Monday, September 28, 2009


Rare Beer Tasting, Denver, CO

On the day I was leaving for my brief visit to Detroit, a message was posted on the American Homebrewer's Association list server that volunteers were needed for the 1st Annual (I hope) Denver Rare Beer Tasting, called Pints for Prostates, benefiting USToo, an organization dedicated to helping prostate cancer survivors, their spouses/partners and their families. The event was organized by Rick Lyke, a prostate cancer survivor himself, and encourages men in a non-threatening way to take charge of their health and get the PSA screening. Next year is my 40th year, and it will be time for me to start getting regular checks myself.

I was lucky that I checked my e-mail while I was at the airport, as I was free on Friday, and there was nothing in the world I would have rather been doing.

So on Friday morning, I headed off to Wynkoop Brewery in Lower Downtown (LoDo) to volunteer. The event was being held in Wynkoop's pool hall on the second floor above the bar/restaurant, and brewery facilities. Now if you have never been to Wynkoop, it is Denver's first brewpub and it was started in 1988 by now Denver Mayor, John Hickenlooper. The pool hall is the entire second floor and is a large, open space with 20 foot ceilings and perhaps 20 tournament sized billiards tables. I can tell you a secret, too. Pool is free in the afternoons, and the beer ain't bad either.

I checked in with Rick Lykes, the event organizer, and was sent to help hang the brewery signs above the serving stations. Not that they really needed my help (they were almost done), but I tried to be as helpful and friendly as I could. After that, I was told to choose a brewery to serve for. As luck would have it, Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales would be serving their 2006 and 2007 vintages of their Biere de Mars. I still felt bad for not going to visit this brewery when I was in the Detroit Area. This was my chance to meet these guys, and try their beer.

When Mike (VP of Sales) and Ron (Brewer/Owner) arrived, Mike recognized my name when I introduced myself. I apologized profusely for canceling my tour with him (he called it "standing him up") and for the rest of the afternoon, he made fun of me for that, as well as discussing Molson on my blog....that's fair. At least he read the blog. Then, disaster was realized.

As I said, Jolly Pumpkin sent two vintages of the same oak aged beer for the tasting. Two things were discovered: 1. not all of their beer arrived at the festival (about 1/2 of it was missing), 2. The ink on the labels that told which vintage was which was printed with water soluble ink. So, they had half of their beer, and they didn't know which they had. #2 was partially my fault, as 1/2 of the beer was on ice when I arrived, and I added (thinking I was being helpful) the other half to the bin. Luckily, they know their beer and were able to determine that most of what had arrived was their 2006 vintage. As a result, we were pouring 1 oz tasters instead of the festival's three ounce limit.

The beer itself is a Biere de Mars, which traditionally is a maltier version of a Biere de Garde, a darker version of the Saison (French for Session). Jolly Pumpkin's version is oak aged and bottle conditioned and utilizes Brettanomyces yeast (often referred to as Brett) to give it a sour taste. It was described to me as more like a Sour Flemish Brown Ale than its Saison roots. The 2006 vintage was oak aged for 27 months and bottle conditioned for a year and a half. It was sour, but very drinkable. I think it was around 7% ABV. Any way you cut it, it was a very special beer indeed.

Most of the festival goers were true beer experts and aficionados, and a few people who didn't know a thing (with more money than sense) about beer. All were very nice, even after we ran out of beer. I was told once and again while I was serving, that Jolly Pumpkin's Biere de Mars was the best beer at the festival. I was hoping that I was representing them well, as I was extremely proud to serve this special beer from my home State of Michigan.

After we ran out, I was free to join the tasters. I got to taste almost everything. I missed Wynkoop's Mead, by only about 1 minute. As I arrived, the were unscrewing the tap handle. I also missed Sam Adams Utopia, and Brooklyn's (Wild 1). I was told that perhaps the wrong beer was sent from Dogfish (Raison d etre, instead of Raison D' Extra), and Brooklyn's beer was very limited (like ours). I especially enjoyed New Glarus' (Wisconsin) Golden Ale. I got to speak directly to New Glarus' Brewmaster, Daniel Carey, a rock star in the craft beer world (in my opinion) about his beer and starting a brewery from scratch. His wife (who runs the brewery) hand labeled the brewer's notes on the bottles. I also liked Allagash's (Portland, Maine) Fluxus (Ale brewed with sweet potatoes and pepper), New Belgium's (Ft. Collins, Colorado) Trip II, and Bison's (Berkeley, CA) Double White. I spoke briefly with Bison's brewer (as I had been in their brewery in 2006), and he said that he was forced out of his location due to zoning violations. He could have used my expertise as my career is dealing with zoning, and my passion beer. He is now brewing in Ukiah at the Mendocino Brewing Company on the south side of town (I have been there, too). Still, no beer was better than "my" Biere de Mars. In my opinion (as with many others), it was the best beer of the festival.

