A look at different Types of Hops

Today, hops are used in almost every style of beer. Hops, the female cones of the humulus lupulus plant are used to provide flavor, aromas, and bitterness. How much of each depends on what kind of beer is being made. A European lager for example will have a fairly minimal hop presence compared to an English bitter or India Pale Ale. Today, hops are used so extensively it’s hard to imagine a time when hops had no place in beer at all.

Initially, a variety of herbs and flowers were used to balance beer’s sweetness. Juniper, heather, pine needles, dandelion, and bog myrtle are among the plants commonly used in beer’s production. These herbs were gradually abandoned when brewers discovered that hops protected against spoilage. Hops made their way into beer first in Germany in the 13th century, followed by Holland around 1400. However, hops didn’t make their way to England until the early 1500s and it was a hundred years before they made their way here to the colonies.

Today, hops used in the brewing process can be divided into two categories bittering and aroma. Using hops in is all about extracting their oils during the boil before yeast is added to ferment the beer. The oils providing flavor and aroma are fairly volatile so those hops only get added during the last couple minutes of the boil. Any longer than that and they boil away. Bittering hops on the other hand need to be in the boil for 60-90 minutes to extract bitterness.

I’ve put together a list of bittering and finishing hops used commercially and by home brewers. If you want to use hops for flavor rather than aroma, use the finishing hops and put them in 5 minutes before the end of the boil rather than the 2-3 minutes if you’re using hops for aroma.

1) Brewer’s Gold

Grown in the UK and the U.S. Brewer’s offers poor aroma and sharp bitterness. Often used for ales. Brewer’s Gold has 8-9% Alpha acid. Substitute Bullion, Northern Brewer or Galena. Best used for bitterness rather than flavor and aroma.

2) Centennial

Grown in the U.S. Centennial offers spicy, floral, citrus aromas and clean bitterness. Centennial can be used for bitterness or aroma. Centennial is often used for American IPAs. This variety of hop offers 9-11% alpha acid. If you can’t get Centennial, Cascade or Columbus can be used in its place.

3) Challenger

A British hop offering strong, spicy aromas. Classic hop for use in English Bitters. Challenger also offers crisp, clean bitterness. As such Challenger can be used either to provide bitterness or aroma to your beer. Alpha acids come in at 6-8%. If you can’t find Challenger try Progress.

4) Chinook

American hop with a heavily spicy aroma and strong bitterness. Chinook’s bitterness can be cloying if used in large quantities. Chinook can provide aroma but with 12-14% alpha acids you’re more likely to use it for bitterness. Chinook is also used to make American IPAs. Substitute Galena, Eroica, Brewer’s Gold, Nugget, or Bullion if you can’t find Chinook.

5) Northern Brewer

Grown mostly in the UK, U.S., Germany. Northern Brewer offers a fine, fragrant aroma with dry, clean bitterness. Northern Brewer can be used for bitterness or aroma. This hop can be used for many kinds of ale, sort of a general purpose bittering or aroma hop. Alpha acids come in around 7-8%.

6) Nugget

Nugget is grown predominantly in the U.S. and offers heavy, spicy, herbal aroma. Because it has 12-14% alpha acids, Nugget is used mostly for bittering. However, it can be used as a finishing hop either on its own or with other varieties. Substitute Galena, Chinook, or Cluster.

7) Perle

Hailing from Germany and the U.S. Perle has a pleasant aroma. Bitterness is slightly spicy and according to some, almost minty. Perle is a general purpose hop used in many lagers. Alpha acids are 7-9%. Substitute Northern Brewer, Cluster, or Tettnanger.

8) East Kent Goldings

Grown in the UK, this hop offers spicy, floral, earthy, rounded, mild aromas and gently spicy flavors. Kent Goldings are used for bitterness, as a finishing hop and for dry hopping in many British styles. Alpha acids are at 4.5-7% so you may use this hop for aroma or bitterness. As a note for American home brewers, you’ll probably see hops listed just as Goldings when you go to the supply shop. These are what you’ll be looking for.

