Beer Me A Documentary

posted on April 20, 2009 in beerventure

Cheers to Anat Baron for her hard work and for bringing an inside look into many aspects of the beer industry to a mass audience.  I am happy I saw Beer Wars and generally liked it.  Generally.

I am tempted to chalk this one up to a classic case of overhyping: the Twitter beer nerds have been talking about the film for months and, in the last couple days especially, my Twitter page has been saturated with buzz for the movie (which I, probably too frequently, added to).  It’s a movie about beer for Chrissakes; we’re practically peeing ourselves.  Which is why, when Baron agonizingly fumbled through her introduction, I wanted to give her the benefit of the doubt.  This was her baby.  She was nervous.  I felt for her.

When she spent about five minutes of her already too long film talking about her own personal journey in some awkwardly placed cartoon, however, I started to lose patience.  I do not think any autobiographical information was beneficial to this film, especially when your only experience in the beer industry (and I am tempted to put beer in quotes in this context) is in Mike’s Hard Lemonade.  Baron marketed hard towards us homebrew and craftbrew lovers - she should know our feelings about those types of products.  Better to focus on the already too big story you’re trying to tell than to try and make us care about your relevance to it- especially if your relevance is something that will not give you much credibility to your biggest audience.  If she really wanted us to know her story, the more appropriate place would have been in the post-show panel (unfortunately - or perhaps fortunately, after her complete FAIL at the intro, she seemed too embarrassed to talk).  Of course, her particular background helps to explain her poor choice of a second lead in the film: the woman behind Moonshot - a gimmicky beer with caffeine.  It became clear that this was not a story about good, honest beer versus mass-marketed watered down alcoholic beverages; this was a story about big versus small, period.  Nevermind the actual product.

Beer with caffeine?!  That's unimpossible!

Beer with caffeine?! That's unpossible!

There is a pretty plain reason why Baron did not focus on the actual product (i.e., the beer itself): Anat Baron, through no fault of her own, does not drink alcohol - she’s allergic.  That makes it difficult for one to differentiate Dogfish Head from Moonshot, and so, Baron essentially put them in the same category - a prospect that probably pisses off not only Calagione but a lot of craft beer lovers as well.  Her only criteria was that these companies were not owned by some massive beer conglomerate (much to the chagrin of Rhonda, who was actually filmed attempting to sell out only to tell Ben Stein in the post panel interview that that was not her plan.  This poor woman.)  In fact, Baron made almost no mention of the actual ingredients in beer, which, to me, is the biggest difference between craftbrews and BMC.  This was another reason why, though appreciative of the movie overall, I felt a bit disappointed.  It was clear to me, and the crowd of beer lovers I was with, that the maker of this film did not share our love of brew.

Perhaps her objectiveness in this sense, however, served to elucidate some sticky points about our beloved craft beer industry.  First, along with Todd Alstrom - co-founder of Beer Advocate and a member of the post-show panel - most of the people in the audience did not hide their disdain for Moonshot, for its gimmickyness and its perversion of “real” beer.  But what makes caffeine such a different adjunct from, say, cloudberries*?  For that matter, why do we so abhor Bud for putting rice in their recipe?  I would be willing to bet my next pint that Sam Calagione could put rice in his next beer, call it exotic or “off-centered”, and most beer nerds would drool.  In fact, I’m so certain that I just performed a google search for “Dogfish head beer” and “rice” which quickly led to this discovery: Jiahu - a Dogfish Head beer with (*gasp*) rice as a primary ingredient.  And I thought rice in beer was “poison” - or at least that’s a quote from a DFH employee according to this blogpost .

Beer to Rice:  No, thanks.  Unless of course I include you because of a collaboration with a molecular archaelogist to revive a 9000 year old recipe.  Then, yes, by all means, join me.

Beer to Rice: No, thanks. Unless of course I include you because of a collaboration with a molecular archaelogist to revive a 9000 year old recipe. Then, yes, by all means, join me.

Before long, if you’re like me, you realize why Calagione’s use of rice is, perhaps, quite different from Bud’s.  There’s thought behind it.  No, not just thought, a full on collaboration with a molecular archaeologist.  The beer was designed (similar to their other ancient beer clones, Midas Touch and Theobroma) to mimic what is probably the earliest known beer recipe.  No two ways about it, that shit is just cool.  It’s also unique, educational and intellectual.  Contrast this with Bud’s use of rice which probably is meant to serve two purposes: to lighten the flavor and reduce the cost.  Still, the BMC lager is a type of style in its own right, even if most craft-brew drinkers think it is wussy watered-down crap.  The fact is, most brewers aren’t immune to adjuncts or gimmicks, so beer geeks should settle down on this point (even if the only adjuncty beer you drink is a Hefeweizen - wheat’s still an adjunct).

Craftbrew’s disdain for adjuncts isn’t the only area that Beer Wars exposed some potential paradoxes for the growing industry.  Indeed, it is the growth of many small brewers wherein the paradox lies; at what point does a microbrewery become one of the bad guys?  Sure, DFH only claims something like .001% of the beer market but it’s growing at a monstrous rate and its beers are popping up in more and more generic locations.  I think Calagione had the best response to Ben Stein’s inquiry along these lines, though: “we are brewers first and businessmen second”.  I have faith in that, though perhaps somewhat blindly.  I think the BMC people lost sight of that a long time ago.  Calagione’s passion, like Jim Koch’s of Sam Adams is simply self-evident - the guys are mad about beer.

Along these lines, one of the highlights of the film for me was when Baron exposed Budweiser’s masquerading as the “Green Valley Brewing Company” in order to sell their organic Wild Hop brew.

Please, do not refer to me as "The King of Organic Beers"; I want no association with that corporate empire.

Please, do not refer to me as "The King of Organic Beers"; I want no association with that corporate empire.

This deviousness, to me, underlines the fact that BMC is about market share first, product second.  The craft brew industry has been slowly sneaking bites of BMC’s gluttonous piece of the pie and the Big Three are using any tricks up their sleeve to get that share back.  See my “Elephant in Mouse Clothing” post for more discussion on this topic.  Honestly, I hoped Baron would include a little more content along these lines, though I also appreciated her focus on the three-tier system (which I hope to write more about another time).

All in all, I found Beer Wars to be a pretty important film for the beer industry despite my criticism and certainly appreciate Baron’s work to make this event happen.  I know how hard it is to make a film having seen my talented brother at work (and getting too little recognition).  She opened the dialogue for more people and I’m excited to continue the discussion where she left off - next stop: a blind taste test between BMC’s craft-styled beers and the real thing.  Sorry John, I know this is putting you in a position a little like when I play basketball against guys - if they win, they’re supposed to but if they lose, man do they get it.  Should be fun though :)

*At one point in the film, a DFH assistant brewer introduces Calagione to cloudberries and sure enough, DFH now has Arctic Cloudberry Imperial Wheat.  Is this not too a gimmick?