I can't wait until next year, I have already offered to volunteer again, and will do so as long as I am allowed or able. My many thanks to Mike and Ron at Jolly Pumpkin. If you happen to be (or live) in Michigan, check out Jolly Pumpkin's Ales in stores, or at their two brew pubs (on Main in Ann Arbor, or up in beautiful Traverse City). My winter's are better here in Denver, but Jolly Pumpkin makes me want to move back home even more. I hope I paid my penance for skipping Jolly Pumpkin while in Michigan.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Evening at the Joe

Joe Louis Arena and Downtown Detroit, Michigan

We headed down to Joe Louis Arena for a pre-season Hockey game between the Detroit Red Wings and fellow Original Six team the New York Rangers. Before heading down, we hit the Detroit Beer Company.
The Detroit Beer Company is part of a new renaissance in Downtown Detroit. The revival of Downtown Detroit is centered around the new sports complexes, casinos, and the connections via the inter-downtown transit loop (and mayor Colman Young's boondoggle), The People Mover.
Downtown Detroit is still a down-trodden and under utilized place, but the small signs of life have provided access to areas that in my childhood were too dangerous to visit. We actually parked on the s
treet, went to the brewery, and took the People Mover on to the game and back without
any trouble.

It was Friday night and the Brewery was crowded. The brewery is nestled into the basement, and the serving tanks are located above and around the bar on the first floor of the Hartz Building. We sat up on the second floor where there is an additional bar and restaurant area. The waiter was busy, and didn't know all that much about the beers he was serving, but did check for us if there were any brewer's discounts (there weren't any).

My group ordered a number of different beers based and I got to sample them all. I mostly enjoyed the Porter (which Brent got) and the Detroit Dwarf (German Altbier) which I got. The
Detroit Dwarf is named for the legend of the
Nain Rouge, a dwarf with red boots or fur, that appears as a small figure around Detroit, and is thought to be a harbinger of doom for Detroit. That dwarf must stay pretty busy. The beer itself is a strong coppery golden ale that is complex and balanced. It won a gold medal at the GABF in 2006. I had that and their IPA, and was done drinking for the job was that of driver designate.

The Red Wings pulled it out in the third period, which was nice, and we headed back to Liberty Street for the nightcap, but I drank diet coke....despite my desire for a mild ale. A perfect evening, except for my aching feet.

If you go to the Detroit Beer Company, I suggest finding a quieter time to visit, perhaps during the day or on a non-game night for the Lions, Tigers, or Red Wings. Perhaps then you can sit at the bar, and take a little time to enjoy their great offereings.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Walking Washington Street

Downtown Ann Arbor, Michigan

It is rare that you can actually pub crawl from brew pub to brew pub. They are still relatively rare as far as bars go, and often, it makes sense to disperse rather than co-locate breweries as it insures a local following and a "hometown brewery" designation. Even in Denver, while you can pub crawl to 4 or 5 breweries and brewpubs as well as a couple of specialty beer bars, the walk between them can be as short as 2 blocks and as great as 10 depending on your route and destination.

A college town is a perfect place for a brewery, it introduces newly minted beer drinkers to a premium product and establishes brand identification. There are special places where more than 1 brewpub can exist. Ann Arbor, Michigan has 3 brewpubs located within 1 block of Main Street on Washington Street, and another brewery just opened up a shop around the corner on Main.

My brother and I hit Ann Arbor early in the day on a Friday. We wandered around the Quad, and soaked up some nostalgia on our lives in Ann Arbor. Neither of us attended school there, but both spent a lot of time there (I more than my brother). If these breweries existed at the time, we no doubt would have lingered downtown even more. We had an early lunch (without beer) at Cottage Inn Pizza (a local favorite of both of us). I could start a blog on pizza, too, so this is good stuff.

