Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Beer Math

I was thinking about this while in the shower today.....

1,000 Bbls of brewery production = almost $1 million in revenue at bar prices.

1 bbl = 31 gallons
1 gallon = 8 pints
1 pint = $4 (most brewpubs charge $4.25 here in Denver ($4.60 including sales tax), or $3-4 during happy hour).

So, 1 bbl = 248 pints, 248 pints = $992 and 1000 barrels adds three zeros for $992,000.

If it costs 50 cents a pint for materials and energy and you can keep your rent, taxes, other labor (besides your own if any), and equipment costs around 50 cents as well (that part is a WAG for this exercise), your production costs equal roughly $248,000.

Profits therefore theoretically could be almost $750,000 per year.  Of course, you would need to sell all the beer you make, which would equal 248,000 pints....if you were open 12 hours per day, 250 days a year, you would have to sell 82 pints per hour (every hour).

What are the physical limitations to a one or two man operation operating a 5 barrel system?  To reach the 1000 bbl mark, you would have to brew 4 times per week....not un-doable, but also selling 80 pints an hour?

OK to re-figure on 500 bbl and 20% waste would be $496k in revenue, $125k production, $100k in waste/loss =$271,000....brewing twice a week....selling 480 pints a day.

I have too much time on my hands.  Who wants a beer?

Monday, April 26, 2010

Hop Farmer

I received hop rhizomes from my friend on Friday and got the little roots into the ground this weekend.  I planted them in the back of my yard next to the fence.  It is the only space I have left in my yard for something that can go 25 feet high, but being a vine (weed, actually) it needs support.  I figure that I will train it over the fence and back down, giving it 12 feet.

The variety given to me is Cascade.  I use cascade in many of my beers.  The problem with home grown hops is that you never know what kind of bittering power (alpha acid units) they have.  Many people therefore use the hops for flavoring and aroma rather than bittering.  I am not sure I care about the specific levels if I use them in a hoppy beer.  After all, beer had been produced and sold for thousands of years without knowing what the level of alpha acid units they had in their hops.  Ultimately, with free hops, I will be tempted to use them in more liberal and creative ways.

Last year I was given fresh hops from my same friend, and we loaded them into my red ale, creating a nice west coast ale that was better than my original recipe.  I will definitely do that again, but maybe more hops even.  It depends on what kind of yield I get this year.  In all, cascade is my favorite hop (well, that and East Kent Golding).  It is a product of the United States (unlike EKG), is often cheaper than imported varieties, and I often find that my favorite hoppy beers use them as a majority of their hops. 

Hop farms (that get their plants to grow 25 feet) can get over 2 pounds of dried hops per plant from a mature plant.  I expect considerably less, this year especially, since this is the first year for the plants and emphasis for them will be growing roots.  Home brewing forums say if you get 1/2 pound per plant in the first year, you should be pleased.  I will consider myself lucky to get 1/2 pound per plant.  That would give me almost enough hops for 1/2 of the year.  So far this year, I have used 15.75 ounces of hops for 4 beers, almost 9 of which were the Cascade variety.  To tell you what kind of savings this is, last year, I bought 1 pound of cascade hops (instead of by the ounce) for something like $22 (a little less than $1.50/ounce).  This beat the per ounce price as it is $3.99 for an ounce of whole hops (which I prefer) and $2.99 for pellet hops.  I find it interesting that the whole (dried but otherwise unprocessed) hops cost $1 more per ounce than the pellets (which are pulverized and pressed into little pellets).  It must be that they use less room, less packaging, and keep better (can be sold for longer).  If half of my hops are Cascade (in my beers), I am looking at saving anywhere from $30-60 a year on hops on just these 3 plants, or about or about 5 to 10 cents per bottle per year on average.

Of course, I now need to figure out how to dry the cones and vacuum seal them for freshness.  The equipment will probably cost some, but they will have some home application in packaging and freezing foods that will also save some money.  I enjoy gardening and routinely plant tomatoes and cucumbers in my yard.  I love fresh vegetables (and subsequently hate anything less than fresh).  I am told that hops are pretty easy to grow in this hot dry climate, (most climates, really), and are more like weeds.  If this experiment doesn't work, or the results are less than satisfactory, it cost me nothing....but for now, the experiment continues. 

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Keeping Up

It is hard to keep up with this writing stuff when all you would rather do is brew and drink.  Springtime chores, active kids, and daydreaming about starting a real brewery has been far more interesting than writing things down.  I am, to my figure, about four posts behind.

