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Yesterday the New York Times reported on the popularity of house-made ginger ale in restaurants and cocktail bars in Chicago, Atlanta, New York City, and Ann Arbor: Ginger Ale Without the Can.

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Sencha Ginger Blonde Homebrew Ale

When I write, I like to drink beer to lubricate the mind and I like to drink caffeinated tea to stay focused. Sometimes I drink them at the same time. So after reading about brews made with things like safron and oysters in Burkhard Bilger’s article about extreme beer and Dogfish Head Brewery, I was inspired to combine my vices in a single beverage.

I also added ginger, because I like it. I started with the makings for a blonde ale from my local homebrewing store, Oak Barrel Winecraft. I chose that beer because I was afraid the bitterness of something with more hops would drown out my extra flavors. About 40 minutes into boiling the wort, which is closer to the end than the beginning, I added a sliced, hand-sized hunk of fresh ginger. As soon as I turned off the heat at the end of the boil, I dipped a bag holding one cup of sencha green tea into the wort and let it soak for five minutes. Then I strained and fermented the beer as usual.

I like the grassy flavor of sencha, and i was hoping it would come through in the beer. It didn’t. But the ginger did come, with a nice kick at the end of every sip. And it settles the stomach, too. As for the caffeine, the tea gives the brew a bit of a zing, but to get a strong effect I think I’ll have to use a black tea in a heavier beer. Maybe with some cardamom and other masala chai spices? I’d also like to add even more green tea to an even lighter beer.

While asking Uncle Internet if he had any beer recipes involving tea, I came across this excerpt of a text from 1822 bashing tea as a drink far inferior to beer:

I view the tea drinking as a destroyer of health, an enfeebler of the frame, an engenderer of effeminacy and laziness, a debaucher of youth, and a maker of misery for old age.”

The writer also says of tea that it, “besides being good for nothing, has badness in it.” Happily, there’s no badness in my tea beer.

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You know how to pickle anything. Now know this: It’s hard to screw up your pickles. They are forgiving and they can take your abuse. Here’s an example from my current kimchi batch. (This isn’t a detailed kimchi recipe, but one is coming soon.)

Back in mid-January my housemates and I harvested more mustard greens, broccoli leaves, and radishes from our garden than we could stuff in the fridge, so I decided to make kimchi with some of them. I chopped them up along with some carrots, a daikon radish, and a head of cauliflower that also needed some attention. Not your usual kimchi combination, but hey, you can pickle anything.

I filled a 5 gallon crock about two-thirds full and covered the veggies with brine to soften them up for a few hours. Like this:

Kimchi veggies soaking

It looked like a lot, so I didn’t hold back on the spices:

Kimchi spices

In the food processor I blended up all the onions, most of the garlic, half the fresh ginger, and about 20 thai chili peppers. I poured off some of the brine and added the eye-watering mixture to the greens. To seal the spiced veggies from the air and keep them from getting moldy, I pressed them under the brine with a flat glass lid, then weighed the lid down with glass jars full of water.

Jars pressing kimchi under the brine

After it had spent two weeks in the pantry I tasted the kimchi. It was awful! It was way too strong, and the garlic especially was so powerful it made my mouth hurt. What to do? I added two large bunches of bok choi, another large chunk of fresh ginger, and a bunch of sweet paprika powder (because I wanted it to have a nice red color). After another week, the kimchi tasted much better and it’s still doing fine fermenting away in the pantry today, two months since it started.

kimchi fixed and ready to eat

The moral? Making pickles is kind of like making soup—you can always add something to make it better later on.

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