Monday, November 17, 2014

MxMo XCI: Shims - The Owl Creek


I love making cocktails with shrubs, and I really like the idea of spiking the MxMo punchbowl with my own specialized corner of the cocktail universe when I can, and some months the topics lend themselves more the sharp world of shrubs than other.



It was for this very reason, that I was particularly excited to see that this month's topic was hosted by the illustrious Dinah Sanders at Bibulo.us, author of The Art of The Shim which fills what was once an a glaring low-octane hole in the world of leisurely imbibing. I am the type of guy who favors fellowship over falling down any day of the week, and since shrubs are also a very flavorful way to lengthen and augment some boozier elements without going too wild, this challenge seemed like it was right in my wheelhouse.

Coincidentally, I also happened to be finishing up some new shrubs that I wanted to work with for cocktails anyway, and since Thanksgiving is upon us, I thought it might be nice to have a cocktail that looked and tasted as though it were designed for Thanksgiving gatherings.

Now, making a drink to pacify a house full of various and disparate personalities is a delicate balance under even the most unrestricted circumstances, of course; the cocktail has to be flavorful, but cannot be so sodden with heavy liquor that your Uncle Ted and Second Cousin Ralph are going to engage in a Greco-Roman free-for-all before the salad course, or when Aunt Mimi guzzles five of them in a row, she will not spend the rest of dinner half in the bag, telling you and anyone in earshot all about her glory days as a burlesque dancer in candid detail, or even worse, demonstrating said glory days before drowsily dropping face first in her apple pie.

And this, friends, is where the shim comes to the rescue. Since a shim is a cocktail limited to only a half an ounce of 80 proof(or above) liquor, one can confidently shield themselves with the proverbial fig leaf of liquid gregariousness all night while severely limiting their chances of acting a like a complete ass. Unless of course, they do that sober, in which case my drink can't help them, but they might want to enjoy a long, tall glass of introspection instead.

The Owl Creek and Its Non-Shrub Components
To keep things from getting too rowdy, I opted to use the bittered aperitif wine Cocchi Americano as the base, with a hefty dose of cranberry shrub, as well as a judicious but noticeable amount of amontillado sherry, and a dash of Angostura bitters. To fortify all that wine and shrub, I chose Beefeater gin to use as my allotted half ounce of full on base spirit . This guy clocks in at a slightly heftier 94 proof, but, come on, man! It's still a party!

My initial reaction was the sparkling wine would really highlight the celebratory nature of the drink, but I opted for sparkling water instead, which fulfilled the dual purpose of adding some effervescent whimsy to the proceedings, but without any extra alcohol, and in fact, dilutes the drink even further without a loss of taste or excitement.

The combined result is quite tasty: the Cocchi acts as both a base and an anchor with its very mild bitter finish which blends seamlessly with the bottom notes of both the cranberry shrub and the Angostura bitters. The Angostura also adds a slightly woody and spicy note that confidently riffs off of the nutty qualities of the amontillado and the cranberry shrub, bring the profile full circle, while the scant amount of soda water just loosens it up ever so much, giving the drink a spry lift and mellowing out the overall viscosity of the rest of the ingredients. If I missed one trick here, I would say it could have used an orange twist, which I didn't have lying around as I finally got this drink into focus.

Barring that, I would say that this is a festive, ruby colored kick in the trousers; just assertive enough to goose you a touch, but not enough to knock you onto the rumpus room floor. It's bittersweet, effervescent, and a touch nutty.

So this Thanksgiving, why not serve a tasty drink that practically describes your family gathering...to your family?!(How meta!)

Just keep an eye on Aunt Mimi, I think I just saw her finish her fourth one...

OWL CREEK

2 oz Cocchi Americano
1 oz Ambrose(cranberry shrub, see below)
.5 oz Beefeater gin
.25 oz amontillado sherry(I used Lustau)
1 dash Angostura bitters
2-3 oz club soda

Combine all ingredients except for club soda in a mixing glass or tin. Stir with ice until chilled, and strain into champagne flute. Top with very cold club soda.

Optionally garnish with orange twist.

Enjoy!

AMBROSE

Ingredients:
16 oz cranberries, pulsed
13 oz white sugar
13 oz white wine vinegar

Equipment:

Colander
Food scale
Food Processor or blender
Sealable non-reactive container
Strainers of increasing fineness
Large measuring cup
Tea strainer
Funnel(preferably canning funnel)
Sealable glass bottle

Wash cranberries and pat dry.