9) Fuggles.

Fuggles are grown in many parts of the world but come mostly from Britain and the U.S. Aromas are mild, soft, and grassy. Because this variety only offers 3.5-5.5% alpha acids, Fuggles is used predominantly as a finishing hop for ales and lagers. Substitute Goldings, Willamette, or Styrian if you can’t find your Fuggle.

10) Hallertauer Mittelfruh

As you might guess from the name, this hop hails from Germany. It offers pleasant, spicy, noble, mild herbal aromas. Predominantly used as a finishing hop for lagers. Alpha acids are only 3-5% so you’re not likely to use it for bitterness. Substitute Hallertauer Hersbruck, Mt. Hood, Liberty, Crystal, or Ultra.

11) Northdown

Northdown is similar to Northern Brewer. Northdown has better flavor and aromas, though. Northdown offers crisp, clean bitterness. With Alpha Acids coming in at 7-8% Northdown is a general purpose bittering hop. But with heavier ales, it can be used for flavor and aroma. If you can’t find Northdown use Target

12) Mt. Hood

An American hop from the Pacific Northwest, Mt. Hood is one of three hops first bred as replacements for Hallertauer Mittelfruh. Aroma is clean and mild. Alpha acid can range anywhere from 3-8%. Mt. Hood is used mostly as a finishing hop and goes nicely in German lagers. Substitute Hallertauer Mittelfruh, Hallertauer hersbrucker, Liberty,
Tettnang, or Ultra.

Beer Reviews Hoegaarden Grand Cru

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The town of Hoegaarden, east of Brussels, is situated in the centre of wheat growing country and at one time had more than 30 breweries producing the local wheat beer. The last brewery closed in the 1950s as traditional beers were being replaced by lagers, but around ten years later Pierre Celis revived the style. The brewery was a huge success and was acquired by Interbrew in the 1980s.

Based in Brussels, Interbrew is one of the oldest, and largest, beer companies in the world with breweries in 20 countries and its products being sold in more than 120 countries. it is responsible for such diverse beers as: Becks, Boddingtons, Leffe, Rolling Rock and Stella Artois

Witbier is a Belgian Wheat beer – meaning that it’s a beer brewed using at least 25% of wheat malts. Belgian wheat beers are different from German, or indeed British and American wheat beers, in that they’re fruitier, with a slight lemony touch. This is because of their use of coriander seeds, orange peels and other spices to flavour the beer.

It pours to a hazy, slightly cloudy, pale yellowish-orange colour with a luxurious head comprised of masses of tightly packed, tiny bubbles. This all leads to a mass of lacing on the glass that stays right to the very end. The aromas are of a gentle spiciness combined with a ripe tropical fruit (banana, pineapple etc.) Also present are medicinal-like phenols, a mild vine-fruit aroma, and of course orange.

It’s medium bodied with a lively carbonation and a viscous mouthfeel. Again, the suggestion of tropical fruit imposes itself in the flavour with pineapple being the most dominant. There’s a lot of yeast flavour giving a somewhat nutty impression, and a mass of complex spicy tones, especially coriander and cloves, backed up by the sharpness of the citric curacao peel. The hops are really only there for balance, giving just a very slight floral note. The finish is dry but still has lots of lingering fruity flavour while the aftertaste has a hint of vanilla and a light spiciness.

At 8.7% ABV, this a is a quality beer and one to savour and enjoy. It’s very similar to the more ordinary Hoegaarden but it tastes better, it’s a little bit darker and much stronger. I read somewhere that the Grand Cru is similar to how the original Hoegaarden used to be before becoming more commercialized – makes sense.

This is a very complex beer with lots of different aromas and flavours to savour and not really a beer to enjoy with a bar lunch – although you can if you want. No, this is for gently sipping on a balmy summer evening after a scorcher of a day. I’ve marked down three days in July for that very purpose.