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Post tease

posted on April 4, 2009 in beer & food, beerventure

Alright, this probably doesn’t count as a real post but I’m so excited about my next three posts I wanted to post about it.  Here’s what’s on tap for BMAB*

1.  Part Deux of “Elephant in Mouse Clothing” - I am planning a blind taste test of a BMC craft brew series next to a tried and true microbrew using an experienced beer nerd and rather novice beer drinker as my subjects.

2.  Review of Beer Wars, which I will view with some fellow Greenbelt brewers after a mild pregame at River City Brewing Company.  This is how beer geeks get their nerd on.  Pretty awesome.

3.  A post on Beer in Space!  Seriously!  It’s gonna be out of this world!**

*My favorite thing about writing about the beer industry: the endless and minimal thought-requiring source of puns.

**My second favorite thing about writing about the beer industry: how you can get anything you want to relate to beer.

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MyFaves 5 - but for BEER.

posted on March 30, 2009 in random beer thoughts

I try to be pretty choosy about what apps I allow on my facebook profile because I want to keep things classy - this isn’t goddamn MySpace, people* - so the ones that make the cut have to meet certain standards.

Twitter, you're cool too.

Twitter, you're cool too.

One such new app is the simple, yet brilliant “Pick Your 5″ app which allows users to pick their favorite five of whatever they want (you can create your own categories or use previously made others), and upload or use previously uploaded photos as nifty icons.  I happily noticed one of the most popular categories on my newsfeed was: BEER! If you’re a fan of John Cusack’s character from High Fidelity, this is the app for you!

Ranking things makes me happy.

Ranking things makes me happy.

Clearly, I needed to publish my opinions on the matter to my friends, all 555 of whom I am very close with, and who all follow my facebook activity with great anticipation.  But the thought of choosing only five beers as my favorite, or, as I like to think of it: as the only five beers I would choose to call on for free for the rest of my life (I am a tried and true T-Mobile customer), made my feet sweat.  My first thought was that I am still rather a novice beer drinker, and that there is such a bigger, better beer world for me out there that I have yet to try; picking my favorite 5 now seemed premature.  Even premature things can be appreciated - at least for their effort - however, so I decided to move forward and take a bookmark of sorts on my beer palate as of now.

I wanted my fave 5 to include beers that I loved, but also to be somewhat balanced.  I think I accomplished that in that it contains a few somewhat extreme styles and a couple everyday beers.  I would like it to contain a little more diversity though - three are from California and two from Belgium, and one is a Belgian style Californian.  So I guess I have my preferences.  I also probably could have chosen another from Russian River but was careful to at least have five different breweries represented.  Without further ado, here are MyFave 5 Beers:

1.  Pliny the Elder - I’ve talked a lot about Vinnie’s beers so this one’s not surprising (see RRBC post).  Why Pliny and not Consecration since that was the beer I was most enamored by on that visit?  I could only choose one RRBC beer (self-imposed rule) and I wanted an IPA in there since I’m growing to love them.  Pliny, though a DIPA, is clearly the winner in that category.  And it’s just a damn good beer.

2.  Boont Amber Ale - Boonville has a rich history in food and beverages and it shines no more than in their Amber Ale.  I have a warm place in my heart for ambers; they’re so perfectly balanced and so, dare I say it, drinkable.  My restaurant has this one on tap and it’s definitely my go-to for almost any mood.

3.  Delirium Tremens - I like my Belgians (as evidenced by my next three choices).  It was tough to narrow it down, but Delirium was one of the first beers that made me realize the depth and variety of flavors beer is capable of producing.  I’ve tried and enjoyed other Belgian pales and strong pale ales like Duvel (the champion of the style), Leffe, Damnation, Orval and La Chouffe** but if I had each of those lined up in front of me, I think I’d choose Delirium (I do need to try Orval again though; this is one spot that may change).  But maybe that’s just because I find that pink elephant so garsh durn cute.

4.  Brother Thelonious - Another Belgian style, yes, but Dubbel’s are vastly different from the pales so I don’t feel bad about including it in leiu of, say, a porter or stout.  It’s the darkest beer in my bunch and probably my favorite dark style.  Nice caramel flavors, but not too sweet; I can’t get enough of the stuff.  North Coast is a very intriguing brewery to me because I love their beers and I’m fascinated by the fact that they use all extract.  Gives me hope for my own brewing capabilities.  Bro T was another beer that warped my mind as to how good beer could be and like Delirium, holds a special place in my heart.

5.  Hoegaarden - Some people are shy to admit they like wheat beers, but I do so proudly - under two conditions.  First, it must be a good wheat beer, and second, I must be in the right mood.  Hoegaarden satisfies the first condition better than any other wit or weizen I’ve tried, including Pyramid, Blue Moon, Paulaner and Moylan’s Pomegranate wheat (though none of those are bad).  It also pleases beer snobs to know that while my restaurant serves Blue Moon and Paulaner with a slice of fruit, Hoegaarden stands alone - in its ectoplasma-colored glory.  As for the second condition, that usually means it’s a warm day and I’m looking for something light and fruity.  As I happen to live in California, those conditions are often enough, so I felt justified in including a wheat beer in my top five.

Again, I suspect - nay, I hope this list changes as I gain experience with beer.  I’ll wager the list will one day include a sour beer but I have yet to try enough of those enough times to make a firm decision.  I also hope to diversify my regions but I think the fact that 3 of my five come from California and that I live in California illustrates the importance of freshness of beer.  I challenge you to Pick Your Five, as torturous as that may be.  In the meantime, here are my runners-up:

First Runner-Up: Sam Adams’ Utopias - this is a special beer.  At 27% ABV, it tastes more like a Port than a beer - which is maybe why I didn’t include it in my top five.  When I think of beers, Utopias is so out in left field that it almost doesn’t even fit the picture.  I had the pleasure of tasting this brew on a tour of the Sam Adams brewery and was absolutely blown away.  I savored every sip.  So, this one probably would have made the cut - but I was thinking of more “beery” beers.

Second Runner-Up: Guinness on tap in Ireland - no, it is not a myth: Guinness in Ireland really does taste better than the Guinness you can get over here for the same reason all beers taste better in their own country - freshness***.  Guinness is so smooth and so flavorful over there, you would think the Irish would have problems with alcoholism.  Oh wait.