Last Friday my wife and I went to the Denver Art Museum's fund raising event "Uncorked".  It was a wine tasting event, but lucky me, 18 Colorado breweries sent representatives with good beer.  Interestingly, they put the beer guys all upstairs and the wine downstairs.  The wine areas were packed with people, and virtually no one was upstairs with the beer.  No one, that is, except me.  It was interesting that the beer was so unattended, the wine snobs were all downstairs.  I had most of Colorado's breweries and brewing reps to myself.

It becomes interesting to be asking questions that are no longer easily answered by the poor beer reps.  I asked ingredient questions (which were mostly answered), process and brewing questions, (in which answers were given partial credit), and licensing and distribution questions (which went completely unanswered).  Most of the reps were the sales guys, some were brewers, none were the business folks.  I was probably a pain in the ass, as there were so few people there that they had to deal with me.

Beer tastings are interesting to try to get a sense of trends.  Breweries either bring their flagship products to promote their brand, their new products in need of promotion, or their seasonal or unusual products to promote their diversity.  Failing that, they bring one dark, one light, and one amber (or one hoppy/strong instead of one dark), so that everyone can find a product they like.  I don't know why 3 beers is the norm for these events, but it always seems to be.  From surveying the selections from each brewery, you get a sense of the brewing.  For this tasting, it was interesting to see the trends here in Colorado.

The most notable trend was one I have spoken a lot about.  Hops are still in vogue, and the India Pale Ale is still King of the Craft Beer World.  Ten of the 58 offered beers were IPAs, at least three more were hop bombs under a different name, and one was an India Brown Ale.  Yet, three more were American Style or English Style Pale Ales that have distinct hop characteristics.  One quarter of the beers offered were beers with a prominent display of hops.

The second trend was a notable lack of Belgian Inspired seasonals.  Of course, New Belgium Brewery brought 2 Belgians (a Trippel and 1554 (Black Beer)), their other offering was their new Ranger IPA, but except a farmhouse seasonal from Great Divide, and an Oak Aged Sour (Woodcut No. 3 Crimson Ale) from O'Dell's, there were no others.  Speaking of wood, O'Dell's was the only wood aged beer (that I recall...except maybe for the Wheat Wine, see below).  I grant, though, that the wood aged beers (and probably Belgians) are more usual winter seasonals.

Thirdly, three of the breweries offered Scottish Ales (Bristol, Grand Lake, and Oskar Blues).  Great Divide has a Scotch as a seasonal, but didn't offer it.  Bristol (Laughing Lab) and Oskar (Old Chub) have them as regular offerings and could be considered flagships.  Interestingly, the Scottish from Grand Lake Brewing was made with peat smoked malt and tasted similar to mine.  I can't decide if I like it much or not, but I do know that I would like mine better with less peat smoked malt.

Fourthly, Wheat, Wheat, Baby.  Chalk it up to the time of year and it is often a light beer drinker's favorite, but I counted 8 wheat beers including flavored styles and a Wit.  There was an interesting twist, however.  Fort Collins Brewery had what they labeled a Wheat Wine.  I would characterize it as an Imperial or Double Wheat.  I had read about the "Imperializing" of  pale beers (such as Wheat and Pils), but never had one.  It is akin to a Barley Wine (over 8% ABV if I recall correctly) but made with wheat.  I was impressed.  There was an elegance to it....but, really, I would just rather have a glass of wine, I think.

Lastly, outside of the lighter beers (Wheats and Pale Ales) there was a lack of traditional English offerings including 4 stouts (2 flavored), two porters (one flavored), four brown ales (one flavored, one India style), no Bitters.  And after IPA and Wheat beers, the next most common was the amber or American Amber Ale.  The American Amber Ales need a makeover or some public relations.  I usually avoid Ambers these days as I think them boring.  But the style is a rather broad category that could include more Irish Red type Ambers (malty) or ones with west coast hoppiness (both sides of the spectrum I appreciate).  Some ambers in between give the style a bad name in being the easy introduction to craft brewing....(ie Craft Beer 101).  I figure that using the term "amber" is advantageous for the brewer in providing a beer that is a safe choice for the lighter beer crowd.  I have railed on the fact that the term amber is not enough information for me and the style "American Amber" is too broad in comparison to the reference of "American" in American Pale Ale.  I am probably missing out on some decent beers at my avoidance of beers with the adjective "Amber" in their name.  I didn't try any that night.