Best Store Bought Bbq Sauce

Pulled BBQ Chicken Sandwich

If you are an expert or master at barbecue, then there are chances you may want to create your own barbecue sauce. Even if you are not a master, you can still make your own homemade barbecue sauce. But, you might not have the time or the mood to make your own sauce. Even masters might be hard pressed for time. At any barbecue, the sauce is incredibly important. Luckily, you can always buy barbecue sauce at your local grocery store. However, you do not want to buy just any kind of barbecue sauce. You have to think about what barbecue sauce you want to buy at the local market. There are many brands of sauces to choose from. The best way is to try out the many different brands of barbecue sauce.

On Amazon.com, there are several to choose from. You may want to look at the brands that have four our five out of five stars. Such brands to look from would be the following: Cattlemen’s, Scott’s Spicy BBQ Sauce, Bone Suckin’ Sauce, Open Pit Original BBQ Sauce, Country Sweet Sauce, Blues Hog, Smokin’ Joe Jones’ Barbecue & Dippin’ Sauce, Country Sweet Hop, Jack Daniel’s Barbecue Sauce, Heinz 57 Sauce, Nature’s Hollow, and Sweet Baby Ray’s.

BBQSauceReviews.com lists the following: Country Chef, Suckle Busters, Dragon’s Blood, Uncle Joe’s BBQ Sauce, Pork Barrel Original BBQ Sauce, Cattle Boyz Original BBQ Sauce, Grumpy’s BBQ Sauce, Pigchaser BBQ Sauce, Grandma Foster’s BBQ Sauce, Stage Coach BBQ Sauce, Midwest Best BBQ Sauce, Three Little Pigs BBQ Sauce, Outta the Park BBQ Sauce, Picky Vicki BBQ Sauce, Blenders Spicy BBQ Sauce, Captain Curt’s Lemon Honey Boss Sauce, Tex Morgan BBQ Sauce, BBQ Stu’s BBQ Sauce, McCane’s Vidalia Pit Sauce, Bubba Q’s BBQ Sauce, Oregon Dan’s BBQ Sauce, The Secret Sauce Smokin Hot BBQ Sauce, Mad Dog BBQ Sauce, Jake’s BBQ Sauce, Nephew’s Ghostly Pumpkin BBQ Sauce, Pascua’s Spicy BBQ Sauce, Alisha’s Honey BBQ Sauce, King James BBQ Sauce, and many others.

There are many brands of barbecue sauces that you can buy from the supermarket. You want to try out the different brands of barbecue sauces. The most common brands would be KC Masterpiece, Bullseye, Jack Daniels, and so forth. If you want something quick, you may want to get something like KC Masterpiece. For the other types of barbecue sauces, if available, would be to stock up on them. You are not the only person looking for a good barbecue sauce when it comes to grilling time.

Bottled Waters Harms us Bottled Water Disadvantages why Tap Water is better than Bottled

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Bottled water has too many disadvantages to put in one article.

It is a rip off, found to be no healthier than tap water.  It is an environmental disaster, killing eco-systems not only in its production, but also in its ultimate landing whether that be in landfills, or choking seabirds and mammals in the ocean, or left on land surfaces.

Bottled water leads to many health hazards, bacteria grow in any liquid left in light. It is also well known that no matter what type of plastic the container is, it contains toxins, carcinogens, and things that leak into everything else.  Your body holds many such contaminants, our early ancestors were made of different organic compounds altogether.

Plastic hurts mental health.  Yes, you heard that right. Living in a disposable throw-away culture creates values that are shallow and show a sense of trash mentality.  Shallowness is everywhere, and plastic itself if known to be a synonym for tacky, or worthless. We need to instill values, and value means caring about what is lasting, durable, useful, clean, beautiful, pure, and helpful.