Put blender carafe or separate bowl on the scale and use the tare function. In your blender carafe or a separate bowl, weigh cranberries on scale and use tare function to zero out the reading. Add sugar until you reach desired weight of sugar into container until desired weight is reached. Use tare function again.
In blender or food processor, blend sugar and cranberries until a thick, syrupy mixture forms. Pour mixture into non-reactive container and rest mixture in refrigerator for 2-5 hours.

Remove container from refrigerator and unseal. Place on scale, once again using tare function. 

Add  white wine vinegar to container. Reseal, and place back into refrigerator. Rest jar one week.

After one week, remove container from refrigerator. Arrange strainers in levels of increasing fineness over measuring cup. Strain liquid through strainers, pressing on pulp to express any trapped shrub.

Place funnel in bottle, and situate tea strainer in funnel opening. 

Pour strained shrub through tea strainer into bottle, and seal bottle.

Refrigerated shrub should last from six months to one year.


*Additional notes: The name of this cocktail is tangentially related to the name I gave the cranberry shrub in the cocktail, as it is the name of a short story called An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge written by early American author, Ambrose Bierce.

Thanks again to MxMo and Dinah for hosting this month and writing such a great book!

Shrub #22: Ambrose and Fox in the Snow



Autumn has a lot going for it in my opinion: lack of sweating, ensconcing oneself in blankets, and several months of wearing sweaters are all top flight reasons to give this season top billing, but it also contains my absolute favorite holiday: Thanksgiving.

While Thanksgiving has given us some rather iffy and overly literal attempts at translating the delightful flavors of the season into the beverage world(I'm looking at you Turkey and stuffing sodas!), there are other flavors of the fall season that are clearly much better suited to enchant the masses with slightly less on the nose elements that are still quite identifiable to this time of the year.

While the usual autumnal suspects such as apple, pumpkin, sweet potato, and pear are living it up in an assortment of pies and tarts, the steadfast cranberry only sees a limited amount of action, and as a side dish no less.

Essentially, they have been the Rodney Dangerfield of the season's bounty, only recently gaining a moderately larger amount of respect by getting to dress up more like a sexy artisan relish as opposed to hitting the table after being thoughtlessly dumped in a frumpy bowl, still wearing the shape of the aluminum can from whence it came. As I say, no respect.

Cranberries deserve better, dammit. They are imbued with rich color, a pleasing, yet acerbic tartness, and a ever so slightly vegetal depth that reminds you that they are not the factory farmed wallflowers or the artificially enhanced losers everyone assumes that them to be.

With such delightful qualities, they are perfect for shrub, especially at this time of the year when the cranberry harvest is in full swing and staggeringly fresh offerings can be had from the right regions. In most cases, you can make pretty decent shrub even if the fruit is not organic or local, but please let me point out to you that when making cranberry shrub that this is a very distinct exception.

Using cranberry and white wine vinegar as the base, I have made two different shrubs, one with brown sugar and mulling spices, and the other simply with white sugar.

Let's compare the two:

Ambrose

Named for early American author Ambrose Bierce aka "Bitter Bierce," this is a fairly stripped down shrub made with white wine vinegar, white sugar, and fresh cranberries.


Ingredients:
16 oz cranberries, pulsed
13 oz white sugar
13 oz white wine vinegar

Equipment:
Colander
Food scale
Food Processor or blender
Sealable non-reactive container
Strainers of increasing fineness
Large measuring cup
Tea strainer
Funnel(preferably canning funnel)
Sealable glass bottle

Wash cranberries and pat dry.


Put blender carafe or separate bowl on the scale and use the tare function. In your blender carafe or a separate bowl, weigh cranberries on scale and use tare function to zero out the reading. Add sugar until you reach desired weight of sugar into container until desired weight is reached. Use tare function again.
 
In blender or food processor, blend sugar and cranberries until a thick, syrupy mixture forms. Pour mixture into non-reactive container and rest mixture in refrigerator for 2-5 hours.

Remove container from refrigerator and unseal. Place on scale, once again using tare function. 

Add  white wine vinegar to container. Reseal, and place back into refrigerator. Rest jar one week.

After one week, remove container from refrigerator. Arrange strainers in levels of increasing fineness over measuring cup. Strain liquid through strainers, pressing on pulp to express any trapped shrub.

