

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The main brewing vessels have already been CIP’ed with Caustic at 80degC

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The store room is full already but a good sort out will again create some space.

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The clean room still need a window but it’s taking shape slowly.

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The biggest job left now is to have a major sort out, and then sell off some stuff I have not used for a long time or am unlikely to use in the future; it appears I have amassed a lot of stuff and a lot of it shinny! I did wonder at one point if the brew shed was big enough :- )

The focus now really has shifted from building too sorting/organising and simply getting the brewery up and running. I think another day or 2 of sorting and prep work and I should be good to go. Or to put it another way – the time it takes to grow up a yeast starter of Wyeast 1318 for a 80 L batch of Pale Ale and I should then be good to go. As always tho work has gotten in the way again and the starter won’t happen for a couple of weeks. But I cant complain to much as work has made all this possible.

So what going to get brewed, well once I start brewing I want to fill barrels as fast as possible as well as replenish stocks as we have pretty much run out of kegged beer. Currently we are drinking a Belgian Pale Ale which must be 6-8 months old and has been treated badly in the keg due to the house move but despite this it’s still very drinkable, and would still score 34-35 points in a BJCP comp, its not outstanding but still has no major issues and drinks very well on a hot day sat in the garden. The Belgian Pale Ale was brewed with WLP 530 it’s a very resilient yeast just like WLP565.

So very soon on the brewing schedule is:

  • Golden sour base beer, 240L batch fermented with Brett and Lacto – this will then be transferred to a first use white wine barrel
  • American Pale Ale 80L batch fermented with Wyeast 1318
  • Dry Stout 80L batch fermented with Wyeast 1318 top cropped from the pale ale
  • Imperial smoked Porter, 140L batch, this will be aged in a ex Jack Danial’s barrel, the yeast for this will be cropped from the stout
  • Red sour base beer, 240L batch fermented with Brett and Lacto cropped from the pale sour base – this will then be transferred to a first use red wine barrel.

So hopefully some 760L of wort will be produced, 3 barrels will be filled, and keg supplies will be replenished!

Well thats the plan, guess there will be a part 3 now showing one of the upcoming brews!

Cheers for reading

Richard