Friday, March 25, 2011

New Stuff

It really doesn't seem like much, but I started to prepare my keggerator for more faucets and my eventual build out for 4 kegs. I realized that I had all of the parts from my air compressor to do a quick disconnect from the CO2. All I needed to do was get my 1" hole saw (purchased previously) to enlarge the hole in the collar. Then, I moved my check valve from my regulator to the third slot in my gas manifold. I really, really need to buy the faucets and shanks, but I have been saving to remodel our bathroom....bummer

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


I am getting kind of excited for the end of the week, when I can finally celebrate some diversity....Not that kind, however....and February is both Black History Month and Stout Month...but this week I will have 3 of my beers on tap, as well as the one I am currently serving from Great Divide.  The Marzen (Oktoberfest) and our traditional brown ale will be available starting next week or the week after.  The "other beer" is our Wheat, which is a lighter affair than we had hoped, but I think wheat drinkers (Wheaties, we can call them) might like it as a light beer (even for them).

I do, however, have a problem or two.  I only have one faucet and one picnic tap.  I can't serve these beers without some more investment in my keggerator.  I missed the sale from Austin Homebrew shop for the stainless Perlick faucets, and I was hoping to get a wall mounted backsplash to inform me of the keggerator faucet spacings.
I am also saving as much cash as I can to finally redo the bathroom....this will allow my wife to live in relative comfort and not question my brewery it an investment in the long run.  I am impatient, for sure....but after I seal the kegs and put them in the fridge, the two darker beers will be good for quite a while at 39, they will be patient about me getting them on line....but will I?

If anyone has old beer faucets hanging around,. I am not too proud to accept donations.  I will keep an eye out on craigslist for super cheapies.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

On Cloning

I want to come out straight up.....the only thing that the Catholic Church and I agree on is the issue of cloning.  I don't much wager into the genetic kind (that ethics and religion is concerned about), but the idea of trying to make an exact copy of a commercial beer leaves me colder than a bud in the back of my fridge.

I would no more want to clone a commercial beer than make an exact copy of me.  Sure, there are beers that I heart....and wish that I came up with....but while I would want to understand their mechanics, I would never seek to copy them....I would instead try to surpass them for my own tastes.

I listen to the occasional "Can You Brew It" on the Brewing Network....when the beer interests me.  I like to know from them what makes a beer tick.  I might use a technique or two someday to introduce a particular aspect of the beer into one of my own, but I can never see brewing to copy.  I have used a recipe or two as inspiration....(only one recipe have I even come close to copying) or a basis....but I don't think I have compared it side by side (as cloning's goal is).....I figure, if it is that good, it is worth buying.  I am trying to make something unique and perfect for me....selfish, I know.   If a brewer has done this already, he deserves my money.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

More on Brewing Jesus

I wonder how Charlie Papazian really feels about the state of homebrewing.  On one hand, he probably feels pretty good, AHA membership is up, demographics are changing, and things are good for his GABF.  The collaboration of craft brewers is legendary....but I can't help feeling that there is a certain something about competitions that rubs him the wrong way.....I know it does me.  I think that it is basically reprehensible to "brew for competition"....that is, to brew using techniques that will improve your score in order to increase your chance of winning.  That, to me, is akin to rebottling Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and entering it in a comp as an APA....I guess it  is not cheating per se, but wanting to win is different from brewing to win.

I don't like the idea of competitions, as each beer and brewery should be different and we should be celebrating diversity of styles.  Either you like it, or you don't.  I like many professional beers that score in the 30's, and don't like many that score in the 40's....even if I like the style.  Also, the idea that passing a test about beer judging making you a qualified and unbiased judge.  In my opinion, if I think you are an idiot, I don't think you are a good judge of beer that I would matter what your standing in the beer world.

Competition brings out the worst in people.  Beer is a social thing....and shouldn't be reduced to a 50 point score.

Still, I am starting to feel compelled to take the BJCP test to test my own knowledge about beer.  I just don't like the idea of judging a winner....or a loser.

More Pics

Our Basic Two Kettle Set Up

B-A-L-D spells bald

Beware of dog...
These are all older pictures (at least one or two iterations of brewery ago....)  At least before the HERMS HLT.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Brewing Jesus

I started homebrewing in 1994 or so.  Back then, there were few sources of materials, fewer choices of brewing ingredients, and even fewer choices for equipment.  But, at least there was a wealth of knowledge, if not from as many sources.

I, like many, bought Charlie Papazian's book The New Complete Joy of Hombrewing and read it cover to cover  multiple times before I could scrape up the money to buy equipment.  For the first few years, I owed everything I knew about brewing to Charlie and half of what I knew about beer.  Eventually, I sought other sources of information, and Al Gore invented the internet, and I was off to the races.  Still, I always used Charlie's book for small reference items.  Since I read it so thoroughly, I remember most of the information in it, just not what page it is located.

I returned recently to my dog eared copy of the book, to actually read it....and it was difficult.  It was too basic, and outdated for me to enjoy it.  I have been meaning to thumb through the latest edition to see how it has grown with our hobby.

Still, I have a warm place in my heart for this book, and doubt I will ever remove it from my library.  I have never met Charlie Papazian, but I'd like to.  He lives about 30 miles away from me in the city of Boulder, and I have heard many stories on how friendly and approachable he is.  He is a hero of mine.  He has taken his love of beer and his love of people and made an entire career or two out of it.  He made brewing good beer achievable, and reminded us that even our mistakes weren't cause for concern, but opportunities for growth.  He wrote the bible, he reminded us to "Not Worry, Have a Homebrew", and created a place for us to learn and share information in the American Homebrewers Association.  He created the Great American Beer Festival, and has traveled the world in search for the best beers, and the brewers who make them.  