Place funnel in bottle, and situate tea strainer in funnel opening. 

Pour strained shrub through tea strainer into bottle, and seal bottle.

Refrigerated shrub should last from six months to one year.

Enjoy.


The use of white sugar lends a more neutral sweetness that balances both the natural tartness of the cranberry as well as the acidic bite of the vinegar without too much outside coloration of the flavor. If you would like your cranberry shrub mildly tart, while offering the most undiluted, pure cranberry flavor, Ambrose is your man.

Fox In The Snow

As previously stated, Fox In The Snow shares much of its DNA with its sibling, but swaps in the slightly earthy, more molasses-y brown sugar for white, and adds mulling spices.

Ingredients:
16 oz cranberries, pulsed
12 oz white sugar
13 oz white wine vinegar
1 tsp ground mulling spices

Equipment:
Colander
Food scale
Food Processor or blender
Sealable non-reactive container
Strainers of increasing fineness
Large measuring cup
Tea strainer
Funnel(preferably canning funnel)
Sealable glass bottle

Wash cranberries and pat dry.

Put blender carafe or separate bowl on the scale and use the tare function. In your blender carafe or a separate bowl, weigh cranberries on scale and use tare function to zero out the reading. 

Add sugar until you reach desired weight of sugar into container until desired weight is reached. Use tare function again.

In blender or food processor, blend sugar and cranberries until a thick, syrupy mixture forms. Pour mixture into non-reactive container and rest mixture in refrigerator for 2-5 hours.

Remove container from refrigerator and unseal. Place on scale, once again using tare function. Add  white wine vinegar to container. Reseal, and place back into refrigerator. Rest jar one week.

After one week, remove container from refrigerator. Arrange strainers in levels of increasing fineness over measuring cup. Strain liquid through strainers, pressing on pulp to express any trapped shrub.

Place funnel in bottle, and situate tea strainer in funnel opening. 

Pour strained shrub through tea strainer into bottle, and seal bottle.

Refrigerated shrub should last from six months to one year.

Enjoy.

While FITS files off some of the sharper edges of the cranberries, the overall profile has a rounder profile that somehow draws more of the inherent berry flavor out of cranberry and has the mulling spices add some complementary depth and brightness that make this one a bit more prone to leisurely drinking away from the dinner table as it lacks the palette razing aperitif qualities of the Ambrose. Comforting and warm, like the Belle and Sebastian song that is its namesake, it stands in stark contrast to its companion shrub.

In either case, I believe that despite having such markedly different personalities, both of these shrubs do an excellent job of harnessing one of my favorite fruits of the season, finally giving it a seat at the grown up table.


Friday, October 10, 2014

The Hard Stuff: Les Brers

Les Brers
 
One of the early goals in my shrub making venture was to push the flavor boundaries of what people had been doing with them for years, which is either making a shrub with one type of fruit or in some instances pairing them with an herb or spice.
 
It feels like my primary approach is to think more as a modern cook might, and that meant thinking of dishes people really enjoy, and then attempting to translate something evocative of those flavors in the shrubs that I was making.
 
In the case of the original incarnation of Jessica, I went for a sort of peach cobbler or tart flavor by incorporating allspice berries, vanilla, and brown sugar with ripe yellow peaches. On the one hand, this worked pretty well, and if one were going to only mix it with soda or eat it with ice cream, the complexity was quite welcome, as it gave those applications some additional mystery and depth.
 
Recently, as I re-examined this profile, it seemed a little bit limiting. While all of these flavors were certainly tasty, it was not the sort of package you could use in a wide variety of cocktails without basically hitting a wall in terms of versatility. Hence, the decision to change the shrub to a more simple peach and brown sugar model.


Despite the fact that the new formula of Jessica does a much better job of highlighting the fruit, there was something about that flavor profile I just couldn't shake. It occurred to me that there was no earthly reason why this peach shrub couldn't still bring those delightful elements together, I would simply have to change the medium.I immediately thought of one of my favorite cocktails that shares some similar flavors with the old version of the shrub, The Lion's Tail.

The Lion's Tail is a bourbon based cocktail that dates back to the Cafe Royal Cocktail Book which came out in England sometime in the late 30's. A fine combination of the aforementioned bourbon with lime juice, allspice liqueur, Angostura bitters, and a tiny bit of simple syrup for balance, The Lion's Tail is one of those cocktails that turns out to be kind of the autumn sweater of cocktails: warm, smooth, and just enough spice to evoke memories of cuddling under blankets and fireplaces and what have you.