Love the Guinness marketing.

Love the Guinness marketing.

Third Runner-Up: Sierra Nevada’s Celebration - a great holiday ale.  I very much enjoy holiday ales and I think SN does it right - just the right amount of maltiness and spiciness, which is, to say a lot…but in balance with each other.  SN is just solid.  But I don’t think a seasonal really belongs in my Top 5.

*I am pretty sure that clean profile layouts repel pedophiles.

**I do realize that strong Belgians and Belgian pale ales are quite different styles but when forced to choose only 5 beers, categories become broader in my mind.

***The author of the beer myths post does cite freshness as a reason but seems to dismiss it’s importance which just doesn’t make sense to me.  They also mention that Fosters is brewed in Canada while failing to mention that a contract brewery in Canada also brews the Guinness for the US, which, also, just doesn’t make sense to me.  (Other than that though, great post :))

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Elephant in Mouse Clothing, Part 1: Marketing and Anti-marketing in the Beer World

posted on March 25, 2009 in Uncategorized

In anticipation of the Beer Wars movie, a documentary that focuses on the David-versus-Goliath-esque battle of megabreweries* versus craft breweries, I thought I would beer you some of my thoughts on the subject.

The Megabrew vs. Craftbrew saga is one of the most intriguing Big Guy vs. Little Guy stories out there, all beernerdiness aside.  That’s partially because though Megabrew has the expected resume of an Evil Corporate Empire - i.e., bottomless marketing budget, cutting edge technology, cheap ingredients, wide distribution, etc., etc. (are theme parks also an ECE prerequisite?  If so, “check!”) - most people probably don’t think of the big beer companies as “evil” to the extent that, say, so many do of Wal-Mart.  I think the two primary reasons for this discrepancy are (1) the simple nature of the product - the culture of beer, regardless of quality, does not leave much room for hate - and (2) some successful marketing campaigns by the big brewers (the Budweiser frogs were probably as beloved and ubiquitous as the E-Trade baby is now, if not more)**.

I think you totally underestimated the creepiness of those frogs.

I think you totally underestimated the creepiness of those frogs.

Another factor that cannot be overlooked is that the Megabrew drinker isn’t always motivated primarily by price and/or convenience as are most shoppers who purchase corporate over small business products, but rather, by the fact that megabrewers offer “lite” beers, which have an enormous market in the United States, and most craft brewers don’t.  Therefore, many consumers wouldn’t consider macro- and microbrewers in direct competition.  Despite Big Beer’s generally positive image amongst most Americans, however, those in and around the craft brew industry generally fulfill their duty to hold disdain for the big corporate conglomerates.  Even still, many of those same craft brew lovers and craft brewers themselves express respect for the Bud-Miller-Coors group, praising them for their consistency of product.  Suffice it to say that if the two groups were in a Facebook relationship, it would be in the “it’s complicated” category, which are of course, the most interesting kind.  There are many points of comparison to view this eternal battle - many of which I am excited to see explored in Beer Wars;  the one I’ve chosen to focus on in this post is marketing.

As alluded to earlier, beer marketing permeates the media - or it’s possible that’s just how I feel since I tend to watch more ESPN than Lifetime.  Bud, Miller and Coors spend ridiculous amounts of money on advertising campaigns and sponsorships, and we all know the familiar cast of characters from the “High Life” delivery guy to the Clydesdales to the 3 guys in the back of a coach’s press conference.  For most of the past 20 years, (countless) beer marketing dollars have generally been spent to make the consumer know two things: their product is fun/cool, and it won’t fill you up.  And for the most part, the American people seem to have received the message well.

So, how does the craft brew industry compete with these marketing machines?  In my opinion, with a few exceptions, it went in the complete opposite direction.  If big beer mastered traditional marketing mediums, the craft brew industry has mastered anti-marketing.  What is anti-marketing?***  Apparently, it’s a relatively new marketing trend identified by marketing professor at Temple University’s Fox School of Business, Jay Sinha.  Sinha says, ““In anti-marketing, it’s not about following a script, but trying to pique interest by trying to make products seem unreachable.”  One example he gives in his book Reverse Psychology Marketing: The Death of Traditional Marketing and the Rise of the New “Pull” Game is the practice of some restaurants to not put their location in their commercials, lending them a sort of mystique.  I am not so convinced anti-marketing is an entirely “new” trend as the article and book seem to contend, but I do think it is something the craft brew industry has picked up on big-time.

Try this little experiment.  Go to Beer Advocate’s “Top Beers on Planet Earth” page and check out a few of the websites for the breweries behind some of those lauded brews.  You might notice a common characteristic among the websites for the breweries behind the #2/7/18/22/23/29/53/59/82, #4/14/19/28/97, #11, #15/40/46/94, #25 (apparently) beers in the world - mainly, they’re bad.  OK, I’m sorry, they’re not that bad and I’m sure someone has worked hard on them but let’s be honest, if these brewing companies can’t afford better websites, one of their nerdy fans or friends would surely help them jazz up the site in exchange for, at most, a few free pints.  Maybe I’m wrong, but I think the general shabbiness of the website design is a badge of pride for these breweries; they’re saying “we won’t spend a dime on marketing - we’re all about the beer”, and to their audience, that’s the best marketing approach they could take.  And the trend seems to be linear: the brewery with the most beers on the list, Russian River, has, in my opinion, the (how do I put this delicately?) most “old school” website.

According to Sinha, “less is more with present-day marketing.  Customers now crave simplicity, authenticity and exclusivity”, and craft brewers appear to hit on each one of those criteria.  And it appears to be working; a recent article from AllBusiness.com on the beer biz highlights craft brew’s nearly 6% climb in total sales amongst a general slump in alchohol (including Big Beer) sales across the globe.  Megabreweries have of course noticed and are trying desperately to get back the relatively tiny bit of market share they have lost.  It’s like if Charlie Bucket stole half a square of chocolate from Augustus Gloop and Augustus told Charlie he’s too fat.  Apparently I’m obsessed with Willy Wonka because that’s the second post I’ve referenced it in.

Augustus isn't the only "great, big greedy nincompoop"

Augustus isn't the only "great, big greedy nincompoop"

In general, the macrobrews strategy has been to become an elephant in mouse clothing (to use yet another metaphor involving a really fat thing).  The Big Guys are going to pretend to be like the Little Guys who focus on the product.  You may have noticed Miller Lite’s new “Triple Hops Brew” ads where they tout that the beer recieves hops at three intervals (!) - if you haven’t, simply go to Millerbeer.com, enter your birthdate (don’t even get me started on how dumb that regulation is) and you’ll soon get the idea.  Well, actually, you might still be confused, especially if you know anything about beer.  Apparently, hops are added “in the first step” to give Miller its “clean, distinctive flavor and aroma”, while they’re added “in the second step” for “balance” to ensure “perfect body and hop taste”; finally, “the third step” contributes to its “perfect head” and “locks in” the taste.  I’m not even sure where to begin to dismantle this BS, but I’ll try.

