Tuesday, December 17, 2013


I got a fun comment on my blog dated 9/11....I am just getting around to it now in December.  The comment chastised me for rambling on about cans and glassware on my Vessels and Containers post in April 2013.

It is 5F at the beer garden.  

Imperial Stout saves the day.

I have been told by this poster that I should never drink directly from cans or bottles....but I never spoke about that....I don't prefer to drink beer from the container, but I do occasionally sip from cans and bottles.....and it doesn't bother me if others do.  I just don't tend to buy beer in cans, and that is for some unusual unreasonable prejudice that I can't identify.... Cans are better if you have concerns about quality or age.  Bottles are fun to hold in your hand and can be used as a weapon.

Likewise, glassware is a personal consumption preference, like shotgunning or keg stands (I don't tend to do those either).  If you enjoy unusual or proper glassware for each beer, and that increases your enjoyment....great.  If you just want a shaker style pint glass....by all means.  If you are drinking for enjoyment, each aspect of a great beer presented in the way that you enjoy it is the best way...but not the only way you may or might enjoy it.  

So, anonymous person who commented on my blog....thanks for reading it, and sharing your knowledge.  I think your opinions are right and valid.  I agree somewhat, but that wasn't what the post was about.  It was about me and my changing opinions about such things, and probably why it rambled more than you might have liked.  I have become more egalitarian about the issue, and a lot of issues about beer.  That is probably why I don't post as much anymore.

For everyone else, if you have comments, you are welcome to post them.  I don't get around to moderating as quick as I should, but I do like to have a dialog about beer.  I learn more that way.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Opps, I did it again!

My new best friend...sorry Dave, I invited Jim over to homebrew.
It has been since June since I last checked in on my blog....and it is never for a lack of things going on beer wise around here, but rather just the opposite.

I have just been too busy to brew, rebuild my keggerator, or help launch my brother's brewery....

With all the new brewery openings, winning gold medals for our Oktoberfest, the GABF, and the Pints for Prostates Rare Beer Tasting and all....it seems that I have fallen in with a rough crowd.
Dave and my buddy Jim drinking Sam Adams Utopia at Rare Beer V.
It is time to get back to brewing, trying to get it together for this weekend.  Dave and I have been fighting (via text) about what to brew.  I have been embarrassingly UN-accommodating.  I need to get over myself and just brew whatever....and brew it good.

I do have some other projects I need to get back to as well.  I need to build a collar for my keggerator so I can use all of my faucets.  And look into some new equipment as well.  This hobby is supposed to be fun, after all.

Gold.  I was sad they didn't put a plaque on the Maas this year, but it our first actual medal.
After the Great American Beer Festival, I was finally able to answer the age old question..."What's a day without beer?"  Answer:  The day after GABF and Denver Beer Week...I was/am a little burnt out on beer, whew!

Me playing firefighter at work.  I can't believe they paid me for this!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Pike's Peak Brewing Company Rebrands!

I think I first spoke about Pike's Peak when I served their beer at the first GABF I voluenteered at.  They are one of my favorite breweries, but I have had a hard time figuring out why.  The beer is good, they have simple food, it is located between my brother's and my house, more times than not when I am there, the brewer comes and says hi (he may or may not recognize me from previous encounters...just not know who I am)....
Ironically, the service there has been spotty....yet, I grant them a pass (for some reason) on this.  They do a nice business, and have a nice crowd, but who doesn't?  I like the rebranding, it means that they are serious taking the next step.  I would love some swag!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Beer interrupted

My home made keggorator gave up the ghost yesterday. The chest freezer
I bought on Craigslist for $80 lasted 5 years.

Luckily, the temp controller and all the other hardware can be reused.

Sent from my iPhone

Friday, May 10, 2013

The Denver Post: Study of rare hops-loving blue butterfly gets boost from brewer

Humans are not the only hop loving beings here on the Front Range.

A quarter-sized butterfly with blue-and-purple wings and rarely seen along Colorado's Front Range is a mystery to researchers who only know that it loves hops even more than the state's legions of beer geeks. View Full Story

This e-mail was delivered by machines from the following IP addresses [],[].
* Please note, the sender's email address has not been verified.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Beer drone? Festival goers may see booze fall from the sky

I am uncertain if this is a brilliant use of technology, or a waste of decent brainpower.  Most likely the later.  How does a drone check your ID?

Beer drone? Festival goers may see booze fall from the sky
Shared via the CNET Application

Sent from my iPhone

Thursday, April 25, 2013

vessels and containers

The business of beer is also the business of packaging and delivery.  After Budweiser (AB In Bev) announced their latest gimmick can, and Sam Adams introduced their special craft improving can, and Dogfish Head in collaboration with other breweries developed the IPA glass, a friend of mine asked me about containers and glassware.