I have to come clean. I have always loved Ann Arbor. It is a vibrant college town, with an active arts and entertainment community, with turn of the century architecture, tree-lined streets, and an educated populace. If I ever find myself moving back to Michigan for a job (now that sounds more funny now that I wrote it with the unemployment rate in Michigan at 15%, but in my house it is 100%, so who knows, right?) I would choose to live in Ann Arbor (or at least the Ann Arbor area including my old hometown of Plymouth). The fact that there are now at least 4 breweries there is icing on the cake. Because the 4 breweries are so close together and all downtown, I believe that there is room for more neighborhood breweries in this town.

In my time allowed, I was able to hit 3 of the 4 breweries. I wanted to hit the Jolly Pumpkin on Main (the newest of the 4), but my palate was ruined after the three, and Jolly Pumpkin is known for their flavorful and artesianal beers. I couldn't fairly taste their beers.

We started on West Washington and worked our way eastward.

Located at the corner of West Washington and Ashley Street, the Grizzly Peak Brewing Company was one Ann Arbor's first breweries, opening its doors in 1995. As I recall, the location was a bar that my friends and I used to frequent prior to its brewpub incarnation. The building itself is a 100-year old building, and the interior is warm and inviting. The bartender was a little rude and short as we inquired about the beers and any possible Brewer's discounts (American Homebrewer's or Brewers Association, none at this location). She warmed up a little later when talking about beer. It was nice that she had (and was willing to share) some knowledge. We tried a number of their beers, the stand outs being their Pale Ale on cask at the time, and their Red Ale (always our safe bet). I didn't keep any notes, but was a little disappointed in more than 1 of the samples I tried.

Their brewery is located up front in their window and looks to be a 5-10 barrel system. Interestingly, their brew kettle was surrounded by brick. I had not seen a system like that (seems like an old school set up), and wonder about utilizing the bricks thermal efficiency. I could imagine that a mash tun would best benefit from the brick, helping to maintain a constant temperature during a long conversion period. In the brew kettle, you want wort to heat up fast and cool down quickly. Perhaps, they move the hot wort out of the kettle and benefit from the thermal efficiency upon moving the next batch in quickly.

The Arbor Brewing Company opened its doors also in 1995 (I am not sure who was first) has a different personality than Grizzly Peak up the street. The Grizzly Peak is polished, feels somehow, more corporate, more intense. It is not to say its bad, but the feel of the Arbor Brewing Company is different, laid back. Maybe the Grizzly Peak caters to the professional crowd, and ABC is more the Birkenstock crowd. I fit in more with the Birkenstockers, especially these days. The Arbor Brewing Company could fit well into downtown Boulder, and reminds me vaguely of the Mountain Sun in Boulder. Grizzly Peak feels more like the Boulder Brewing Company (to be comparative).

Everyone at the Arbor was super nice. The bartender was my favorite of the trip in both knowledge and friendliness. The brewers were setting up outside on the street for their Oktoberfest Celebration, but were nice about me poking my head in for a few pictures (and getting in their way). My favorite beer was their Oktoberfest ('tis the season, after all), but I was a little disappointed
while tasting some of their other offerings. The beer felt thinner then I though the styles they were representing should be. I didn't try everything I would have liked to, and but time and good sense
would not allow it on this trip. I think I would have enjoyed other beers in other contexts, but I think I would enjoy the food the best at Arbor. They have an initiative to produce foods that are natural, organic, and local. This also means that their menu changes to reflect the local harvests. I was hungry again, but my mission on this day was beer.

The brewery is located behind the bar and is a modern looking 7 barrel system. They also have a location in the neighboring college town of Ypsilanti with a 21 barrel system and distribute their beers within the State of Michigan.

We moved up the hill and another block eastward to the Blue Tractor. This is a modern student hang out. The interior was painted black, the serving tanks above the bar gave the outfit a decidedly industrial feel, and everything had that bolted to the floor and easy to hose off feeling of a freshman bar. The bartender was a fun loving gentleman. We also were running out of time, so we didn't stay as long as we would have. We had Wings tickets and had to meet friends and head downtown to the Joe in the evening. I was really getting hungry and the BBQ was smelling delicious (we ate BBQ twice on our way back to Denver....I think Blue Tractor was the reason). Here, I had my favorite beer of the street. It was their Red Ale. It was so close to the Red Ale I brew, so it felt like they brewed just for me. They only had 4 or so offerings, but we didn't get to sample them all. Again, we need to come back for the food and the beer in this fun bar.