Plastic is not simply evil.  It just is an awful and inefficient alternative for what we used for thousands of years, metal, glass, and wood, all of which can be re used and biodegrade without hurting others. But plastic, at best should be used only for things like medical devices, and life saving rare implements.

Having TSA forces to use plastic  zip bags, and confiscate bottles makes nations more vulnerable to terrorism, because our energy is being wasted and squandered on nonsense.

Please do your home work and learn more about plastic and bottled water. All water comes from the same sources. All water on earth is endlessly recycled for us through oceans, air currents, storms, glaciers, in and out of life form, including you, and everything that water touches can be refreshed and healed through water.  If the water is filled with toxins by industry or farm run off, that water can be harmful to many living things, including the living soil.

Bottled water is worth looking into to find out the various kinds of plastic, HDPE, PET, and PVC, as well as all the others, how they are best (although seldom) recycled, and how they harm living health.

Bottled water is something we just don’t need.  It might be a different story, and perhaps in some advanced nations it is, if those that produced the stuff paid the high cost for health issues, environmental impact, disposable and the recycling programs.

Instead, you the taxpayers pay for all externalized costs and your health suffers for the costs in more than just economic ways.

We can do better than bottled water, and especially much better than bottled water in plastic.  We know we can do better, because our species did so for about one million  years.

Best Pies to take to a Party

During the Christmas holiday season, it is easy to become overwhelmed with all of the  activities surrounding the season.  There are so many special events that only occur this time of the year, and you don’t want to miss even one.  Add in the time it takes to shop for family and friends and your schedule quickly fills to overflowing.

When asked to bring a pie to a Christmas party, there are some choices you can make that will allow you to bake up some crowd pleasing items without blowing your budget or your schedule.

At a party, guests want to taste a little bit of everything.  The round shape of traditional pie doesn’t lend itself to small two-or-three bite-sized pieces, so consider making pies that can be made in a square or rectangle pan and cut in squares.  This recipe works well and will hold up to traveling across town or across the country.

Derby Pie – made in 9X13 pan

Ingredients:
4 large eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 1/4 cup butter, softened
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 3/4 cup chopped pecans

Preparation:
Preheat oven 325 degrees F.
1. Stir eggs with mixer on medium until creamy.
2. Add granulated sugar, brown sugar and butter mixing until smooth.
3. Add flour, continuing to mix until smooth.
4. Stir in chocolate chips and pecans.  Pour in to 9X13″ pan with crust (it will be thick).
5. Bake for 60-70 minutes.
6. Cool completely on wire rack.
7. Cut into 2 inch squares.

Suggestions for presentation:
*Top with a dollop of whipped cream and sprinkle with cocoa powder.
*Top with a dollop of whipped cream and sprinkle with crushed candy canes.
*Dust with powdered sugar and top with a red raspberrry.

Another unique way to take pie to a Christmas party is empanadas.  These delicious hand-held pies can be made with simple ingredients, are easy to prepare, can be stored easily, travel well and with some creative presentation it will be the star of the dessert table.  Chocolate lovers will go crazy for the chocolate banana empanada and the fresh berry pie will be a hit with fruit pie lovers.

Ingredients
Chocolate banana filling:
4 large ripe bananas
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon

*Pie crust (see below)

Preparation:
Mash the bananas, sugar, and cinnamon together in a mixing bowl until creamy, but not completely smooth – you should still have pieces of banana chunks. Spoon a generous tablespoon of the banana filling on the empanada pastry circles and stick a piece of chocolate on top.

Fresh berry filling:
1 cup blackberries
1 cup  strawberries, roughly chopped
1/2 cup goat cheese (can substitute cream cheese)
1/4 cup sugar
*Pie crust (see below)

Preparation
Combine all ingredients and mix well.  Scoop heaping tablespoon of filling onto the center of each dough circle.

*This is where the short-cut comes in.  You can certainly make your own pie crust, but frozen pie crust will work just as well for these luscious handheld  pies.