I seem to recall discussing this in a past post, but after a few years and a few hundred posts now, I can't seem to find where I had discussed it before, and therefore am in high danger of contradicting myself.  I am okay with this, but if you peruse my blog in reverse and find my comments on this topic in 2008 or 09 or10, I would like to revisit my thoughts.

As I recall, at the time, I felt that glassware is a matter of personal preference.  I am not sure what I felt my favorite glass was at the time, but I think I had a couple of German beer (pilsener and alt?)glasses that I got at an after GABF party at Rock Bottom that I liked.  Both being promotional glassware, broke in the dishwasher over time.  I also owned a couple of Sam Adam's lager glasses, and were thoroughly unimpressed...also they broke in the dishwasher.  My favorite "regular" glasses recently were ones I purchased from Great Divide and Wit's End...they were thin walled glasses, and suffered eventual death by dishwasher also.  The Wit's End glass died last week, exactly 1 week after I got to tell Scott Witsoe (owner, Wit's End) that I still had it (from when he opened) and it was my favorite....he also mentioned that he couldn't get that glass (or it was backordered).

The glass that I seem to use the most, and also hate the most, is the standard straight sided "shaker" or American Pint.  You know this glass.  Most bars love using this glass.  It holds exactly 16 ounces of liquid, stacks without breaking, costs less than a dollar a glass to replace, and takes a hell of a beating before it breaks.  It isn't even a beer glass, per se.  It is called a shaker because it is for mixed drinks.  It fits and seals into a mixer (see Tom Cruise in Cocktail...he's still a dick).  But the real reason bar owners love the glass for beer is best exemplified by a couple simple experiments.

Fill the shaker glass to within 1 inch of its top to simulate a decent craft beer with a 1 inch head on it.  Then pour it into a measuring cup.  That 1 inch of foam represents 3-4 ounces of beer because of the shape of the glass.  You buy a pint, but get 12 ounces served.  Over a 1/2 barrel keg (15.5 gallons), you get 41 extra "pints" short serving your patrons.  $41 pints at $5 a pint is over $200 per half barrel keg, or $160 at $4 per "pint".

This doesn't fly in Europe.  You will see European Glasses with the 375 ml line or 0.5 L line for proper beer measure.  This is by law.

Here in America, buyer beware. It isn't that I care so much, as I almost never need to drink more beer, but it is what you end up paying for a beer.

So, does glassware matter.  I used to say no....but I have not done any blind taste tests.  There was a premium glass maker that did a demonstration at one of our local brewing supply shops for $40, you got to sample 3 beers in their different glasses as intended for their styles (compared to shakers) and at the end got to keep their glasses.  I got permission to attend from my wife, but was too late to sign up, so for me, the jury is out.

I know my brother and I like to drink big beers out of fluted goblets, and I have an awesome English pint glass from Sierra Nevada (from the rare beer tasting in 2009), and some nice smaller glassware for tasting, and enjoying lesser amounts.

When it comes to cans.  I can't get on the bus.  I don't like drinking from a can, and when I buy a six pack, it is 90% or more from 12 ounce bottles....only if I need cans or if I can't get a beer that I want to drink in 12 ounce  bottles do I buy cans, bombers, or 375ml or 750ml sized beers.  I can't recall buying craft beer in a can....ever....but, I don't go to picnics, concerts, or elsewhere where a can can be consumed and a bottle can't.  I am more likely to fill my stainless steel growler with something (local or home brewed) before I buy a can.

This is even though cans are better vessels to store beer (think very small kegs) away from light, they are light weight (ecological to ship and carry), and can be 100% recycled.  I am a can bigot.  I do reuse my bottles....so minus the recycle argument....but still.

So, it is still a personal preference....but I do think it actually matters.  Glassware focuses the attributes of the beer, and makes it look or feel more appealing (like high heels on the fairer sex)....the shaker glass is horrible for everything except the seller, but if it makes you comfortable, it is the right glass for you.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

What the fuck are you talking about?

A little fun from us beer Geeks to you non-geeks.


Monday, April 22, 2013

Filling in the Map

Over the weekend, I had the chance to speak to a gentleman that was opening up a brewery in my neighborhood.  He is occupying an old Denver Fire Department location on 38th Avenue a few blocks west of Quebec in the Park Hill Neighborhood.

I have always coveted this building, as fire houses are cool, and breweries installed in old fire houses are even cooler.....unfortunately, they won't be making use of the copius amounts of vertical space (or the fire pole) in this location.

This article appeared this week regarding a brewery to open in old Aurora with plenty of incentives.

