Corny Comet Cream Breakfast Ale

Corny CometCPC
A cream ale for breakfast. Not meant to replace your double espresso, but rather to stand beside it, bracing you for the day to come.

Cream ale emerged in the late 19th Century United States when ale breweries, faced with immigrant competition from Bavarian brewers bringing lager to the market, devised a light and refreshing, yet bold concoction that combined the crisp, dry flavor of a lager with the rapid fermentation characteristics of an ale. In many of these renditions, a substantial ABV approaching 5.5% was a feature.

This cream ale uses 22 IBU of Comet hops, a variety that tastes and smells remarkably like pink grapefruit. Breakfast cereal included: organic corn grits, and steel-cut oats, along with some nice caramel notes from a variety of crystal malts. Starting gravity is 15 Plato, boosted by a late addition of rice syrup solids. White Labs WLP080 Cream Ale yeast blend provides crisp yet round fermentation notes. Dry hopping with Comet offers grapefruit aroma.

This is a fruity breakfast drink; cream of corn grits with fruit and oats, delivered with the full mouthfeel of an ultimate smoothie.

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Speedwell Skullcap

Speedwell SkullcapPCHere’s a drink named after a Grateful Dead concert that never was. No wait! Hear me out. Altamont Speedway was the site of the death of the 60s hippie era. The Grateful Dead, scheduled to play, got the hell out when things got way out of hand. Speedwell (Veronica officinalis) is an herb that is sometimes considered a weed. Deadheads like herb and weed, right? Speedwell—Speedway, close enough for a Deadhead no doubt.

The Altamont Speedway with 300,000 hippies

The Altamont Speedway with 300,000 hippies


Speedwell is slightly bitter and astringent, with a taste a bit like green tea. Its medicinal use includes relief for coughs, and the plant is rich with vitamins, tannin, and anti-inflammatory compounds.

Skullcap, or Mad-dog Weed (Scutellaria lateriflora) is a perennial mint, purported by early North American settlers to cure rabies, hence its common name. Skullcap’s current use, however, is in the promotion of a sense of well-being, a property any Deadhead can relate to. The active ingredient is the flavone scutellarin, a phenolic compound. The name skullcap refers to the shape of its flowers, which resemble early military head gear. Speaking of head gear, here’s a Grateful Dead skull cap.

Deadhead Skull Cap

Deadhead Skull Cap

Schisandra chinensis (五味子 in Chinese, wǔ wèi zi, literally “five-flavor berry”) is so named because it is simultaneously sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and spicy. A traditional Chinese medicine, it calms the spirit by balancing yin and yang. Western pharmacological studies have shown that it is effective in treating “heavy metal intoxication,” so—‘nuff said.

Grapefruit-like pomelo juice and zest, the main ingredients for the now-defunct liqueur Forbidden Fruit, along with Montmorency cherry extract, angelica and orris roots round out the ensemble. Drink up lovers!

Tamazcal Opotunia

prickly pearPC

The tamazcal (Nahuatl for “house of heat,” or possibly Aztec for “bath house”) is a sauna-like structure invented by the pre-Columbian inhabitants of Central Mexico, and the region south to present-day Costa Rica. These structures are still in use, performing a similar function as that of a sweat lodge or steam room.

Starting around 7000 BCE, complex agrarian cultures began to form in this region, along with the creation of sedentary agricultural villages, and ceremonial centers. Purification rituals were among the curative ceremonies performed by these indigenous people, designed to rejuvenate the body after battle or a ball game.

Tamazcal: Aztec Sauna or Sweat Lodge

Tamazcal: Aztec Sauna or Sweat Lodge


The way in which these therapies cleanse the body is believed to involve “heat shock proteins” (HSPs) that are created in response to environmental stresses, in this case the high temperature and humid environment of the tamazcal. HSPs are involved in binding antigens and presenting them to the body’s immune system. They also provide an essential role in the formation of other proteins, and in the body’s cellular repair system.

Along with the heat therapy provided by the tamazcal, many practitioners suggest imbibing in another source of HSPs: Opotunia-Ficus-Indica, or prickly pear cactus. The fruit is high in antioxidants, particularly betalains (betanin and indicaxanthin), two molecules that give the juice its nearly fluorescent red color. With a flavor reminiscent of watermelon, the juice is rich in Vitamin C, and is one of the first cures for scurvy! The plant also contains at least five other antioxidant flavinoids. The pulp of the fruit contains the carbohydrates glucose, fructose and starch, proteins, and fibers rich in pectin.

Eleuthero root (Eleutherococcus senticocus)is a medicinal plant native to northeast Asia. It is often referred to as Siberian Ginseng, as it is widespread in North Korea and throughout Northeastern Russia. It is not the same as Panax ginseng, the more common Chinese herbal medicine. Eleuthero is considered an anti-oxidant “adaptogen” that reduces the impact of stress, while stimulating the central nervous system.