1.  Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Coat a large baking sheet with cooking spray.
2.  Unroll 2 refrigerated pie crusts onto a flat surface.
3.  Using round cookie cutter, make circles in the dough (4 circles per crust).
4.  Scoop heaping tablespoon of filling onto the center of each dough circle.
5.  Fold over and pinch around the edges of each section to seal. (crimp with a fork to ensure they are completely sealed)
6.  Transfer the empanadas to the prepared baking sheet and make slits in the top of each to allow steam to escape.
7.  Brush with egg wash (2 eggs beaten with 2 Tbsp water)
8.  Place the baking sheet into the preheated oven and bake until crust is golden brown, about 8 to 10 minutes.
9.  Remove the baking sheet from the oven and cool.

After arranging on a platter, drizzle each empanada with chocolate syrup or dust with powdered sugar. Makes 8 servings.

If you are really pressed for time, make use of canned pie fillings which are available in many flavors. If you use canned fruit pie filling, try to scoop out mostly fruit so the epanadas aren’t too soupy.  Christmastime should be enjoyed with family and friends celebrating and having fun; don’t get bogged down in the kitchen with complicated recipes.

Bread Baking Gluten and Yeast

As a professional baker it is strange to me why anyone would want to know the true chemistry of bread making. I have never met a scientist that bakes, and if I did he would probably give me some reason why we shouldn’t eat bread. Fresh baked bread smells so good and tastes even better; there must be something wrong with it at a molecular level to make it bad for us.

Now, if you want to understand what is behind the making of good bread, well that I can explain to you in simple laymen’s terms. There is no need (or desire on my part) to go into complicated explanations and formulas you would never understand anyway. So following with the KISS (keep it simple, stupid) formula I will do my best to inform rather than bore you.

Basic yeast bread such as French or Italian bread is composed of 4 ingredients, flour, water, yeast and salt. More complex breads like the ones we know in North America also contain shortening, sugar and sometimes milk.

Something called a leavening agent is needed to make bread rise and fill it full of the little air pockets. These air pockets make bread light and fluffy. In the case of yeast breads, yeast is the leavening agent.

In Ireland they make soda bread which uses soda and not yeast to rise. Here in the Americas we also use soda and baking powder as a leavening agent which makes biscuits, cookies or cakes rise. Simple, a leavening agent is something that makes things rise. None of these leavening agents however can work alone. They all need to be mixed with moisture first plus heat or acids in the case of baking powder or soda.

In the case of bread it is most often water that gets mixed first with the yeast. So now we have our yeast in the water and it starts to bubble. What causes the bubbles is a by-produce of yeast being a living organism. Let’s just say that as the yeast grows and multiplies it releases what we all do after we eat, gas. Yeast produces alcohol and carbon dioxide gas.

So our yeast is now alive because we put it in water and given it an environment to grow in. We need to capture that gas it is producing so we can use it in our bread. We also have to feed the yeast to keep it alive and multiplying. This is where the flour comes in. If we mix yeast and water with flour we can provide the yeast with food. It can eat away at small amounts of flour and continue to grow and really multiply. In the case of bread, the more yeast growth the better because it will produce more gasses and some extra flavour.

It is important to know at this time that there are several types of flour used in baking. There is a protein in flour that when wet, produces small strands that can’t be seen. We call this protein gluten. Gluten joins together and forms long strings that get wrapped around each other. These strings are what makes bread strong enough to hold in the gasses that yeast produces. If all the gasses got out you would have a thick heavy bread like a flat bread.

Certain flours have almost no gluten. These flours, we call them cake and pastry flour, are great for making flaky treats. Bread flour is made from a type of wheat that has lots of gluten so it is made into all purpose or even specialty “bread” flour. Whole wheat and rye flours have only a little gluten so we often need to mix bread flour with them so they rise well and stay puffier during baking.