So, I found some of the same on-going trends in this little sample of Colorado Beers, but also some additional beers for thought.  Amber needs a makeover to be exciting again.  Traditional (non-Imperiaized, non-flavored) styles with the exception of Pale Ale seem to be waning.  Bitter is non-existent (also due to fact that Bitter is a draft style...some say pale ale is just bottled bitter).  Scottish and Reds are perhaps taking the place of the traditional Browns, Stouts, and Porters.

And what was my favorite beer of the night?  Good question.  I can tell you that I was impressed with Fort Collins Brewery, and have fallen in love all over again with O'Dell's products as of late.  Those two, along with Oskar Blues were my favorite tables of the night.  But my favorite beer?  I had two.  Bristol's Laughing Lab Scottish Ale is a beer (like O'Dell's 90 Shilling and Easy Street Wheat) that introduced me to the possibilities of craft beer and brewing so many years ago.  Until recently, I hadn't had a Laughing Lab in the last decade, but it will be a beer that I will have to have when I see it on tap.  It was my close second.  My favorite beer of the night came to me from across the State from the small but mighty brewing enclave of Durango.  The unpretentious SKA Brewing and their traditional Buster Nut Brown Ale.  It is the reigning silver medalist in the English Brown Ale category from last September's Great American Beer Festival, but Ska's rep didn't say so.  He just said, "Here.  You'll like this".  

Friday, April 16, 2010

Around Town

Over the past several weeks, I have been revisiting Denver's brewpubs.  I haven't been to them in a while, and I stopped in to see what was new with the changing seasons.  I was surprised more than once, but not always for the better.

Dry Dock Brewing is attached to The Brew Hut, a local home brew shop in South Aurora.  They have, almost from the very beginning, been winning awards for their beers at the Great American Beer Festival and the World Beer Cup.  I especially enjoyed their SS Minnow Mild Ale (think Gilligan's Island).  I also remembered that they had a generous discount for American Homebrewer's Association members, so I coupled it with a trip to the brew store for some supplies one weekend.  I tried several samples including their German Alt, ESB, and finally settled on a pint of their Old Ale, but none of the beers particularly stood out for me.  Sure it could have been me, but either I didn't want what they were serving (they had two IPA variants avaliable) or the ones I tried tasted off or unappealing.  To add insult to injury, their great discount does not apply to the weekend.  I felt somewhat cheated by both the experience and the lack of a discount.  I did buy supplies from the home brew shop, though, and think that they have a great selection.  When I make it back there, I hope that my mood improves or that they have beers that I am in the mood for.

The Bull and Bush is a fantastic English Pub hidden off the main thoroughfares along Cherry Creek in Glendale (or near the Eastern Glendale/Denver border).  The pub is an exact replica (interior and exterior) of a pub somewhere in England.  It is a Tudor Style building and has a nice outdoor patio.  It has been open since 1971 and probably brewing on premises for over 10 years now.  The brewer at the Bull and Bush seems to have a serious dedication to my malt over hops philosophy, or it could be that it is a traditional English Brewpub serving traditional English Ales.  I don't know.  At a couple of recent visits I have had the opportunity to have their Stout, Irish Red, Scottish, ESB, and Traditional English Brown, and they have many more untraditional selections all of the time. I have to say that the tastes of my ales were spot on.  My head.  The beers all seemed to have quickly dissipating heads or none at all.  This is in line sometimes with traditional English ales and methods, but I find a beer without a healthy head to be somewhat lifeless.  That, and the bartender used a chilled glass for my brown ale.  A no-no in my book, but I admit, that I am one of the few people who like the temperatures of my ales somewhere between American tastes and traditional ale serving temperatures.  Also, no AHA discounts at the Bull and Bush....not a deal killer, but a bummer.