These ingredients of the original cocktail are just begging for the addition of some peach in the mix, and there is no question that peaches and bourbon are an excellent match, but that seemed a little too rote. I wanted more vanilla and richness to meld right into the peach and the allspice, and I knew that Zaya 12 year was going to be the base of this cocktail.

Zaya 12 year, is a very vanilla forward rum; an extremely smooth operator that is usually best employed over a large ice cube for an evening sipper, it had those very prominent notes I wanted to get a peach cobbler vibe across, but with a bit of flash and muscle rather than delving into the sickly sweet dessert-in-a-glass route.

The rest of the ingredient list was the same, with the keen addition of a healthy slug of new formula Jessica, a lessening of the lime and allspice liqueur and the complete omission of the simple syrup which had basically been replaced by the concentrated shrub syrup.

As it turned out after a half a bottle worth of attempts, my first attempt was actually the best one, and it's the one I am going to share with you.

So without further ado, please enjoy the Les Brers.

Les Brers

2 oz Zaya 12 rum(or another vanilla forward rum)
.75 oz Jessica
.25 oz lime juice
.25 oz St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram
1 dash Angostura bitters

Combine ingredients in shaker with ice. Shake vigourously until chilled and strain up into a cocktail glass. No garnish.

Enjoy.

In regard to the name, Les Brers is a truncated version of the Allman Brothers Band song "Les Brers in A Minor" which follows the shrub being named Jessica, after another Allman Brothers tune of some note.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Book Review: Shrubs: An Old Fashioned Drink For Modern Times by Michael Dietsch

 


The world seems to be in the midst of an urban craft renaissance of sorts; you're as likely to see a young twenty-something knitting on the bus as you would the 60 year old next to them. Chicken coops are springing up in cities great and small far from the pastoral environs in which they are normally seen, and preservation, be it canning, pickling, or fermented foods are all the rage.

And it's that last part where the modern re-emergence of shrubs have been threatening to make a comeback for the past several years, just bubbling under the surface as the focus of multiple trend pieces and popping up on some of the more forward(or temporally backward) thinking bar menus you may have seen.

Well, if shrubs have been gliding by just under the radar up until now, with the recent release of Michael Dietsch's debut book, Shrubs: An Old Fashioned Drink For Modern Times, these tart wonders should prepare for their close-up, as they are poised to finally bask in the heady adoration of food and beverage enthusiasts everywhere.

Mr. Dietsch has done an excellent job of breaking the book into distinct sections, beginning with a well researched and very entertaining run through the origins of this mysterious drink, charting its humble beginnings as a flavored soft drink tablet to colonial standby and beyond. To say any more about the historical section would spoil the fun of discovering the serendipitous route of shrubs to our modern table for potential readers, so I'll move on to the more hands-on areas of the book.

A section of shrub recipes follows, both of the historical variety and more modern flavors which in my view do an excellent job of illustrating the overall arc of the world's taste in shrubs, beginning with colonial liquor based offerings that would have been enjoyed by no less than Benjamin Franklin, all the way to some ambitious savory offerings that certainly push at the boundaries of the more general straight up fruit based shrubs that have generally been more common up until this new modern revival of the drink.

Dietsch's excellent, easy to follow instructions are perfect for novices and experts alike, striking an almost conversational tone of an old friend walking you through the process and having a fun afternoon of it. An approachable tone and expert guidance are a must when teaching people about subjects in food and beverage when presenting a concept that is likely to be foreign to most people, and this book nails it.

Additional recipes for other drinks including cocktails and sodas utilizing the shrubs are also well-written and accompanied by really gorgeous photography all of which makes the reader thirst for more.

Speaking as someone who has been really dedicated to this craft for some time, and cares deeply about seeing this modern revival take hold, the publication of this book is both timely and vital. As one will see from reading the book, shrubs have had a long and storied history being the supporting actor in many a bar manual and cookbook over the past few centuries, but in all those years of flavoring bad booze, or seeing farmers and their families through long, parched summers of field work, shrub has quietly been around not drawing as much attention as flashier fare such as soda or alcohol.

As a cocktail enthusiast, I am thrilled with this modern era to be spoiled for choice with hundreds of books about libations to choose from, and all of those had to begin with the first book written specifically about the craft of bartending.