Now our bread has water and yeast and flour for food and structure. This is enough to make the bread rise fast. Now we must add a little salt. Yes, salt is good fo flavour, but it also kills some of the yeast. This is good because bread would rise too fast and not bake well if it wasn’t kept under control, so we add salt. This simple recipe up to this point would produce a good basic French bread.

Here in North America we like our bread to last longer than a day and we like it a little richer than French bread. By adding milk or milk powder to the dough we add lactose, a type of sugar. As you know when sugar is heated it will brown. The lactose in the milk will give our breads crust a nice color and add a little bit of flavour. Likewise sugar will help feed the yeast and speed fermentation (yeast growth) while adding a little sweetness.

So what does the shortening do? Some bakers believe (as I do) that shortening lubricates the bread as it rises so it rises better. Shortening will also stay in the bread after it is baked and keeps it feeling moist. Oils won’t evaporate like water. It also adds taste and something we call a nice “mouth feel”.

Now we come to that thing they call kneading. After bread is mixed we need to knead it.

Kneading is the action of pressing the dough between the board or table and our hands. You can knead in a mixing bowl with dough hooks or simply pick the dough up and slap it down on the table. The more you knead the dough the more strands of gluten you create.

Remember, we want our dough to be able to be strong enough to hold in all the gasses the yeast produces. After we knead the dough we cover it and let it rest so the dough can relax and the yeast can work. After a while the dough will fill with carbon dioxide and alcohol. Both these items will kill the yeast or slow it down so we “punch” out the dough to get rid of the excess.

Finally the bread is ready to be rolled into loaves. We punch the bread down once more and form it into a loaf. The bread is allowed to proof (puff up) one last time.

Just as the bread gets about 80% of its full puffed up size we pop it in the oven. The heat will make the bread rise very quickly. A crust will form on the outside of the loaf and get hard enough to hold the gasses in. Heat will kill all the living yeast, evaporate most of the carbon dioxide and all of the alcohol. The bread will set and before you know it, the inside will bake into a milky white sweet smelling loaf.

Now you know the inner workings of bread baking. Easy stuff once you know how it works and handy too. Next time you make a nice pie or some muffins for breakfast and they turn out a little tough, you will understand why, gluten. So go ahead and practice, be gentle with your pastries and beat up on those breads. In no time you will become an excellent baker.

Eating Best way to Share a Restaurant Check with others

Restaurant

It’s not uncommon when people go out to eat that they prefer to split the check so that no one gets stuck paying the whole bill.  That eliminates the competitiveness and resentment of people simultaneously offering to pay while hoping someone else outfights them for the check.  But what is the best way to divide a restaurant bill?  Here are some possibilities:

1.  Separate checks

From the standpoint of the customers, this is certainly the easiest, most accurate way to make sure everyone pays for all and only what they had.

However, anyone who has worked in restaurants will tell you that creating separate checks adds considerable work for the server.  At many restaurants it’s not even allowed, or is not allowed for parties above a certain size.

So understand that when you ask for separate checks, you’re making the server’s job more difficult.  This means that if you’re a considerate person, you should either, a) not do it, or, b) increase what you would have tipped by an amount commensurate with the added inconvenience.

Still, if you can get separate checks, it certainly solves the problem.  But try to do it only if you’re a fairly small party, the server is not very busy, it is not contrary to the restaurant’s policy, and you let the server know at the beginning of the meal rather than the end.

2.  Divide the check equally

If you’re not going to get separate checks, the next easiest method is simply to have everyone pay an equal share.  If five people are dining, each pays 20% of the total.

The obvious drawback to this is it’s unlikely everyone ordered items of the exact same price, so some will be paying more than they should, and others less.

But really this is probably too petty and insignificant to worry about as long as it’s at least reasonably close.  If one person had a $17.95 entrée and another person had a $19.95 entrée, is the one really getting over on the other if they throw an equal amount of money in the pot?