Brekenridge Ballpark Brewery was gearing up for Rockies season when I visited in early April.  They have a nice AHA discount on beer and food.  They have their original Lower Downtown location and a brewery south of downtown on Kalamath.  They no longer brew at the Downtown location, which bums me out, so technically it isn't a brew pub anymore.  The downtown location is a beautiful old brick warehouse with the train dock out front, and it is a block away from the ballpark.  You can see where their original conical fermenter used to stand.  They have a nicely crafted Main Line of beers along with an interesting selection of Small Batch beers (usually of higher strength or bitterness) and Seasonals.  Their Ballpark Brown Ale is always a standby for me, but I also enjoy their Trademark APA.  Their Bock was their seasonal (remember when I was saying that I didn't know what a traditional spring beer was?).  I didn't think of Bock for whatever reason.  When I was there, I was disappointed that there was nothing new.  It seemed like they can be counted on to have their regular selections and they are consistently good, but the Seasonals seem to stick around too long (the Christmas Ale didn't run out until February, I think).  I don't often order items from their Small Batch series, but even they were all the same old beers that have been around for months.  They had a wheat based anniversary beer, but I didn't want a full pint of it.  I guess I was in the mood for something different or new, and I couldn't find it this time at Brek.  The brown ale was excellent as usual and the staff is very friendly as usual, and the people at the bar are usually talkative (many are tourists) and the experience is always enjoyable.  The brewery location on Kalamath isn't as fun to visit (in my opinion), I don't know why that is.  I just wish they would put a 5 barrel system back at the Ballpark location.

I hit up Wynkoop, Denver's first brewpub (est. 1988), also in Lower Downtown (18th/Wynkoop).  I have to admit, I like going down there, for the pool hall, the atmosphere, the location, and to people watch, but with the exception of their yearly Pumpkin beer, have not really found a beer for me there.  They have a discount for AHA members, but not a great one.  But.....I found a new respect for their ESB (a regular offering) and a special brew called an Auld (Old Ale, I think) brewed by their beerdrinker of the year (a yearly contest, but this year the winner was a brewer).  I think I am on an English Bitter kick as of late.  I was pleasantly surprised, and am looking forward to getting downtown for another some time soon.

I also within the last three or four months hit BJ's Brewhouse/Restaurant (a brewpub chain) in Aurora.  That brewery doesn't strike a chord with me.  It seems expensive, the bartenders didn't seem knowledgeable, they have an AHA discount on food, but not beer (what is the point of that?), and I can't even recall what beer I had.  I am uncertain if they brew at the Aurora location (I know they do at their Pearl Street Mall location in Boulder), but I also think that they brew or serve the exact same beers in all of their locations, which always makes it seem more corporate and impersonal.  I don't know if that is completely true, but I can't admit to going out of my way to hit a BJ's Brewhouse.  I keep hoping my experience there will change, and maybe someday it will.

I can't wait to get back to Walnut and the Chophouse (both in the Rock Bottom System) which I love, and give Pint's Pub another try.  Pint's is located downtown near the library, is very traditional, but I don't think I appreciated them back in the day (last time I was there, that is), and would like to see if my palate or their beers have improved.

I think that the important thing about brewpubs is that things do change over time.  They are usually having new offerings, and their regular beers sometimes change and improve.  The beer is always fresh, and the company is often enjoyable.  If you haven't been to a particular brewing establishment in a while, especially one you decided you didn't like, give them another try periodically.  Small brewers don't always have consistency, but they more than make up for it in experimentation and wonderlust.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

More of Trying New Things

I have decided for some time that I possessed too much beer for me to drink myself.  It used to be that I would brew 3 or 4 times a year, and that amount was perfect to keep me well stocked with beer for myself.  I am not a big socialite, don't have too many friends, and we usually go out for a beer when we get together, so I needed to find new ways to get rid of beer.  I have opted to send beer to a few friends across the country, but this is proving to be expensive.  It costs me 50 cents a bottle to make beer, but approximately $6 a bottle to ship it half way across the country.  With my limited resources, it isn't a great way to dispense of beer.  I should be putting my money into new equipment, instead.  Still, I get a lot of pleasure out of this sort of sharing, and intend to send more.

What I am looking for is new ways to share my beer with people....that is, short of actually going pro.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Trying New Things....

A lot of things are new around the old family brewery these days.  I talked ad nauseum about new equipment, and to date, we have only bought one thing, albeit a great one new thing.  We have, however, opted to experiment with new recipes, materials, and methods.

This past weekend we bottled the Scottish Ale and brewed a Belgian Wit (which are both new recipes for us).  Preliminary tastes has the Scottish Ale with a little too much smoky peat flavor (from the new ingredient), but time, refrigeration and carbonation may change the character of the beer.  The smoky flavor is not altogether unpleasant, but it was a little more than I wanted in it.  My brother and I had a debate on how much, and we opted for a compromise between my brother's philosophy of going bigger but a dose of my philosophy of restraining ourselves so we still have a drinkable beer.  So the final decision was slightly more than I would have done, and slightly less than he would have.  At this point, the jury is out, still.