The brewery facility is located downstairs (behind a locked door) along with a subterranean lounge that connects with the Mojito Bar next door. The basement is pure Ann Arbor bar and is reminiscent of a prohibition era speakeasy....very cool.

Overall, I had positive impressions of all of the three breweries, but all for different reasons. My brother loved most of the beers he had, and mentioned that he sort of wished we didn't have Red Wings tickets for the evening, as he would have liked to hang out for the Oktoberfest celebration. This is a huge statement. I LOVE (live, breathe, etc.) beer, and like the Detroit Red Wings (and hockey in general). My brother LOVES (lives, breathes) the Detroit Red Wings (and hockey in general), and likes beer. But the vibe of Ann Arbor; the good beer; it felt like we belonged...and we do. No matter who you are, everyone will feel welcome in at least one of the Washington Street Breweries. Perhaps more are on the way in Ann Arbor. I hope so.

Next time, we will hit Jolly Pumpkin, I promise, but I think we will need a day or more to process it and take it all in, and I didn't want to hurry that experience, so we skipped it. I had set up a tour at their facility that I had to cancel as well, and I have been remorseful ever since.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

My Hometown Brewery

Liberty Street Brewing Company
grew up in Plymouth, Michigan. I moved away in 1988 when I went to college, and left Michigan for good in 1993 when I moved to Colorado. After aclimating to both the altitude and beer culture in Colorado, I was always convinced that Plymouth would be a great place for a brewery. I am happy to report that I was correct in my assessment.

I had first discovered that Plymouth had a brewery via about 9 months ago. Needless to say, I was excited. I believe there should be a brewery in every town, and the fact that the craft beer industry came to my old home town, means that there is a certain respectability to the craft. It is becoming less and less of a niche industry, and more of a local staple product (as it should be). Local breweries are cropping up in towns all over the United States, and there
are currently 60 breweries and brewpubs in Michigan.

The Liberty Street Brewery is my hometown brewery. It is the brewery that I wish existed when I was a wee sprite. It is located at 149 W. Liberty Street in Plymouth's Old Town. The street itself is a commercial block between Mill Street and Starkweather, and if you didn't know it was there, you
could miss it in this old railroad town. The building itself is an 1880's-era Victorian storefront that originally housed a grocery store. A more recent incarnation of this location
was a Martini Bar. It was in this condition that Joe Walters, Owner/Master Brewer took over the property. The bar area was largely unchanged from the Martini Bar, allowing them to concentrate on converting the small space up front for brewing. Although this is a pub, they only offer limited snack selections and only have a closet's worth of kitchen space. The emphasis is their beer, but if you want, there are a large selection of excellent restaurants in the area that will deliver their food directly to your table at Liberty. Ask the server for menus.

I have gotten so used to being in large brewery facilities, I was amazed at the lack of space devoted to brewing at this location. The brewery itself is a 10 hectoliter (or was it nine?) system from a company out of Canada. Joe typically brews in 6 barrel batches. The brewing area and fermentation tanks are located in only a couple of hundred of square feet with nice windows to the street and to the taproom. He also showed me his pilot system which is his home made homebrew system installed in the dock area out back. At this point, I was ready to roll up my sleeves and get brewing.

When I found out I was visiting Detroit, I took the opportunity to shoot Joe an e-mail, and he graciously allowed us a tour of his facility. He is a busy person as it is not easy to maintain a pub and brewing operation. I wasted way too much of his time, but I enjoyed the beer and atmosphere enough to show up three more times during the weekend with my brother and friends. I was only in town for three days.