Rooibos or “red bush” (Aspalathus linearis) is a broom-like legume growing in the fynbos (shrubland) of the Western Cape of South Africa. The leaves of the plant are used to make a bush tea, which has been popular there for generations. Rooibos leaves are oxidized (“fermented” in tea parlance) to create their red color and complex flavor. They are high in Vitamin C and antioxidant flavonoids. Cinnamic acid gives them a honey-like aroma. Rooibos has a bitter/sweet taste that has been described as slightly pungent and “warm.”

These three ingredients combine in Tamazcal Opotunia with citrus juice and zest to create a potent tonic, cleansing indeed but also a refreshingly cool end to a steamy session in a tamazcal, a hammam, or just a hot August night.

Ruby Gush

Ruby Gush I’ve never been a fan of cola drinks. I’ll have one occasionally, but never understood how my cousin can have a Pepsi instead of her morning coffee. For as long as I can remember the tart/sweet drinks have been my favorite. My earliest recollection of this goes back to the time my Dad was buying his brand-new 1954 two-toned Dodge sedan. There was a pop machine that sold grapefruit-flavored Squirt in the dealership. Dad bought me one. I loved it.

The grapefruit is a hybrid of sweet orange and pomelo, developed in Barbados (where great rum is made, but I digress.) When I was growing up, yellow grapefruit halves sprinkled with sugar were a staple on our breakfast table. These have been almost completely replaced in the marketplace by the ruby variety, for good reason.

The ruby grapefruit has a distinctive smell, and a taste sweeter than the yellow grapefruit.
When our family recently acquired a case of Texas ruby grapefruit as part of the school band fund-raiser I decided to make a soft drink reminiscent of the Squirt I used to love.

Ruby Gush starts with 1.25 liters of grapefruit juice and the zest from two grapefruit for a 4 liter batch. I let the grapefruit rest in a cool room for two weeks to develop the flavor. To the juice I added 400 grams of evaporated raw cane juice. Next came 12.5 grams of fresh grated ginger, and 1.5 grams of lemon balm. I heated the syrup to steep out the flavors, strained and pasteurized it. I measured 150 ml into each of eight 500 ml swing top bottles, froze these, then topped them up with carbonated water. A total success, Ruby Gush is better than Squirt, though I remain enamored of the memory. Tasty indeed, I might even try adding a shot of spirits to the glass to make a Ruby Greyhound or even a Red Dog.

Sparkling Meyer Lemonade

Meyer Lemonade
Some recipes are a description of a state of mind. Sparkling Meyer Lemonade is one of those. Meyer Lemonade. To me that recalls the dwarf lemon tree Mom had in the back yard. When we moved to California from Ohio, things like year-round bearing citrus trees were a wonder. Mom said the best tasting lemon was the Meyer, a cross between an ordinary lemon and probably, a Mandarin orange, and that was the variety she planted first.

Mom was right. Cuisinistas like Martha Stewart and Alice Waters discovered the Meyer lemon a while after Mom did. Dad would pick 20 of them, perhaps some time around July, cut them in half, mash them in a bucket, add sugar, ice, water, and a good handful of the fresh mint that also grew abundantly in the wondrous California garden. The aroma was spectacular.

The taste was also refreshing, more tart than the concentrate that came in the six-ounce cans of the day. That thought reminds me of Schweppes Bitter Lemon, a lemon-quinine tang that I came to love perhaps 20 years later than those backyard picnics. Alas, it appears that Bitter Lemon is not made any more. I thought I’d make my own.

First of all, there is the joy of fizz, and that is accomplished using the frozen syrup method for mixing sparkling water with juice and sweetener. Secondly, this recipe furthers the idea that a good soft drink should contain a juice, a root, an herb, an oil, and a sugar.

Sparkling Meyer Lemonade starts with 150 ml of Meyer lemon juice per liter of lemonade. Before squeezing the lemons I peeled the zest from 6 per liter (about 5 grams) and set that aside. The sugar is 100 grams per liter of evaporated raw organic cane juice.

For the root, this recipe has 3 grams per liter of ginger. The herb is 0.3 grams of lemon balm per liter. I heated the juice, sugar, herb, zest, and root to infuse and pasteurize the ingredients, and let them cool for 12 hours. I strained the brew, pasteurized it again, cooled it and dispensed 115 ml of the syrup into each 500 ml swing-top bottle. After I froze these bottles I topped them up with carbonated water, and kept them cold.

This drink is Huckleberry Finn meets Dom Perignon. Aging it in the fridge really makes a difference. Less than 0.3 percent alcohol I estimate, but still full of a richness coming from the raw sugar, the herby, citrus aromatics, the mandarin-meets-lemon flavor and the tingle on the tongue that Huck rarely if ever tasted.