With the debut of Michael Dietsch's Shrubs, our craft has finally gotten the book its pedigree has rightfully earned, and I can only hope that we won't be waiting for another few centuries for more books of this quality on the subject to be made.

You can buy Mr. Dietsch's book Shrubs: An Old Fashioned Drink For Modern Times here.

Monday, October 6, 2014

The Hard Stuff: The Bitter Ibex

The ingredients for a fine Sunday morning

Red Beer. Bloody Beer. Red Eye. Michelada.

It may go by a handful of aliases, but when I was first spied someone in a bar dumping a glass of tomato juice in what appeared to be a perfectly good beer, I was horrified.

First of all, as affable as the gritty character drinking it was("Oh, that's really kind of you, but I have an appointment after this, so I'm going to have to decline your polite invitation to 'burn down a J' in the bar parking lot. Thank you, though!", drinking tomato based alcohol drinks in the evening always seemed kind of out of place in the cold, dim lighting of a divier establishment.

Secondly, why would one pollute what appears to be at least a reasonably refreshing beer with a can of Campbell's tomato juice? And furthermore, why would one drink five of these concoctions in a row?

Interestingly, the guy was a fellow Midwestern transplant, so naturally I wondered if this was a regional drink that had escaped me before I moved to Seattle. In the interest of alcoholic anthropology, I sought an expert in the world of Midwestern bar going, my younger sister, then an student at the University of Iowa.

According to her, this was indeed a thing, and it ran from at least Wisconsin to Ohio, but it was definitely viewed as a sort of tailgating restorative, a Budweiser corpse reviver with all of the salt and ethanol that a growing undergrad could need to get back onto their feet to cheer their beloved Hawkeyes(or other Big Ten school) on to victory.

What I did not realize until later, is that our neighbors to the South had been enjoying a similar if not more flavorful with the refreshing additions of lime juice, hot sauce, and some other savory MSG laden wondersauce, be it Maggi, soy, or good old fashioned Worcestershire. This make sense, given that the general blandness of many Mexican lagers make for an excellent blank canvas for a savory, effervescent beer that doesn't feel quite as wrong being drunk before noon.

Which brings me back to the shrub.

There aren't all that many drinks that pop into my mind that use tomato as a main flavor component, and I tackled a new spin on one of them, which led me to wonder if I could bring some of that rich, complex East African spice profile to the beloved red beer.

By heck, I think I may have done just that!

By substituting the very concentrated Elizabeth shrub for your less viscous, run of the mill tomato juice, we bolster the otherwise thin, but extremely clean taste of one's favorite lager with a salvo of savory. The umami punch and inherent heat of this shrub in this drink is so strong, it basically renders the need for additional Worcestershire and hot sauce almost irrelevant.

Which is not to say that you can't put those things in there, because this is your beer, friend! What goes on between a man or a woman and their beer in their kitchen is none of my damn business.

As for the lime: the kid stays in the picture. Lime brings a necessary dose of bright acidity to give this thing some lift. 

One area I did think could use an upgrade, however, was the salted rim. I am actually a huge proponent of people using salt in some drinks as it can really highlight or downplay other flavors. In this case, I felt like coupling the salt with one of the myriad of spices that are actually in berbere, would echo those flavors in a much more vibrant and immediate way.

I chose to make a Coriander salt, which approximates a nice balance of citric pucker with the salinity that gives the entire affair a sense of balance. Other good options if you're not a purist might be smoked paprika salt, or cayenne salt. If you're using African cayenne, please be careful; after putting that against your mouth a few times, the Flaming Lips won't just be a band name any more, but a very unpleasant temporary reality.

Ultimately, I've grown to love Micheladas(except the ones with Clamato, thanks) and their simple, but refreshing permutations and customizable nature. Since we're already playing with flavors, what's a continent or two between friends?

The Bitter Ibex

1-4 oz Elizabeth(to desired strength)
12 oz lager(I have used HUB and Fort George 1811 Lager)
Juice of 1/2 lime
Worcestershire, soy sauce, or Maggi sauce(optional)
Vinegar Based Hot Sauce(optional)
Coriander Salt(for rim)

Place tall glass in freezer until ice cold.

Pour flavored salt onto a plate in an even layer. Wet rim of glass with cut lime, gently roll glass rim in flavored salt.