As I’ve mentioned in other posts, hops generally contribute two main components to beer**** - bitterness and flavor/aroma depending on when you put them in the boil.  If you put them in earlier, you’re going to boil off most their flavor/aroma compounds and utilize their alpha acids for bitterness; when put in later, they can contribute flavor and aroma but not much bitterness.  Most beers will call for at least 2 different hop additions - the first is usually around 60 minutes to isomerize the bitterness compounds and the other one, two or more additions are later in the boil for flavor and/or aroma and possibly some more bitterness depending on the time in the boil, but each recipe will vary.  So for Miller to break down their process simply into “steps” and make vague claims like one contributes to the body and another “locks in” the flavor, whatever that means, while also claiming that the first step (which presumably should be the bitterness addition) contributes aroma, is well, ridiculous.  Also, though it is true that hops can contribute to head retention, it is extremely unlikely that the small amount of hops added to Miller Lite play any role, and it is far more likely that the additives used by these types of brewers are responsible for the head.

Budweiser’s response has contained a similar strategy, such as their “perfect pour” ad, focusing on proper beer etiquette, as well as an interesting direction in their “drinkability” campaign.  In one sense, this notion of “drinkability” refers to an actual (though loosely defined) characteristic of the beer itself - something Bud adverts had not focused on much in the past - but it also seems to be making a slightly veiled dig at craft brew, in essence calling it “too flavorful”.  If craft beer lovers are going to make fun of Bud and the other “megaswill” for being “watered down”, then Bud is going to respond by saying craft beer has such strong flavor it’s undrinkable.  They also appear to mock beer nerds who analyze and critique beers on sites like RateBeer and BeerAdvocate and blogs like mine at the beginning of this ad where the woman says “you do get a hint of drinkability right away”.  If I’m right on this, and they’re still running the “perfect pour” and other product-focused commercials, it makes me wonder if Bud is talking out of both sides of its mouth by both trying to legitimately speak the language of beer nerds, and to do so mockingly.  I think I’d be cool if they chose one strategy or the other but to employ both just pisses me off, almost even more than Miller’s “triple hop” BS.

All this will probably make you think that I’m completely against megabrewers reacting in any way to the craft movement.  Certainly elephants shouldn’t try to look like mice, but I do see a possible benefit to what the macros are doing and will expound on that in my next installment of this series.

In the meantime, please enjoy this comic by my coworker, Sara, that I think is somewhat fitting for a post on beer marketing, especially one with “elephant” in the title.  I’ll simply set it up by saying that we have Stone’s Arrogant Bastard on tap and that if you’re ever going to attempt a “clever” remark to a server, you might want to think about if she may have heard that one before.  I actually still laugh everytime but I thought this drawing was hilarious.  Bonus points if you recognize where one of the animals is from.  And I’m not talking about the framed picture of Hello Kitty…(?)

Bonus points do not count for the Hello Kitty art on the wall.  Just noticed that and it's not what I meant (also, Sara, you're weird).

Elephant: "I've got a pitcher of arrogant bastard". Pig: "Yep, the bastard's right here! Hee hee!"

*For the sake of (generally unnecessary) clarification, by “megabrew”, I’m referring mainly to AB-InBev, SABMiller and Molson Coors - or, “Bud-Miller-Coors” for short, or BMC for shortiest.

**Based on practical experience only; marketing studies on beer advertising campaigns are surprisingly hard to come by.

***Why are questions my only authorial device in this paragraph?

****They also used to be used as a preservative but that’s irrelevant to this discussion.

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There Can Only Be One: single hopped beers

posted on March 9, 2009 in Uncategorized

Blergh!

It’s been too long, Beer World.  Many apologies to my 3 fans for BMAB’s hiatus.  Let’s get right to it.

A few weeks ago, I went back to Cambridge for the Harvard Women’s BBall alumni weekend (I balled all over some 35 year old moms, it was unbelievable).  Some fellow ballers and I ended up at a pretty standard spot: John Harvard’s Brewpub.  I’d of course been there many times before but only once since my beer nerd days began (the first time back I tried a very tasty Holiday Ale), so going there now almost feels like an entirely new experience.  Now I completely ignore the conversation around me for a good 5 minutes while I thoroughly read the beer menu.   And I keep getting distracted by those glorious growlers.  Alright, so zoning out isn’t too out of character for me, shuttup.  But what really caught my eye this time was something that, to me, was completely unique: a single variety hop IPA - this one spotlighting amarillo*.

I was intrigued for two reasons.  The first of which appeals to a simple psychological principle (and we psych students are all about our blessed “principles”): humans are attracted to novelty.  And I’d, as stated, never heard of a single-hop IPA.  Most IPAs I know boast about their abundance of hops in both quantity and variety.

Mmm.  That sounds good.  I'll have that.

Mmm. That sounds good. I'll have that.

The second reason was the particular hop variety being spotlighted: amarillo.  Justin, the main “brewcaster” from The Brewing Network has sung their praises in many an episode, and even though he proclaims himself an idiot a disturbing amount of times, he had me - and I apologize for my all too liberal use of this word - intrigued.  They didn’t talk about it extensively in any episode except to say that it’s a newly cultivated hop (this was a 2005 archived episode, btw**), whose availability is low and demand is high.  There’s that whole novelty principle again.  I’m so predictable.

So, being the beer connoisseur of the group (in the company of those who helped get me beer as a freshman, and thus, to whom much is owed), I ordered us a pitcher of the amarillo IPA.  We were NOT disappointed.  Palmer puts amarillo in the dual-purpose hop variety category - its AA range is a moderate 8-11% - and describes it as “floral and citrus, similar to cascade”.  And Palmer’s and Jamil’s co-authored “Brewing Classic Styles” places it pretty squarely in the citrus column, with an “also floral” designation**.  Commercial examples he gives are Old Dominion New River Ale, Rockies Mojo India Pale Ale, and Hale’s Pale Amerian Ale - none of which I’ve tried.  A fact that I find far less disturbing having tasted JH’s spotlight IPA.  And that brings me to my main point (it always pains me to write that this far down the post): I love the idea of single hopped beers.

What?  I'm an aRmaDillo, you retard.