For the Belgian, we opted for using some un-malted grains (specifically wheat and oats).  I have previously used malted wheat for our wheat beers.  The un-malted cereal grains are natorious for creating stuck mashes, so we opted to do a separate cereal mash to try to mitigate this.  The idea of a cereal mash is to mash the un-malted grains with a little malted barley.  The cereal mash is rested at 120 degrees (protein rest) to break down the gluten (the proteins that make the grains gluey) to reduce the chance of stuck mashes and then up to mash temperatures.  The reason to add a little barley is to provide some enzymes to start the starch conversion.

I heated the grains on the electric stove to 120 degrees and then we added it into the main mash (instead of raising the temperature separately).  The only problem was that I burnt the grains on the bottom (using the electric stove) and besides losing those grains, I had to be careful to not stir the burnt stuff into the mash.  The cereal mash seemed to have worked as we didn't have a stuck mash, but it may have also been that we were using only 35% un-malted grains (50% would have been more dicey), and it didn't really matter.

I figured we would hit at least 80% mash efficiency, and despite the use of the un-malted grains (which is traditionally lower yield) and losing some of these grains to burning, we ended up with a higher gravity than expected, but less total run-off.  So in all our efficiency was about 80%.  I was pleased.  So by my brother's birthday in early May, we will have a nice Wit beer available.  

I need to figure out how to rid myself of all of this beer.   I have 5 beers currently available, and two that will come on line in the next 4 weeks.  And I just want to brew again.  I will have to see if my friend is ready to brew once I get the equipment back.  But what is next?

Of what I have currently available, the Porter is my favorite beer.  I am likely to add some more crystal malt next time, but right now it is the beer that I always want to drink.  Our Oktoberfest has aged nicely and except for some chill haze, is what I expected.  However, I notice that there is a taste that I presume to be from the lager yeast that I don't quite like.  I noticed this taste when I purchased some Oskar Blues Little Yella Pils (Traditional or Continental Pilsner).  I didn't know what it was, but I was surprised when the same flavor came through on my Oktoberfest.  I have decided that I am just an Ale Man.  I might have a lager once in a while, but for the most part, they are not for me.  I feel like the skunky smell/taste I don't like is more prevalent in lagers than ales.  But, I don't know what that is.  Is it Dimethyl Sulfide (DMS) that is often spoken of (some like a little, some say none is appropriate), or something else?

So, what to brew next?  I am open for suggestions, but I am thinking that a Traditional English Bitter (or Extra Special Bitter, ESB) might be next.  I want the hoppiness of the bitter, but certainly not overwhelming.  Something refreshing.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

On Strike....

This is from the Associated Press...

COPENHAGEN - Scores of Carlsberg workers walked off their jobs in protest Thursday after the Danish brewer tightened laid-back rules on workplace drinking and removed beer coolers from work sites, a company spokesman said.
The warehouse and production workers in Denmark are rebelling against the company's new alcohol policy, which allows them to drink beer only during lunch hours in the canteen. Previously, they could help themselves to beer throughout the day, from coolers placed around the work sites.
The only restriction was "that you could not be drunk at work. It was up to each and everyone to be responsible," company spokesman Jens Bekke said.
The question is, is lunch a bad time to have a beer?  Personally, I like to drink beer in the middle of the day.  I don't like to drink at night.  It sounds weird, but beer (and many foods) too close to bed time makes me not sleep well or gives me "issues" as we like to say.  I am not sure that operating equipment in a brewery while drinking might just not be the greatest of ideas  (imagine me driving a forklift with a beer), however, but if you were used to it, you would be upset too.  I am just happy to have a good beer with a friend at is optional.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

$3 For an Experiment

I stopped into my local chain "Irish" Pub after work today.  It is one of those chains that operates multiple pubs under different names, but they are otherwise indistinguishable from one another.  It would be like going to a restaurant called McAllister's and ordering a Big Mac.  A chain feigning as a local joint.  Their happy hour prices are comparable to the locals, and kids eat free on Sundays (which I like).  It isn't like I am shopping at Walmart, but I try not to come here as often as I go local.  The bartenders are nice, but relatively clueless, but they have not yet resorted to wearing "flair".  It is semi-Bennigan's.  Other locations (like the one nearest my former employer) hire exclusively hot chicks as waitresses....the one near my house doesn't so discriminate.....I can't decide if this is a plus or a minus.