The beers were good. My favorites turned out to be the Mild Brown Ale (as Joe had suggested I might like), an all malt dark session beer. Often, Milds are made with sugars and adjuncts to increase the alcohol and lighten the body, but not this beer; it is surprisingly full-flavored, but with a light mouthfeel (which is kind of like an oxymoron). I appreciated this beer, and would have liked to bring some home as it is not a beer that is made here in Denver much. Liberty does sell growlers, and I did drive back to Colorado, I am in the mood for one now (a week later), and growlers are not intended to keep all that long. So I didn't buy one, but should have. My other favorite was the IPA. I felt it was a more traditional English IPA, but with American Hops.
Although the calculated IBU's were up there, it wasn't nearly as big and hoppy of a beer as IPA's (or AIPA's or I-IPA's) made here in Denver and Westward. Is this a starter or session IPA? If there is such a thing, this is it. It is smooth, and dangerous as the alcohol content is that of a normal IPA. I suggest only one of these, as Liberty's beers are served in a straight sided Imperial Pint glass (20 oz. instead of standard pint 16 oz size). Switch to the Mild or their lighter fare. One thing that they didn't currently have avaliable was their Tart Cherry Porter. This beer won a gold medal at the 2009 World Expo of Beer as the best fruit beer. The medal is proudly displayed behind the bar.

Detroit's brewing tradition is similar to those of Milwaukee, and St. Louis, dominated by German expats and the German brewing tradition. The result was Stroh's, Miller, and Anheuser Busch and predominately, lager. Detroiter's have a lot to learn about craft beer, but are catching up quickly. This is mostly due to the tireless efforts of the small upstarts like Liberty. Liberty's best seller is their IPA, no doubt to the aggressive hop schedule and alcohol content. This is not unsimilar to most breweries I have visited. Newer beer aficionados are attracted to unusual beers: hoppy, strong; stuff they can't get from their local liquor store shelf. Otherwise, the brewery is forced by their local tradition (and customer preferences) to provide a cadre of lighter (yet full-flavored) products to satisfy local tastes. Liberty offered a Blonde ale, a Clementine Thyme Wheat, and a Pilsner (as their lighter fare) as well as an Amber and a Foreign Extra Stout. My brother's and the rest of my party's favorite beer was the Clementine, and my group drank a lot of them.

Overall, the experience at Liberty was top-notch. Their staff was friendly, attentive, and knowledgable about the beers that they served. Sadly, this is not the norm at a lot of brew pubs I have visited. I can excuse non-friendly, and non-attentive as a bad day, but knowledgable is a must. The building is beautiful, comfortable, and the entire building is smoke-free. There is a small patio out back that allows smoking and a chance to enjoy the weather. The brewery has an upstairs that hosts trivia on Tuesdays and has bands on the weekend. This upstairs space has its own bar and restroom facilities, and is also avaliable for special events. When I am back in-town, this is my new favorite hang out, and should be yours too.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Rare Beer Tasting

To complicate my life, after a whirlwind trip to my hometown to sample the local beers, I am back in Denver for beer week and the Great American Beer Festival. I have just been informed that I have been accepted as a volunteer for the Denver Rare Beer Tasting, "Pints for Prostates" benefiting Prostate Cancer survivors and their families. The event is Friday afternoon.

I have so much to write about, and so little time. Whew! I can't wait to share all that I have learned and experienced and will experience this and last week.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Store Bought Beer

I don't often buy beer from the store. With my increased brewing schedule, I am finding that I have more selections than small brew pubs. I never was one to regularly buy beer, anyway. So, it is actually a treat to have store-bought beer in my fridge. As I said last week, my friend Todd brought some store-bought beer to my small Labor Day get together. I like when people bring their bought beers as I get to try stuff I wouldn't necessarily choose for myself. Todd brought two very different beers, again, which is extremely appreciated. The two selections were Molson Canadian, and Red Hook ESB. As Todd said, "one is from our youth", the other is just opposite of that.

Drinking Molson

Molson Canadian was a staple from our youth in Southeastern Michigan. It was my 3rd favorite Canadian Beer growing up (after Labatt's Blue and Moosehead), but today I appreciated its fuller flavor. Molson used to be an independent brewery, but is now part of the Miller/MolsonCoors megaconglomerate international brewery family....which seems to change names every two weeks....I think it is now referred to as MolsonCoors (formerly MillerCoors before Molson).

I poured my last bottle of Molson Canadian Lager into a standard straight-sided pint glass. I was struck by the fact that there was nearly no aroma from the freshly poured and chilled lager. As it warmed, it smelled like beer...that is, the smell of beer imprinted on the memory, that is like a bar after closing before clean up. The beer was a deep golden color, clear, and is deeper than most American Lagers with a white loose bubbled head that dissipated to a thin film and disappeared altogether within minutes of the pour. No head, no lacing, nothing.