If there are more substantial differences than that, then it’s fine to deviate from strict equality and adjust the numbers in an approximate way to account for it.  For instance, if the bill for five people is $100, normally you could just pay $20 each and be done with it.  But what if the five people ate roughly the same amount, however four of them had multiple drinks, and the fifth is a teetotaler who just had water?  In that case it’s perfectly reasonable to have the one person pay, say, $12, and for the remaining four to split up the other $88 equally and pay $22 each.

3.  Figure out each person’s share precisely

It can be a lot of bother, but if you don’t mind doing it, and everyone is agreed that it’s really the only fair way to proceed, it can certainly be done.

A calculator helps, as does something to take notes with.  Just assign each item to the person who ordered and ate it (splitting shared items appropriately), and total up the figures.  Don’t forget to include tax.  Then make sure the totals taken together add up to the total on the check (give or take a few cents).  After the check’s correctly divided up, people still have to put in for the tip of course.

As a final note, how or even whether to split up a restaurant check is a lot more of a cultural thing than one might realize.

I remember an occasion when I and a group of friends grabbed a bite to eat at a restaurant after a marathon poker session.  At the close of the meal, someone said something like “How much do I owe?” or “How are we splitting this?”  The whole table groaned.  One of my friends said, “What are we, a bunch of little old ladies having lunch after church?”  In his eyes, this notion of splitting the check just wasn’t a “guy” thing to do.  The norm is for someone to pay the whole thing, with future such meals being paid for by others until it works out to be roughly even.  So a kind of informal rotation.

So social custom plays a big role in whether to divide up a check.  In some situations it’s allowed, if not expected, that you’ll split up a check a certain way, while in another situation it would be totally out of line.  (Comparable to the way in some dating situations a male is a sexist cad if he tries to pay the whole check, whereas in other dating situations he’s a hopelessly cheap loser if he doesn’t.)

Beer Reviews Orkney Brewery the Red Macgregor

The Orkney Brewery in Sandwick on the Isles of Orkney – a small group of islands off the northern tip of Scotland – was founded by Roger White and his wife Irene some 15 years ago. It is situated in a former schoolhouse set amid lakes and grassland on the Mainland of Orkney.

They brew a wide range of quality ales, including: Skullsplitter, Northern Light and Dark Island; and have won many awards including the International Brewing Industry Awards championship cup (2002) for Red MacGregor.

A lot of the beers from Orkney have Viking-style names celebrating the rich Norse history of the Orkney Islands, but Roger White, being a descendant of the MacGregor Clan, thought that it was appropriate to name this beer after his ancestors.

Red Macgregor comes in at 4% ABV in draught form, but 5% ABV in the bottle. I’m reviewing the draught ale which is a fairly common guest ale in pubs around Scotland and is making inroads abroad as well.

Red MacGregor Ale pours to a lovely, rich, chestnut colour with flashes of ruby-red, and moderate carbonation forming a rocky, off white head which leaves a decent amount of lacing. There are some nice aromas, most noticeable among them being a dominant sweet malt. Some toastiness is evident, along with a little peat-smoke, a yeasty earthiness, and a gentle, flowery hop aroma.

It is light-to-medium bodied and has quite a soft and creamy mouthfeel. Initially, the flavour is all sweet malt, but dig a little deeper and there are hints of toffee, raisins and caramel – it’s a malt-lover’s dream. As with the nose, there’s a peat-smoke taste, some yeasty flavour, and a very slight citrus twang. It finishes with more malt flavours before a faint floral hop bitterness creeps in to balance out the beer nicely.

At 4% ABV, this is an excellent, tasty beer with lots of malt character, and is a very typical Scottish Heavy. Malt is the by-word here, so if you lean towards the hoppier end of the beer drinking scale, you might find it a little too sweet.
I wouldn’t foresee any problems matching this with most foods – anything from the richest meat dishes to simple bread and cheese – but most especially traditional pub fare. Of all the beers from The Orkney Brewery, this is perhaps the easiest drinking, and to my mind, probably the best all-rounder.