Anyway, they are having a promotion for Sam Adam's 25th Anniversary, $3 pints of Boston Lager (which I like, some), but the big deal is that you keep the glass.  This is the "special" glass required to be used by Pubs serving Sam Adams.  The glass I have been considering stealing for my evil purposes (you can read about my opinion of glassware here).  I have procured two glasses, and when I get together with my brother to brew this weekend, I am going to pour a few of our beers into this glass and a straight sided pint glass for comparison.  My hypothesis is that the glass makes no difference.  I might even get me a Sam Adam's to run this test.

More later.....

Monday, April 5, 2010

Summer? Already?

Over the Easter meal I made plans with my brother to bottle the Scottish Ale we brewed a week ago, and start our summer brewing schedule.  It is barely spring, but it is nice to have the chance to brew as often as we are.  My brother is pushing to brew again as he has a busy month of May ahead and wants to get the wheat into bottles before May hits.

So, I am on the prowl for information about wheat beers.  I have an excellent wheat beer recipe, and should be happy to brew it.  We refer to the good wheat beer as W1 (Wheat 1) after the label we put on the cap.  This beer is the beer that all of my non-craft and light beer friends love the most.  My father, not a beer guy, answered my question "How do you like the beer", "I LOVE IT!"...he has not been as demonstrative with my children.  Of course, it was a hot day, and a cold beer (any light variety) would have gone down good at that moment.

In fact, I have had only one detractor.  They hated it.  They were a couple of self described big beer fans, and had I known this before-hand, I wouldn't have subjected them to it....they admitted to me afterwards that they didn't like wheat beers.  Now why in the world would you bother trying it if you know you don't like the style?  So, that was a mis-fire.  

My wheat had only one secret ingredient.  I wanted it to not be banana or clove tasting (like Bavarian or American Wheats), and I definitely didn't want it to be sour like a Berliner.  Wheat beer, being so light, is subject to flavors from the yeast, so I surmised.  So, to make it more un-wheat like, but crisp and of the Germanic Tradition (and appealing to many) I used a Kolsch yeast.  It was very successful, but I am wanting to go a little more traditional this time.  I think I will do a Belgian Wit (white).  I have a few twists that I am thinking about, so we shall see.  I have 4 days to figure it out.

What should I add to this beer?

Oh, and I also made a loose plan with my nephew to do a Watermelon Wheat.....I told him of the Watermelon Wheat beer I had at the 21st Amendment Brewery in San Francisco.  I think I will use the Kolsch yeast for that one, but it will be lighter than our original.  Maybe we will send him off to college with that one later this summer.  I have never done fruit in beer before (strange, huh?)

Saturday, April 3, 2010


I sat down for a beer with a friend yesterday and he told me this:

"You know, you probably know more about beer than anyone I know."  "Thank you", I replied.  "I read a lot."  "The thing about you", he continued, "Is that although you know a lot, I would never consider you a beer snob".  Again, this is a compliment.  "...I mean, you will drink Pabst Blue Ribbon for God's sake".  "Well what can I say", I said laughing, "Pabst Blue Ribbon is a good beer".
I was drinking (and enjoying) an Odell's Red at the time.  He told me that he thought everyone should have a "thing", a thing that which we are allowed to be geeky about, but snobbery is out of bounds.  He is from a family of car guys and is a Navy guy (all things Naval and specifically US Navy) and is currently trying to get accepted as a Naval Officer.  He owns (but rarely drives) a Nissan 300x...but he is not the type to make fun of someone driving a mini van (no comment on this).  I chide him for owning a Foreign make (being from Detroit, it is my right), and he chides me for Detroit having made so many crappy cars (Touche).

It got me thinking about Beer Snobbery.  I try not to be a snob about beer.  My brother would disagree with my friend's assessment.  He thinks I am a snob. I believe, however, that everyone should be comfortable with the beer that they enjoy and choose, be it Stone Ruination or Keystone Light.  I am skeptical of beer fads, but at the same time am intolerant of people who are afraid to try new things.  I have often discussed the extreme beer movement with conflicting messages.  I am skeptical that so many people like big and hoppy beers.  Now some do, and once in a while I do too, but I think that many want to like it and they have an unhealthy machismo issue with the alcohol content and IBU count.  Bigger is not always better.  On the other hand, drinking light beer because you are concerned with your caloric intake doesn't bother me, but when you drink 6 pints of it in a night....need I say more?  I am also against the prejudice of beer based on its color (or the prejudice of anything for that matter).  Ultimately, I want everyone to know at least what they like about the beer they choose (so few think about this), and at least have a willingness to try new things only slightly outside of their zone.