What? I'm an aRmaDillo, you retard.

Upon returning I asked John what he knew about single hopped beers.  He responded in a manner I’ve come to think of as rather standard for him - he talked about what Vinnie (the Russian River brewer) does (and really, who an blame him?  Brewing community consensus is Vinnie’s The Man).  John told me that in experimenting for the hops used in Pliny the Elder (RRBC’s flagship beer and the first of the double IPA style), Vinnie brewed a series of hop-spotlight beers, showcasing the characterisics of whatever chosen hop.  A little googling leads me to believe this is their Hop 2 It series***, as Vinnie mentions at the end of this post on their website, and is also described here.  Apparently, this is the first time they’ve brewed this beer in a couple years and unfortunately I couldn’t find out which hop was used this time, nor which hops have been used in the past.  If anyone has that information, it’d be well-appreciated.  I also couldn’t confirm whether or not this beer was brewed in research for Pliny but my thought is that would make perfect sense.  It’s equivalent to a chef building flavors - and the best chefs build amazing, complex flavors by KNOWING their ingredients.  If Vinnie was doing research for Pliny, why not educate the public at the same time (not to mention make some money off the beer he’s brewing anyways).  Most people don’t know the flavor profiles of hops; what better way to help them learn than a spotlight beer series?  I’m not sure if Vinnie was the first to do this, but it wouldn’t surprise me - and it wouldn’t surprise me if more and more breweries, like JH’s, start doing more of this (the same way they all started brewing DIPAs).  This undated article from Ale Street News is evidence that indeed single hop beers have become somewhat of a trend, with Bison Brewery rivaling RRBC for most enthusiastically promoting single hop beers.

Back to JH’s beer, (since it is the only single hop beer I’ve had) - I’ll even go as far as to say it’s one of the best IPAs I’ve had (not including any DIPAs).  Justin wasn’t kidding around when he said this hop kicks ass.  It’s difficult to explain why one would love an (almost) single flavor so much (of course, I’m also tasting malt, alcohol, water and yeast); it’s sort of like trying to explain why I love peanut butter so much (which is also admittedly enhanced by the salt).  The truth is, these flavors are just plain GOOD.  Though they defy explanation, it is important to put a memory with these particular flavors, so we can pick them out from various recipes and know how to pair them with other ingredients.  There are a couple caveats though.   Like any ingredient, the flavor will also depend on things like how it is cooked (i.e., for brewing, when it is added to the boil, etc.) and the freshness of the product.  Also (as the ASN article also points out), single hop beers won’t generally work for any hop; hops serve two purposes in beers: bittering and flavor/aroma.  Most are categorized in one or the other but a few will fall into the “dual-purpose” category; it is these that will make the best single hop beers.  Unless of course you’re making a style where bitterness is not desired at all (like a Belgian); in that case, it might be interesting to use a single flavoring hop.

In sum, I heartily encourage the beer industry to keep putting out single hop beers.  It gives people like me the chance to get to know more about beer ingredients.  I also encourage you to try single hop beers if you see them out there for the same reasons…send me one while you’re at it.

*I am pretty sure this beer is different than JH’s “Amarillo Armadillo IPA”, reviewed by BeerAdvocate peeps here.  The original posts were from 2006 and the other was from around the time I was there; the poster also was unsure they were the same beer.  First, there is no mention of it being a single hop beer and second, I think I would have remembered a semi-witty name like this, especially seeing how it undercutted my little armadillo joke.

**I’ve been listening to archived episodes from the BN , beginning with their first episode, now up to about 20 episodes in.  It’s a little pet-project, if you will.  Plan to write a post on it soon.

hop-wheel2

I hope to get a better copy of this soon but this is the idea

***The hop character wheel.  Totally awesome and useful.

****Sorry if you told me that too, John, and I just forgot.

*****Haha, I didn’t have a five-asterisk footnote, joke’s on you!

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Two Beers One Cup Update^2

posted on January 29, 2009 in random beer thoughts

Actually, this post is updating my update of this post (OMG, I love meta-levels!).  I pointed out in that update some of the more inappropriate-sounding names for beer mixes, including “The Black Hoe”.  Well, I just thought it was worth noting on BMAB that someone actually ordered one at my restaurant this Tuesday.  Here’s what happened:

Guy: “What are you getting?  Oh no, I know what you’re getting [looking at friend]; I’m ordering for him.  Here’s what you’re gonna do, li’l lady*: fill the glass half full with Hoegaarden, then fill the top half with Guinness.”

I look at Dude Man.

Dude Man: “OK, sure.”

Me [still debating whether I should say anything to them about the name of this drink]: “Alright, and what can I get for you?”

Guy: “A Diet Coke.”

Me: [WTF?!  You were so excited about beer!  But good on you if you're DD.] “Sure.”

I go over to the bartender, who I had a conversation about the various beer mixes before, in which I told her about the Black Hoe.  Gittily, I tell her a guy just ordered one.  She makes it.  I take it over to Dude Man and Guy.

Me: One Diet Coke and one….half-Hoegaarden, half-Guinness.  [I start to walk away...then I gather some courage.]  So, do you know what another name for that drink is?

Guy: A Black-and-Blue?  No, that’d be Blue Moon.  No, what is it?

Me [trying to figure out the best way to not sound like a racist douche-bag]: Well I was reading about beer mixes on Wikipedia and it said the name for it was…”Black Hoe”…but I can’t imagine anyone would feel comfortable ordering that at a bar.”

Laughter ensues.

Guy: Good for you for doing beer research on Wikipedia.  So, you know, if you really want to serve it right, you’d also bring a straw with it to mix it…[realizes he has a straw in Diet Coke, takes it out, and swirls Dude Man's beverage]…like that.  And it should create a nice foamy head.  There, that way you maximize…[Guy stalls, struggling to find words]”

Me: Deliciousness?

Guy: Flavor.

Dude Man: It’s the best hoe I’ve ever had.

I laugh, but walk away thinking two things: 1) indeed, that drink was awkward to talk about; and 2) it would be a lot cooler if they called that drink the Black Gaarden.  Let’s change that, beer world.

I do wonder, though, if Guy was right that we should serve a straw with mixed beers.  I wonder so much, in fact, that I may have to do a side-by-side taste test.  I’ll keep you posted…via a post: Update of an update of an update

*Note: He may not have actually said “li’l lady”, but it felt right.

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The Stone in the Grad

posted on January 26, 2009 in beer review, beerventure

You mean The Grad is having a Stone tasting?  What are we doing here?

"You mean The Grad is having a Stone tasting? What are we doing here?"