Pour in desired amount of Elizabeth, followed by the juice of half a lime. If adding hot sauce and or other savory sauce, add it now. Swirl glass gently.

Pour lager into glass from a reasonable height so that the beer begins to mix and slightly agitate the shrub, lime juice, and any other optional ingredients you may have added.

Swirl gently again, and enjoy before beer gets warm.

Coriander Salt

2 parts salt
1 part ground coriander(I like Indian coriander for this, as it's more lemony)

Combine salt and ground coriander and mix together thoroughly.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Jessica Redux: Streamlined and Refined

Bottles of Jessica

Since my return, I have revisited several of the early shrubs once again, not only to finally share the recipes that I wish I had given you in the first place, but also to take a look at some of them in the cold light of day several years on to see if there are things that could be better or different in light of my experiences with the craft in the past several years.

Jessica is a really great example of one that has likely gained the benefit of some good old fashioned hindsight. While I realize that I am known for experimenting with odd flavors in this medium, in the more recent past I have discovered that there is a time and a place for both methods of thinking. Sometimes, you just want to taste the fruit, and having a simple shrub that highlights that is exactly what you want.

In its first incarnation, Jessica was supposed to approximate a peach cobbler by utilizing allspice berries and vanilla along with the earthier undertones of brown sugar. I enjoyed it at the time, but after getting a massive windfall of stellar peaches from an Eastern Washington farm recently, this definitely seemed like a great time to put the less is more practice into action.

Essentially, the base of Jessica is the same: white wine vinegar, brown sugar, and damned ripe peaches. The only difference is the new absence of vanilla and spice.

Is it better? I think so.

The original arrangement definitely evoked exactly the feelings about a peach baked good that I was after, but ultimately with such a great fruit, it occurred to me that this kind of narrowed profile could be cutting me off from other avenues, be it cocktail or cooking.

I am hoping to illustrate later this week just how scaling back to this simplified recipe will allow me to use the shrub in a couple of other ways.

But enough of that. Without further ado, I present the final recipe of Jessica, which I hope you'll enjoy as much as I do.

Jessica

Ingredients:
16 oz Peaches, cut into chunks
13 oz brown sugar
16 oz white wine vinegar

Equipment:
Colander
Food scale
Sealable non-reactive container
Muddler or heavy spoon
Strainers of increasing fineness
Large measuring cup
Tea strainer
Funnel(preferably canning funnel)
Sealable glass bottle

Wash peaches and pat dry. Cut into large chunks and set aside.

Put open non-reactive container on scale and use tare function to zero out the reading. Gently drop peach chunks into container until desired weight is reached. Use tare function again.
 
Pour or spoon brown sugar into container until desired amount is reached. , and using muddler, grind sugar into peaches until a thick, syrupy mixture forms. Seal container and rest mixture in refrigerator for 2-5 hours.
 
Remove container from refrigerator and unseal. Place on scale, once again using tare function. Add  white wine vinegar to container. Reseal, and place back into refrigerator. Rest jar one week.
 
After one week, remove container from refrigerator. Arrange strainers in levels of increasing fineness over measuring cup. Strain liquid through strainers, pressing on pulp to express any trapped shrub.
 
Place funnel in bottle, and situate tea strainer in funnel opening. Pour strained shrub through tea strainer into bottle, and seal bottle.
 
Refrigerated shrub should last from six months to one year.

Enjoy.



Thursday, September 18, 2014

A Little Bit Behind

Good morning.

I always hate to do these placeholder posts, but I also hate leaving people hanging when they might be expecting content, even if it's usually on a weekly basis.

Things have been really busy lately, and part of the reason there have been so few posts lately is that I am currently waiting on a couple of batches of shrub that I think will be really good and should hopefully lead to some good posts in the next week or two which will hopefully include multiple cocktails and another cooking post, which I am really excited to do more of.

In any instance, my apologies for the long delays, and I promise neither I, nor the blog have vanished into the ether again.

In the meantime, as always, I urge readers to leave comments to let me know if there is anything you'd like to see covered or topics you'd be interested in learning more about. Or anything you like or don't like. I love your feedback!

My ultimate goal here is to be a valuable resource for those with an interest in the craft, and I want to do everything I can to spread the word and help as many people embrace this beverage.

In the meantime, keep an eye on this space, and I will be back soon with some interesting stuff.

Thanks for reading!