I do have my own prejudices, however.

Prejudice #1: Beer without Foam

I like every beer no matter the style to have and keep a head, even a small thin one, and/or provide lacing on the glass.  This has nothing to do with the taste, and is a difficult thing with some light and hoppy beers (and head isn't a requirement for some styles), but I like it and think it adds to my enjoyment of the beer.  Beer can be nearly flat (as in casked condition beers) but it needs to give me that creamy foam.

Prejudice #2: Alcohol Content

I don't get as much enjoyment out of high gravity (high alcohol content  beers.  It isn't that they are not good, some are, but some sacrifice taste for ABV.  One brewer admitted to me that he increased the stated ABV on his Mild Ale (on his chalkboard in his brewery) as it sells better when the ABV is overstated.  I am a firm believer that giving the drinker the stats (starting gravity or ABV and IBU) and style information is important, but people choosing a beer based solely on IBU or ABV are not the people I want around.  I like to drink a couple of beers in a sitting.  It makes it difficult when the ABV exceeds 8% as I believe that beer is a social drink, and shouldn't floor you by having two pints.  Beers that are sipped are not really beers to me.  They compete for my attention when I want a sipping whiskey or scotch....I call these camp fire beers.

Prejudice #3: Belgian and/or Extreme Beers

I am wary of Belgian and Belgian influenced styles....some are delicious and I crave some distinct styles or brands, but I have had to wade through a lot of weird beer to find them.  Many beers in the Belgian tradition do not even taste good to me, and my problem is that there are not many particular styles that I can't find an example I like.  More often than not, each brand is hit or miss with me.  Not all beers of strange influence or using non-traditional ingredients should be revered or mass marketed.  If you feel the need for your socks to be knocked off every time you have a beer, I suggest you move on to liquor or wine.

Prejudice #4 Glassware.

I hate fluted goblets for beer....even when deemed appropriate.  I also hate that while most breweries and craft beer joints serve a 10 oz glass as an option, it looks like a flute.  While traveling in California, I noted that a good number of craft breweries served their beers in half pints.  That is, traditional pint glasses, but half sized.  This was perfect.  I can sample more beers, but get the pint experience.  Here in Colorado, the half pint comes in girly fluted shapes (if at all).  Come on.  Let's focus on the beer experience and not quantity.  Sometimes a pint is too much.

Prejudice #5 Beer Styles

The reason we have beer styles, in my opinion, is so that we can align our expectations to that beer.  Expecting a stout is very different from expecting a Pale Ale (in almost every way).  A beer's style should be descriptive to the experience of the beer.  Otherwise, it is just false advertising.  Craft beers do a pretty good job at staking their claim on the basic styles....however, I am having a little trouble with the adjectives attached to styles, especially when that takes the beer out of context for the style.  Words like Imperial or Double conjure images of bigger or more special beers, but an Imperial Brown is probably just an American (or Texas) Brown or it starts to be a Brown Porter....too much alcohol or hops and it starts to be a Strong Ale, or some other described style.  I think that this is a fad.  The ultimate goal is to create something that doesn't exist.  I understand this "Boldly go where no one has gone" sense of adventure, but again, most of these beers are not really that good.  Too many descriptors ends up doing as much of a disservice as none at all.  Home brewers are the guiltiest of this.  I think it is more of a way to cover up the fact that they have no idea what they hell they are doing rather than an effort at self expression.  They might as well be making moonshine....that is, who cares what it tastes like, as long as it gets you drunk.

So, you may have or have not decided that, contrary to my claims, I am a beer snob.  The fact is, I do have opinions.  I don't purport to be on the right side of every argument, however, and realize that some of my prejudices are my own and have no bearing on what tack the rest of the world is taking.  I just like simple ales of low to moderate strengths and strive to make mine distinct by their crafting and design.  I don't want my brown ale to taste just like Newcastle, my American Pale Ale to taste just like Sierra Nevada, or my wheat to taste just like Blue Moon.  I can buy these beers.  I want my ales to taste just as I imagine they should....perfect for me.

Snob Out.