Last Thursday (1/15), Stone Brewery (or, at least, two regional sales reps and their round, steely, beer-filled friends) saw it fit to pay Davis a little visit.  It may come as no surpise the host happens to be the only place in Davis that also pours the eighth-best rated beer in the world.  I would say the two hit it off quite well.

I headed over in a small group including John and his mentor*-friend, Shane but we ended up meeting a group of “Sacramento Hopheads” via the site www.meetup.com.  Technology is really good at uniting beer lovers (as Twitter very well shows).  And, really, if you’re going to meet a bunch of random people from the internet, it helps if your common interest happens to also be a social lubricant.

On to the beer.  Here was the line-up:

Old Guardian Barleywine
Smoked Porter
Pale Ale
Levitation Ale
Ruination IPA
Arrogant Bastard
Double Bastard Ale
Russian Imperial Stout
12th Anniversary Ale

AND RARE ARCHIVED ANNIVERSARY KEGS:
Stone 10th Anniversary Ale
Stone 11th Anniversary Ale

To me, the Best in Show that night was Levitation and Ruination - indicating to me that I really am developing a palate for hoppy beers (hooray!  Californians won’t shun me.).  Levitation is Stone’s version of an Amber Ale, so, not surprisingly, it’s more hoppy than most ambers.  The BJCP guidelines for an Amber suggest the IBUs should be in the range of  25-40, but Stone takes pride in sticking it to the man, giving this beer 45 IBUs.  Modest for Stone to be sure, but definitely not what you’d expect from an Amber.  While I’m a fan of traditional ambers, and they have a special place in my heart for being the first style I brewed, I loved this one.  To me, Levitation is the gateway brew to hoppy beers.  Malty and citrusy, but not too bitter and very drinkable.  This beer is full of flavor and refreshing; it may well become a go-to for me for my new habit of rehydrating after a long-run with a beer, in the style of Beer Runner.

I guess once the floodgates open to hoppy beers, there’s no going back.  So the second beer I dug that night was their Ruination IPA.  I think this hop-kick was also driven by a slight overdose on very malty beers like Oskar Blues’ Old Chub (a Scotch Ale), Goose Island’s Bourbon County Stout (”a punch in the face”**), and Old Rasputin from North Coast - an RIS.  Hops were a welcome, refreshing change; plus, hops are what gave Stone its name.  So, naturally their hoppy beers are very enjoyable.  When in Rome…or the Grad…which is serving Stone…well, you know.  (BTW, I neglected their superstars (Arrogant Bastard and Double Bastard) because we serve those on tap at our restuarant, but if you’re new to Stone, you’ll want to try those…especially the Double - hoppy as a mother but smoother than the original.)

Don't judge me for my big gargoyle muscles and enormous IBUs.  I'm actually very sensitive inside.

I'm actually very sensitive inside.

Lastly, I want to try to give some constructive feedback regarding the event itself.  Thankfully, we got to the Grad a little before they started serving, so we staked out our territory near the bar early on.  Still, once they started pouring, it was a bit of mayhem by the bar - people could easily cut in front, there was a lack of papers and pencils on which to write your tasting choices, there was a miscommunication as to what beers they actually had…etc., etc.  The main problem was the system of going up to the far end of the bar to order drinks.  This resulted in a huge, slow-moving line, making me ever-more thankful that I was actually early to something for once.

It’s easy to complain about these kind of operations, not so easy to come up with solutions.  But what I would suggest for events like these is just bringing in some extra waitstaff who will hand out the tasting papers and bring the beer to the people at tables.  Yes, it may take a while for these people to get their beer but it’s better than everyone rushing the bar and that way people can actually sit down and enjoy themselves - maybe buy a pint of something else (at the uncrowded part of the bar) while they wait for their tasters.  Sure, it will cost extra for the labor but it will reduce the daunting line of people that had to wait forever - many of whom I’m sure just went home.  I don’t think the Grad ever really has people wait tables but for a special event like this, it would not be too difficult to train them (they do have people running counter-service for food).  Also, it would reduce the problem of the customer having to trasport his or her drinks from the bar to their table (sans a serving tray).  When you have 8 glasses this can take several trips, causing all the more mayhem at the bar.

When events are run more smoothly, people are more likely to come back to future ones.  This one was still a very positive experience, but there’s always room for improvement (plus, I came early).  Other suggestions are highly welcome.

Sorry bout the tardiness of this post.  Just started school back up; little rusty getting my head wrapped around titration calculations and the like but once routine kicks in, normal posting regimen will resume.

*If beer mentors were Jedis, then I’d be the bitchy little Aniken, John the fun-lovin’ Obi-Wan, and Shane the wise Qui-Gon Jinn.

**(Ashley, 1/11/09)

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El Bulli of Breweries

posted on January 18, 2009 in beer & food

Yesterday, I watched the apparently “infamous” documentary-turned-episode-of-No Reservations which takes Anthony Bourdain to Ferran Adria’s El Bulli restaurant in Spain.  This bit of foodie-lore was heretofore unbeknownst to me until I read this great post from the my life as a foodie blog (also a good beer blog in its own right) — thanks for the episode link and post, Phil!  Had it not been several years since the original aired and I hadn’t been already exposed to similar techniques on Top Chef (mostly by Marcel - the other Pope of Foam (in a less cool way), Richard (my fave) and now Fabio with his “spherical kalamata olives” (sweet how-to video in this link)) and other shows, I would have been totally blown away.  As it stands, I managed to keep a few toes on the ground.  Bourdain did a stand-up job hyping the shit out of this place though.  Seriously — if you haven’t seen it, watch it.  I can’t really do the episode justice by merely writing about it.  I can sprinkle sweet El Bulli pics from About.com throughout this post to further entice you though.*

Told you I'd sprinkle "sweet" pics: mango and vanilla ice cream roll

Told you I'd sprinkle "sweet" pics: mango and vanilla ice cream roll

Bourdain’s conclusion is that Adria, and his work at El Bulli, have ushered in a new era of food — one that embraces molecular level science and chemicals like calcium chloride and sodium alginate, and combines them with food in creative and surprising ways.  This acknowledgment partially scares Bourdain and partially excites him.  Mostly, he seems pretty damn pleased.

Oh hi.  Don't mind me.  I'm just here to look amazing.

Oh hi. Don't mind me. I'm just here to look amazing.

Unsurprisingly, there are those who are not so happy about this movement.  Unsurprising, because, as Bourdain says, “what he does is a direct challenge to perceived wisdom of centuries of classic cooking”.  Most famously, another Michelin 3-starred but traditionalist Spanish chef, Santi Santamaria has publicly denounced Adria’s cuisine multiple times, calling it unhealthy and declaring, “Ferran [Adrià] and I have an ethical and conceptual divorce over what we put on the plate”.

