Book Review: Radical Brewing by Randy Mosher

Randy Mosher’s Radical Brewing (buy it on Amazon) is not your normal introductory homebrewing book. I’m a little sad that it took me this long to get around to reading it. It should be the second or third homebrewing book you pick up after How to Brew or Complete Joy of Homebrewing.
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Craft Beer Crafts: DIY Cork Cage Turtle

Making a cork and cage turtle is a trick I picked up from a beer-tender at the World of Beer in Columbus back when it first opened. I don’t remember exactly how she did it but after a few months, I nailed it and have perfected it over and over since then. The first step is to get a corked and caged beer, a variety of these are available from any local better beer seller.

Cork and Cage Turtle Instructions

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Cork and Cage Turtle Detailed Instructions:

  1. Take the cage and bend each of the legs, and the ring with it, outwards. Bend each leg a bit at a time moving around the cage as you go.
  2. Once the legs are bent in use your fingers and a pair of pliers to bend the ring in under the cap. This helps the ring hold the “shell” in place.
  3. Now take the loop at the end of the ring, which was twisted up, and turn slightly while pushing in and tucking under the cap, this is optional; you could leave the neck long and make it more like a Brontosaurus.
  4. Most cages I’ve encountered have two strands of the metal intertwined together on the opposite side of the head. I usually take the pliers and bend this bit in under the cap. Optionally, if going for a Brontosaurus, squeeze this part together and pull it out a bit to make the tail.
  5. I then squeeze the legs together and begin to adjust them, so it stands level.

It’s a fun, easy thing to occupy yourself with while hanging out with friends at a bottle share. Keep a collection as you perfect your art or give them away to friends and family. Heck, some folks would probably pay money for them on Etsy. Let me know if you have any questions about the process OR if you have any cool craft beer crafts to share.

Cork and Cage Turtle Armies

Cork and cage turtle army
The complete Turtle army. Circa 2014
Cork and cage turtle army 2016
Turtle Army in 2016

DIY Syrups for Cocktails

violet syrup
Vanilla Violet Syrup

One of the great things about making cocktails is the almost endless number of ways you can combine spirits and mixers to create new taste profiles. With the rainbow of flavored vodkas and liqueurs on the market this is more true now than ever. But I am here today to let you know that there is an easier and cheaper way to get new and interesting flavors in your cocktails. You could create your own infused spirits, liqueurs, and even bitters from ingredients you have at home but the easiest way to start to really customize your cocktails is with homemade syrups.

The simplest recipe is of course for simple syrup. A huge number of cocktails call for additional sugar and simple syrup is the easiest way to get a smooth mix. Simply boil equal parts sugar and water until they are dissolved and there you have it. It will keep in the fridge for up to six months but to extend the shelf life even longer add a little vodka; I usually use about 1/2 a teaspoon per cup of syrup. To this basic recipe you can add just about any flavor you want during the boiling phase: herbs, fruit, and tea all work well. Or you can replace the water with juice and go from there. The possibilities are endless. Also these syrups can be mixed with club soda to make your own sodas and virgin cocktails for non-drinkers.

To get you started here is one I have come up with recently that I really liked but I encourage you to experiment freely because there is not a lot you can do to mess this up.

Vanilla Violet Syrup

vanilla flyer
Vanilla Flyer Cocktail

1 cup fresh violets
1 cup boiling water
1 cut vanilla bean
1 cup sugar
Fresh lemon juice

First pick the violets growing profusely this time of year in your front yard or better yet, have a small child pick them for you. Put the violets in a mason jar and cover with one cup of boiling water. Let the mixture sit over night or up to 24 hours to steep.

Strain the mixture and press out all of the liquid. It will be kind of blue grey at this point. That is ok. Put the violet water in a pan, add the sugar and the vanilla bean and bring to a low boil for 10 minutes. Strain the syrup through a nice thick cheesecloth because the vanilla will leave specks. Next add the lemon juice to adjust the color. It doesn’t take much so add just about 1/4 teaspoon to start and add more until you get the color you want. Store in a covered jar in the refrigerator. This syrup makes a delicious cocktail that is a variation on the aviator cocktail so I called it:

Vanilla Flyer

1 1/2 ounces Hendricks Gin
3/4 ounces Vanilla Violet Syrup
1/4 ounce lemon juice

Shake well over ice and serve in a cocktail glass.

I realize that violets are a little fiddly and obscure as an ingredient but since I’ve really been getting into the idea of local drinks I couldn’t resist using something that was literally growing right outside my front door. Check out Episode 10 of Bottoms Up for recipes for Mandarin Orange Syrup and Rosemary Mint Syrup if you want recipes that don’t involve foraging.