The taste had a slight bitterness which subsided quickly to a fruity/sweet malt flavor and a slight hop taste. The aftertaste lingers and it is that familiar beer smell/taste that is not altogether pleasant. The mouthfeel is thin, tinny, and carbonated, not unlike any American Pilsner Style Lager.

Now it sounds like I don't like this beer, but that isn't true. This ranks among the better of the mass produced American crowd (on par, I would say with Pabst Blue Ribbon). It is a slightly heavier than the rest of the brethren, which I appreciate. It is this quality that is the reason why I remember it as my 3rd favorite Canadian Beer. Recently, my tastes have changed. This beer reminds me of my youth, and that isn't an altogether bad thing.

Red Hook ESB (Extra Special Bitter)

Red Hook is one of the early microbreweries out of the Pacific Northwest and their ESB has been around a long time. It isn't my first time trying it, but I can't remember when I last did. I also, like the Canadian poured this beer into a straight-sided pint glass. It had a malty aroma, I didn't smell hops. Its appearance was a orange color, crystal clear, and a thin head that left slight lacing to the sides of the glass.

The flavor was bitter (hence the name and the Pacific Northwest Origin) and malty, and the flavor and aroma blossomed as the glass warmed to also have a slight alcohol warmth with it. The hops flavor was tobaccoey and was totally appropriate for the English style. I don't know if it uses English hops, but if not, it was reminiscent of English hops. The mouthfeel was thin, and it had a standard carbonation which is more carbonation than I would have liked for the style.

Overall, I find Redhook's ESB a nicely rounded ESB. Most ESB's I have had recently have emphasied the Extra and Special, either too highly hopped, or too strong of a beer for my tastes. Lately, and as a result of my recent ESB tastes, I have been avoiding the style. Redhook's emphasis was definately on the traditional definition of bitter with a stronger starting gravity and increased IBU's to balence the malt bill.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Belgian Shmelgian

Cheeky Monk Belgian Cafe, Denver, Colorado

As the Great American Beer Fest (GABF) approaches later this month, beer establishments great and small around Denver are preparing first for Denver Beer Week (September 18th-24th) and then the GABF immediately following (Sept 24-26th).

I stopped into the Cheeky Monk today to hear about their preparations. First and foremost, they have added 8 new taps, bringing their total to 24 Belgian Originals or American Craft Brewery interpretations of Belgian beers.

Why is this important?

Belgian beers are known for their strangeness. They produce big beers, fruity beers, beers using wild yeasts and bacteria for fermentation...and are basically willing to put anything that will ferment into their beers. Until recently, the only place you could get them was visiting Belgium. If you want to taste a beer you haven't tried before, the Cheeky Monk is the place (other than Belgium, that is).

The new taps have a number of beers that they have had on their "Beers of the Moment" rotating taps but also have a number of beers that they formerly only had in bottles.

Two years ago, the Wednesday before the GABF a couple of guys from an east coast brewery came in the Cheeky Monk for a bottled beer that they could get no where else. This was the Kasteel Rouge (Castle Red). It is a Sour Beer made with cherries, and I endeavored to have one with them. It has always been my favorite Belgian ever since. Now Cheeky Monk has it on tap.

For those of you visiting for Denver Beer Week or the GABF, I highly recommend the Cheeky Monk. They are located about 6 blocks east of downtown on Colfax Avenue, and will have a bus running from the convention center to their location during the GABF.

A full list of the events at the Cheeky Monk are on line:

Today wasn't the day to come clean about Belgian Beers.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Holy Cow!!!

Labor Day Weekend brought friends and family to my house. It was nice to see everybody, but even with a much appreciated gift of store bought beer from my friend, I am nearly out of all of my summer beers!

The Summer beers were a hit, but surprisingly (to me at least), the overall favorite was the W2, which I have been calling a Dunkelweiss (dark wheat). It was an experimental batch of beer based on the Wheat's (W1) grain bill proportions, but added crystal malt, a more assertive hop schedule, and I skipped the coriander (but kept the bitter orange peel). Most people complained about the bitter orange and/or coriander in the W1, but the bittering and flavor of the hops masked the orange bitter in the W2. Next year (or sooner), I may try the same beer but eliminate the orange, and replace the wheat with more malt. I think I will like it better, and it was so unwheat like anyway (people who don't like wheat beers liked W2 but if they tried my W1 they might have liked that as well since I don't use wheat yeast strains).