Now the culinary world, especially where Spanish chefs are concerned, has essentially divided itself into pro-and-anti-Adria camps.  These events, combined with watching Bourdain’s own trepidation at dining at El Bulli, force me to ask myself two questions (and really, you should ask yourself too, they’re pretty important):

1.  Where do I stand on this debate?  and;

2.  Who is the Ferran Adria of the brewing industry?

Since I want to start talking about beer, I’ll begin with the second question.  If the question had read, who is the Ferran Adria of the fictional chocolate industry, that’d be easy; hands down, Willy Wonka.  How can this guy not remind you of Willy Wonka?  El Bulli does not have a kitchen but a “laboratory” in which he creates dishes that constantly try to surprise (even trick) and, in turn, delight the diner.

Oh, you think that's caviar?  Wrong.  It's fruit.

Oh, you think that's caviar? Wrong. It's fruit.

Oh you think that's regular-flavored wall-paper?  Wrong.  It's shnozzberry-flavored wall paper.

Oh you think that's regular-flavored wall-paper? Wrong. It's shnozzberry-flavored wall paper.

Same difference.  And, for a while, Adria’s secrets were coveted almost as much as Wonka’s everlasting gobstopper; that is, until he released these.  And they both get that crazed look in their eye.

So, to rephrase the original question, who is the Willy Wonka of the brewing industry?  Unfortunately, I feel a bit unqualified to answer that question with my still fledgling, but happily growing, knowledge of the beer industry.  However, from what I have learned, one candidate for this analogy might well be Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head.

Now, this isn’t exactly me jumping on the Sam Calagione bandwagon.  Remember, I haven’t taken sides yet as to the first question posed so merely comparing the personalities is not an endorsement.  And while Calagione’s bandwagon is large (though nowhere near the size of Adria’s - or the one Dahl imagined for Wonka for that matter), he too has his detractors.  Which is precisely the point: these three men are each controversial figures in their respective industry to some degree.  Some hail Calagione as a genius; others consider him overrated.  But their common traits run deeper than merely being controversial personalities in their fields.

Like Wonka, Adria and Caligione are often characterized as being whimsical and inventive.  The late Michael Jackson (Beer Hunter, not Smooth Criminal) wrote an article on Caligione back in 1999 (before Dogfish Head was one of the 25 biggest craft breweries in the US) that demonstrates Caligione’s fondness for wordplay; mirroring Wonka’s mysteriousness, Calagione responds to Jackson’s inquiries by almost cryptically quoting Emerson, Thoreau and Warhol.  Jackson also notes the wordplay in nearly all Calagione’s beers (trademarked as “Off-Centered Ales for Off-Centered People”): beers like Raison D’Etra/Extra (brewed with raisons) and Verdi Verdi Good (a lager given a natural green tint by the addition of spirulina, a blue-green algae).

Possibly the most intriguing, and most Adria-like of Calagione’s beers though is his Midas Touch brew.  I first drank Midas Touch after I heard about it at the Davis Coop, where a fellow Super-Worker told me the story behind the beer.  If you watched the Beer episode of How Stuff Works, you saw the research and scientific collaboration effort

The carrot foam of beers

The carrot foam of beers

that went into the Midas Touch recipe, a beer that Dogfish describes as, “the actual oldest-known fermented beverage in the world! Our recipe showcases the known ingredients of barley, white Muscat grapes, honey & saffron found in the drinking vessels in King Midas’ tomb!”.  To some, this type of effort undertaken all for the sake of a single beer recipe might be ludicrous, but I’ll bet Adria, who painstakingly records his lab’s successes and failures all to make something like “carrot foam”, would appreciate it…and he wouldn’t be alone.

Also, like Adria, Calagione seems to go to great lengths to take a subject that most thought had reached its limits, and push it a little bit further, and make the lines a little more blurry.  For Adria, he throws the very meaning of food into question; as John noted while we were watching the How Stuff Works episode, Calagione does the same with beer styles - inventing his own and using non-traditional ingredients - to the chagrin of many a beer connoisseur.

While I’m (still**) going on about the second question, I might as well throw this tid-bit in: to me, Adria’s combined rigorously scientific and playful approach to food is the very essence of beer.  One cannot produce good beer without adhering to precise, calculated methods.  Beer is a more industrial, technology-driven beverage to make than, say, wine.  At the same time, beer, as a foodstuff, retains a playful image, and don’t think this is entirely due to its marketing/advertising.  As Bamforth notes in Grape vs. Grain, there is more room for creativity in beer - more ingredients to choose from and far more ways to incorporate them.  Given these comparisons, I’m tempted to conclude that beer itself is the Adria of the brewing industry, which doesn’t make sense.  Perhaps, though, it at least can be viewed as the Adria of the beverage world.

I guess the last paragraph sort of gives away the answer to the first question.  If I declare Adria’s approach to food shares characteristics with the production of beer, I damn well better appreciate him.  And I do, but cautiously.  I love innovation and I think it’s what drives people - and there’s no doubt in my mind that many of Adria’s contributions are extremely innovative.  But I also understand Santamaria’s point; what Adria does isn’t really the same as what most chefs do, and thankfully so.  Could you imagine eating nothing but El Bulli’s food for a week?  Would that be satisfying?  That’s why the comparison to Wonka is so apparent - Adria’s food is a delight, but one does not want to consume it for every meal.  For me though, that makes the contribution all the more important; it is these detours from the traditional foods and drinks that makes us want to return to them.  And then we want to be surprised again.  It’s your basic yin and yang.  Adria and Santamaria may not like each other, but the rest of us get to like them both.

P.S.  Happily, my alma mater seems to agree with me when it comes to their stance on Adria’s food.  Adria recently visited Harvard’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences to give a lecture and sign what is definitely the most interesting MOU I have ever read.  Between this event and JK Rowling’s awesome commencement speech, I’m thinking it would’ve been smart to fail a few classes so I could’ve stuck around a couple more years.

*Warning: “Decoding Ferran Adria” has been known to induce feelings of food envy.  Viewer discretion advised.

**Yeah, I got a little long-winded in this post.  The malignant side-effect of becoming inspired.  Next few postings should be shorter.

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Best piece about the financial crisis I’ve read yet

posted on January 8, 2009 in random beer thoughts

Bruce MacKenzie from The Flatlander (Davis Community Newspaper) wrote* the best piece of investment advice I’ve read.  Since I’m guessing this paper doesn’t get a lot of circulation - I can’t even find a legitimate website for this newspaper - I’m reproducing it verbatim for you here.  Good work, Bruce - fair play to ya!