Best Natural Sweeteners Honey Agave Nectar Stevia

Various-muffins-baked

Granulated sugar is the most popular sweetener that is around. But studies are coming out that show how dangerous it is to the overall health of the body. Therefore many new sweeteners have been developed and are starting to become popular. There are many unhealthy, zero calorie sweeteners, but there are also many natural sweeteners, that are much healthier in moderation.

Honey

Honey has been used to sweeten things long before sugar and other sweeteners came on the scene. Honey is naturally made by bees from the nectar they collect from different flowers. It is available raw as well as pasteurized.

The sweetness of honey is about the same as sugar. However, honey is natural, and therefore it is a better choice for healthy living. It is mainly made up of sugars, but it also contains small amounts of healthy vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that help the body to build a strong immune system so that it can fight off disease.

Honey can be used in baking, desserts and many drinks such as coffee, tea and milk.

Stevia

Stevia is produced from an herbal plant. It is available in dry powder form or in a liquid extract. It is said to be 200 to 300 times sweeter than regular table sugar. Thus the amount needed for sweetening is very little. It is great for using in smoothies, tea, coffee, cereals and anywhere that sugar is normally used.

The great thing about stevia is that it can help to reduce food cravings for sweets and foods high in unhealthy fats. Therefore it is great for those who are trying to lose weight. Stevia is also great for those who suffer from diabetes as it does not spike the blood sugar levels.

The only downfall of stevia is the mild aftertaste that it produces.

Agave

Agave is harvested from the agave plants that are naturally grown in Mexico. The sap is harvested and heated at low temperatures to break down the sugars. This ensures that the enzymes are kept alive, and thus it is considered natural and can be consumed safely in moderation.

The agave nectar contains the same amount of calories per tsp. as does sugar, but, agave can be up to three times as sweet as sugar. Thus the amount that is needed is far less.

However, the sweetener is high in fructose, which may not be suitable for some. But nevertheless, it is great for those who suffer from diabetes as it does not spike the sugar levels.

Best Ways to Defrost a Chicken

FROZEN-CHICKEN

Defining the best ways to defrost a chicken must take account above all of food safety. Chicken which is not defrosted properly prior to being cooked can be extremely dangerous to one’s health and it is therefore vital that this scenario be avoided.

The absolute best way to defrost a chicken is slowly in the refrigerator. A small chicken will defrost in this fashion in around twenty-four hours but a bigger bird may very well take twice that length of time. It is imperative therefore that sufficient time be allowed for this process to occur.

It is very likely that the chicken will have been bought frozen and is sealed in some form of plastic wrapping. This wrapping should be loosened but may be used to cover the defrosting chicken. The chicken should then be placed in to a large tray and on to the very bottom shelf of the refrigerator. This is to ensure that any liquid which may escape the chicken and spill from the tray does not contaminate any other food which is present in the refrigerator. Depending upon the size of the chicken and the size and depth of the tray, it may prove necessary to empty the tray of the defrosting water and juices, once or twice during the defrosting period.

If perhaps one forgets to remove the chicken from the deep freeze in sufficient time to defrost it in this fashion in the refrigerator, there are two other options which can be explored. What one should never do is allow the chicken to sit out and defrost at room temperature, even covered, as this can lead to it becoming contaminated with harmful bacteria.

The first alternative one may consider to defrost a chicken is by submerging it in cold water. This will allow it to defrost in around half the time that it would have taken in the refrigerator. One will clearly require a very large basin, pot or bowl and will require to ensure that the whole chicken is submerged at all times. Changing the water every few hours is also a good idea.

In an emergency, it is possible to defrost a chicken in the microwave. This should be done per the microwave manufacturer’s instructions and only immediately prior to the chicken being cooked. Defrosting a chicken in this way and then failing to begin cooking it immediately afterward can again lead to problems with bacteria.

The best ways to defrost a chicken therefore afford three very different alternatives but where time can possibly be made to permit, the refrigerator option should always be the one selected.