Thankfully, my red ale will ready this month, but it looks like I need to get brewing again. I need to come to some conclusion on our fall beers. Sure we will do our pumpkin, and I am looking to concoct a different brown ale than I have done in the past, but have been considering a West Coast Ale, something a little more assertive, but not over the top. I am looking for something easy to do on my own to be ready in October. The Pumpkin Ale I would like to be ready in early November, and maybe even something dark and warm (winter warmer) by January. When am I going to find time for the Brown Ale?

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Do I Have What It Takes?

This is my second consecutive Labor Day without a regular job. It gets kind of depressing to think of it that way, or to mark the passage of time as such. I do other things, such as take care of my kids, and I brew a heck of a lot more with all of my free time. These activities are actually much more rewarding than just doesn't pay the bills and I need more to do. I did enjoy my career in commercial land development. I liked the work as it was technical, but required a fair amount of political savvy to manuver the approval process. Sadly, commercial real estate is still over-built, and my industry's recovery is a while off still.

So, when I learned last week that my local Brewery had an opening in their Tap Room, I created a beer resume and collected my Summer Beers. I added my Summer Beer series in a six pack and tucked my resume and cover letter inside. I doubt that it will sway his decision, but the Tap Room Manager seemed surprised a pleased to get free beer. I added a traditional Mild Ale, a traditional American Wheat Beer, a non-traditionally hopped Dunkelweiss (which I have been calling American Medium Wheat as it is noticably hopped with American Cascade hops and it really isn't very dark), and a couple of Light Ales made with corn (regular lawn mower beers). I think that they are all pretty good beers, but they are made for my particular tastes, so I often worry about how they will be received. I also think that my summer beers are good, but my fall line up is even better.

When reading old stories about various brewers, they often reported that they got their first job in professional brewing by showcasing their home beers. I was apprehensive to include my beers in an application. I would hate to have offended the Tap Room Manager either with beers he didn't like, or with the implication that I could buy my way in. It is not that. I just wanted to let him know how passionate I am about beer, especially since I have no professional bar experience.

At this particular tap room, I always sit at the short end of the bar next to the taps. I do this, because I love to watch people try these beers for the very first time. Their reactions are priceless both when they found a new favorite beer, or when they tasted something that didn't agree with them. I would like to help people find a beer that they love.

Actually, when it comes to working at a brewery, I could do a lot of things well. I understand brewing, I can drive a forklift, have shipping, public speaking, public relations, writing, and advertisitng experience. I have some training and education in the sciences. And most of all, I love beer, brewing, beer history, and beer marketing campaigns (oh and I love working hard, too). So is there an ugly side to this business? Probably, but I am willing to give it a shot.

So Happy Labor Day. If you have a good job, count yourself lucky. If you have found your calling and passion in a career, I envy you.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Bottling Run

Skeptical Brewing, Denver CO

It is always satisfying to fill bottles of beer. The cases of empty bottles that have been piling up in the brewery have been creating a sense of disorder. Full bottles in cases have the opposite effect, and the cases of now carbonating and aging beer have purpose and potential. I feel the most pride about my efforts at this point.

My friend came over to bottle the Red Ale that we brewed a couple weeks back (read about that here). Bottling is more of a social event than brewing is. It doesn't take as long, and it is something that both participants can partake in. In my brewery, one person puts in the beer, and the other one caps the bottles and makes sure that the filler has empty bottles within reach. I like the capping part the best, and that is the job I did yesterday. I have bottled by myself, but with two people it goes more than twice as fast and I can move the vessel up to the counter to bottle.

I am now getting to the point where the processes of brewing are getting more and more automatic and systematic for me. I have found good ways of setting up my equipment and working relatively efficiently. That isn't to say it is perfect and I won't make any improvements, but a lot of good brewing is about creating good methodologies and habits. My friend devised a bottle filling station that is more comfortable by sitting on one of the old fermentation buckets, and I will continue to use that set up from now on.

The excitement of a successful bottle run, and harvesting the yeast from the fermenter has gotten me thinking about my next batch. I need to talk with my brother this weekend on what and when to brew. It might be nice to get another beer going before the Great American Beer Festival the weekend of September 25th. But what?