Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Bottled kombucha, sam adams triple bock, and a whole lot of perspective

I was scared to taste it. the 2.5inch white mass that has been slowing forming for two months ominously floating on top of the fermentation vessel felt like...well, I don't know. Lets start with the fact that it didn't feel like anything I'd normally consider consuming.

Strangely firm, but still yielding to the touch.
sort of like an ultra firm tofu. yum.

But, our perspective was all over the place, as B, J and I just stepped back from the gates of hell after our taste of sam adams triple bock. This tasting was 15 years in the making. I finally cracked one of the two 1994 vintage bottles in my possession. I was not disappointed. Read recent reviews HERE. A clue that things were going to go incredibly wrong was evidenced in the cork. It broke with minimal effort. I was particularly gentle because I heard cork breaking was a common occurence with this vile stuff. It was probably good at some point in its life. But beer forensics tells me this 17%abv beast died a slow oxidative death due to this jerk of a cork. The sediment apparent in the pretty little blue bottle was further evidence of this oxidation. A day after sipping it, these words continue to resonate: terriyaki and maple glazed salmon in-a-bottle. blech. This little treasure can be hard to find, as it hasn't been produced by the home town boys for a number of years, but if you look high and low, you'll find it still makes cameo appearances.

I spied it recently at the very friendly Wine&Spirits in Coolidge Corner for the very reasonable price of $4.50. Try it, if you dare.

So trying the kombucha wasn't nearly as daunting as the SATB. In short , it was quite a bit milder than what i was expecting. Considering the duration the fermenting tea was sitting in culture, and the strong acetic acid smell I'd get every time I'd wander down to that end of the kitchen, I was expecting something akin to sipping on some red wine vinegar. Not even close. ok, maybe a little close... perhaps it was like sipping on watered down red wine vinegar. yum.

Nothing a little flavor, carbonation and a touch of sweetness couldn't theoretically fix, though. After siphoning off some in to bottles, I dumped the majority of the liquid, and restarted the culture with more tea and raw sugar.

I wanted to see if I could come close to my favorite commercial kombucha so I juiced one meyer lemon and ~2 inches of ginger root. Pushed the resulting juice through a fine sieve, added some water to it to ensure adequate distribution among three flip top bottles (two 500ml and one 750ml). I dropped in two coopers carb drops each, and now its we'll wait a few days for CO2 production, then pop them in the fridge to slow down fermentation. There probably won't be enough resulting sweetness, but I figure I can always add a bit more, flip the cap down and wait til the sugar dissolves, which happens quite quickly, likely due to the very low pH of this stuff.

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