A No-Fail Investment Plan

ONE YEAR AGO……

  • If you had purchased $1,000 of shares in Delta Airlines one year ago, you would have $49.00 today.
  • If you had purchased $1,000 of shares in AIG one year ago, you would have $33.00 today.
  • If you had purchased $1,000 of shares at Lehman Brothers one year ago, you would have $0.00 today.
  • But, if you had purchased $1,000 worth of beer one year ago, drank all the beer, then turned in the aluminum cans for a recycling refund, you would have received a $214.00.
  • Based on the above, the best current investment plan is to drink heavily & recycle.  It is called the 401-Keg.

I love it.  And considering my investments from a year ago (Google, Ford, Goldman Sachs…ugh), I would have done better to have invested in the 401-Keg.  Also, if I were to go the can-recycle route, I’d choose Oskar Blues or 21 Amendment.  Other suggestions?

*Update: Bruce, you made me feel a fool!  Turns out Mr. MacKenzie was only taking credit for “finding” the apparently ubiquitous internet “401-Keg” joke; not being in an office job at the moment I’m a little out of loop with these things.  In other news, I have heard great things about this company called “Apple” that makes a very cool phone called the “iPhone”; I’ve also discovered that peanut butter goes surprisingly well with jelly.

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Lookin’ for some hot break baby this evening

posted on in beer review, homebrewing

Last night was my first attempt at brewing all by myself.  In fact, it was only my second attempt brewing at home.  It was also the first time I tried to use my new wort chiller and refractometer.  And I chose to brew a lager (which I previously wrote were more difficult than ales).  Probably the easiest type of lager to brew, but a lager, nonetheless.

And, I tried to make guacamole in the meantime.

Guess how it turned out?*  No, not the guac, the guac was actually pretty good.

Center-left: My foil - the guac that undid the best laid plans

Center-left: My foil - the guac that undid the best laid plans

The beer on the other hand, well…that’s a bit of another story.  Of course, I don’t actually know how it turned out; I’ll have to wait an entire month to see if my mistakes actually hurt my beer, but let’s just say I’m less looking forward to trying this batch than MinR Ale.  OK, well I’m quite curious, but in a curious-about-what’s-in-your-tissue-after-you-blew-your-nose sort of way, not a what’s-inside-Willy-Wonka’s-Factory sort of way (I’m watching that movie right now; it’s all I could think to write).

Things started out well enough.  I bought 3 gallons of reverse osmosis water from the Davis Co-op and steeped my crystal malt grains.  I steeped them for half an hour though I am not sure if my water ever reached the suggested 170 degrees F.  Last time I brewed, John commented that my thermometer didn’t seem to be working properly so I didn’t trust it at first.  So, there was problem one, though a minor one.

After removing the steeped grains, I heated the wort to a boil and added the Ultralight malt extract from my MoreBeer kit (Palmer recommends pale malt for steam beers, and I think I would have preferred this, but am sure Ultralight will do just fine), turning the heat down so it didn’t scald the pot.  When I turned the heat back up I added the 2oz of Glacier (bittering) hops and waited for the lovely hot break.  It’s not true a watched pot never boils, but it is true that it can be a bit long boring (especially 3 gallons) - so I entertained myself thus.  I apologize for not sparing you my singing voice but you can at least be thankful I edited out the portion where I spontaneously donned a horrible Sarah Palin impression voice.  I am no Tina Fey.  Though I do have sweet black glasses.

After the hot done broke (ha), I turned the heat down, made sure it was still steadily boiling but wouldn’t boil over, set my timer for 50 minutes, and…ran out to get some tomatoes for my guacamole.  In How to Brew, Palmer lists the “Murphy’s Laws of Brewing” (in the online version, he only lists one, but includes the cool story of how “Murphy’s Law” became famous).  Well, in his next edition, he should include the law “if one is still new to brewing, don’t try to make guacamole while you should be preparing for the next steps”.  I know, I know, guacamole is so easy to make, and the store was just minutes away and all I had to get was the tomatoes (that’s what I thought!) - but trust me: bad idea.  Though I had 50 minutes, I still had to wash my wort chiller and figure it out, and finish sanitizinig everything.  Meanwhile, I was so distracted by the guac I didn’t remember that at 20 minutes left of the boil (not 10 like I had set my timer for), I was supposed to insert my wort chiller and the whirfloc tablet.  Instead, I added the Willamette (flavoring) hops on time (10 minutes left) and hastily added the forgotten whirfloc tablet with only about 4 minutes left.  If my beer’s too hazy, I can probably blame it on that.

I also totally flailed on the wort chiller situations.  In several ways.  First, I inserted it with only a few minutes left in the boil and mistakenly (stupidly) thought that “insert wort chiller” meant to also turn it on.  Only in hindsight did I realize that I was only supposed to insert it to sanitize it, and turn it on after the boil was done.  I know - this is where you’re supposed to sarcastically ask where I went to school.  Sorry, like I said, I had a lot on my mind.  I think this combination of adding the whirlfloc tablet too late and turning on the wort chiller too soon could have pretty catastrophic effects on my beer - making it both hazy and contaminated.  Maybe that’s what I’ll call it.  More than that though, while I was away fussing with my fermentation bucket, the hose from my wort chiller let loose from the sink and sprayed all over my floor.**

There were other problems too, but I am certain I am boring you at this point.  There is, however, one thing I did right: Oskar Blues’ Old Chub Scottish Ale is a great brewing beer - the fact that it comes from a can just makes you feel like you’re that much more blue collar.

Lookin' Good Old Chub.

Lookin' Good Old Chub.

I’ve heard a lot about these beers and had been dying to try them; thankfully, the good beer buyer at the Co-op, Tom, recently started carrying Oskar Blues’ beers.  I plan to do a post about the canned craft beer movement soon enough.  For now though, let’s just say they please me :)

*I know I’m not supposed to technically use a question mark there but I did want the “going up at the end” inflection a question mark confers.  I apologize for those of you reading this that aren’t as easily perturbed by grammatical errors as I (or is it me?).  Ugh, that’ll kill me.

**I read a piece in Brew Your Own about green homebrewing (Oct. ‘08) and they had some good tips about trying to save water used by your wort chillers.  As suggested, I tried to save as much water as I could to do things like water plants and run a load of laundry, but it is really astonishing how much water those things can use.  Email me (beermaster@beermeabeer.com)  if you’d like more of the tips.

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