For this reason, I call Charlie Papazian, the Brewing Jesus.  I imagine him, the consummate bearded hippie wiser than his years wandering the globe to spread his message.  I imagine people with WWCD? (What Would Charlie Do?) on the front of their tee shirts, and of course, the answer to that question on the back.

For all of this, I am eternally grateful of his efforts.  Even though his book no longer speaks to me, directly, his spirit lives in my heart.

Excise Tax to be Lowered on Beer

My brother sent me an article about a bill moving through congress that lowers the Federal Excise Tax on Beer.  The bill proposes to lower the excise tax from $7 to $3.50 on the first 60,000 barrels of beer and from $18 to $16 for bbl above the 60,000 threshold.  This is supposed to help small breweries compete against the larger ones.

Understanding that production brewing is a volume game with thinner margins, I fail to see the real benefit to truly small breweries.  Small breweries, however, are defined as those that brew less than 6 million barrels per year.  That is small only compared to the big three (Bud, Miller, Coors) who are in the 100 million barrel range.  For a small brewery selling what they make over their own bar, it is small potatoes.

Using my 1,000 barrel (31,000 gallons) theoretical brewery (see my Beer Math Post), which grosses me a nice cool $1,000,000 per year selling all of its beer across its own bar, it changes the dynamic by $3,500 or 0.35% per year.

I think that there isn't a great reason to compete against the large brewers.  Even Sierra Nevada and New Belgium aren't ever going to compete with those big brewers.  They are not going to start selling their six packs for a $0.10 less because they are saving that much...(it is about a dime per six pack).  They aren't going to get their production costs or materials costs down to the BMC level, even if they start producing similarly light beers, which let's hope they don't decide to do.  The lowering of the taxes will not drive up demand for their beers, either, and demand drives production and production would create jobs (in both construction and operations of breweries).

Lowering excise tax helps these extremely large "small" breweries, but it only helps them be more profitable.  And they are already profitable (look at their year over year performance for the last 5 years).  In this era of government budget cutting and service slashing, lowering taxes actually is doing more harm than good for this nation while doing literally nothing for most people, and helping a very small group of owners, stockholders, and executives of defined "small" and real large breweries alike.  It doesn't help a brewery open, start, or expand.

Maybe, just maybe, it will save a brewery that is in trouble.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Brew day

I have been distracted for the last few days, due to an auction of a brewery in Boulder.  The Colorado Draft House in Boulder closed in January.  They had a nice building a few blocks off of the Pearl Street Mall (read high rent), a 10 bbl system, and only average beer.  A friend of mine brought the auction to my attention, and I bid on three things.  I need a mash paddle, and there was a lot of them with some "glassware" (a box of hydrometers and other test equipment and a few books and binders), hoses (which was a pile of various hoses, including approximately 50 or more feet of the silicone hose I use (3 bucks a foot everywhere else), and about 400 pounds of Canadian and German malts.  I quickly bid up the malt to about $150, and last I checked was $220.  The hoses went up into the high tens (my last bid was $60), and I actually retained the highest bid for the mash paddles....but alas, I didn't get it as the whole brewery was also offered wholesale, and that bidding went up to $118,000 (which in my estimation, was a decent price) at the end, which netted more than the piecemeal lots.  So, I lost.

Also, got done with another brew day, still working on the heat exchange system, more work needs to be done.  We started hot and stayed that way.  Mashed about 160.  It is a brown ale, so I am not worried about it, but it wasn't what was desirable....also, lesson learned....stainless steel is hot (duh) and the edges will slice like a hand has multiple wounds.  Here is some pics of our fermentation.  Outside, the Marzen/Oktoberfest continues....inside the keg, brown.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Not so much

Not a Ranger
I was having too much fun with NB's website!

Not a Ranger!

20th Anniversary

I read today that New Belgium is celebrating its 20th Anniversary.  That means that I discovered craft beer 18 years ago....I moved to Fort Collins in 1993, O'Dell's, New Belgium, and HC Berger had been established only a short while....and none of it was a sure thing.  It doesn't seem like that long.

For its 20th anniversary, they are going to do something with their Fat Tire to make it into a Grand Cru.....they haven't quite established what yet....I am excited to try it.  I may end up buying a New Belgium style coupler to just buy one of their kegs, if I like it.

New Belgium is also planning on opening a brewery elsewhere in the US this year....although they haven't said where.  Nice.  Happy Birthday NB.  You make us all feel old....I am a Ranger from way way back!!!!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Stout Month

February was Stout Month at the Vine Street Pub/Mountain Sun/Southern Sun Breweries, and it took me until the very end of the month to find my way there with a wad of cash (they don't accept credit cards) to blow on Stout.  The Vine Street is the closest future brewery to my house.  It eventually will be the main brewery for the Mountain Sun chain (out of Boulder, CO) which also includes the Southern Sun (in South Boulder).  The brewery part of Vine Street has been seemingly under construction for years.  I think that they must be paying cash (a theme with them) and constructing as they go.  I always look in the window in back, and I am almost certain nothing has moved in the three or four months I have been away.

Anyway, for Stout Month, Mountain Sun brews a number of their own Stouts and feature others from around the state (mostly).  I had more than a few, so forgive me (I wasn't driving), but my favorite was an Imperial Russian with the catchy name of Nihilist from Mountain Sun.  I also had to try a mint/chocolate flavored stout aptly named Girl Scout Stout...this one was the 2010 winner of the Stout Month homebrewers competition.  It was all about the mint, no doubt, but I couldn't say it was one that I would return to.

Ironically, my favorite types of Stouts are the sweet or milk stouts (or sometimes referred to as English stout).  But I didn't drink a one during this session.

Every year, I swear I will go back earlier and often during Stout Month, but sadly, I almost never carry cash.