These two sites were two of my three targeted areas for my own brewery (back when I had no job, and was seriously considering it) in early 2010.  These two sites fill out a large gap in the map of Denver Breweries that just happened to be close to my house.

I will look forward to trying them out.  And will watch their progress with a high amount of interest.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Reflecting on beer judging

After 3 days and 4 sessions of judging at the 1st round of the National Home Brew Competition, I spent the better part of yesterday and today reflecting upon the experience.

Here are my random thoughts.

1. Tasting beer is the only way to get better at tasting beer.  I critically evaluated about 40 beers in three days, and each time I checked my comments with a beer professional or a national ranked judge (BJCP).  What I found was that for 3 of the 4 sessions, I actually did pretty good, and then I got a ball breaker of a national judge, and a difficult style that I don't have a ton of experience with (Bocks, including Maibock, Tradtional Bock, Doppelbock, and Eisbock).  I haven't drunk a lot of them, and never made one....but nearing the end, I was improving.

2. Judging beer is the most difficult drinking you will ever do.  I started on Saturday morning at 9am after two previous nights of judging from 6-9pm.  I did not feel like drinking beer anymore.

3.  There is a lot of crappy beer being made by homebrewers (and new professional brewers, too).  The average score for all beers is probably 28 out of 50.  I believe that is because that judges are too kind.  The minimum score for any "beer" (one that is undrinkable) is 12 or 13.  If homebrewers are submitting their best beers to the NHC, there is a crap-ton of bad beer still being made.

4. I actually submitted two beers that I thought weren't very good (certainly not champions), just for feedback.  This is not a competition to get good feedback, however, but I proved that people aren't putting their best beers forward (all of the time).

5. Most judges are doing the best they can under the less than ideal circumstances, but some are truly assholes.  I have been observing judging at NHC for three years now....most of the comments are honest and you can bank on them, some are crazy (even from "experienced" judges).  There is no way to tell the difference, however, so assume that if two judges said the beer was bad, don't delude yourself, it is bad.

My most interesting observation was when a pair of judges that I was sitting with had a bad (infected) beer, they asked the steward to bring the second bottle (if a beer is being considered for best of show the second bottle is used, if the first bottle is infected, the second bottle is evaluated in the standard judging), and the second bottle had a host of different issues than the first (both were as bad as bad can be).  I joked that they should evaluate both, and send a bill for an additional entry fee.

6.  I am not sure how I feel about judging beer....it isn't fun, but the people are great.  If I pass the BJCP exam, I will be happy (to have passed by never studying and never ever actually judging a beer in my life under any circumstances), and I will likely judge 1 or 2 competitions a year (I would like to try one that isn't the Nationals), if I don't, I am not certain I will pursue it....I will have to decide at some near term about this....I like knowing and learning, and don't have another good venue for growth...but judging beers sort of sucks, and the exam sucks even worse.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Holding my own on third day of NHC

Sent from my iPhone

Friday, April 19, 2013

One of the Coolest Things Ever...

So, I found myself sitting at a table across from the head brewer and founder at Blue Moon Brewing Company (perhaps you've heard of it?), and we are tasting and discussing the merits of some homebrewed Porters in front of us.  This was an unusual and unexpected treat for me.

I volunteered as a judge at the first night of the 1st round Mountain Regional National Homebrew Competition last night and was paired with a more experienced judge to work on the Porter entries.  That experienced judge just happened to be Keith Villa.  He is the originator of the recipe for Blue Moon Belgian Wit, and can be credited for bringing the Belgian Wit Style to the American masses.  If that wasn't enough, he has a quite impressive resume in earning his PhD from the University of Brussells earning many awards for his beers, and regularly judges beers at the GABF, World Beer Cup, and Japan Craft Beer festival.  He's been brewing professionally since the early 90's and a homebrewer since the mid eighties.  He looks about 35.

I felt extremely foolish judging and talking about the beers before us, but Keith was very kind and extremely patient with me.  It is like being asked to judge a local blues guitar competition and being paired with Eric Clapton or someone similar.  I learned more than a few things last night from him, and will be a better judge as a result.  My first judging experience couldn't have been better.

I am volunteering tonight and all day tomorrow for this competition.  If I get paired with as nice as and as knowledgeable people as Keith, I will be a lucky guy.  At any rate, it will be informative and interesting....but it won't be easy.  There were more than a few mediocre or worse beers, and very few excellent ones last night.

When I think about a long and distinguished career such as Keith's, I wonder what could have been if someone told me when I was young that it was even possible to brew your own beer, or have a profession in brewing.  I am certain that school counselors were prevented by law from making this suggestion to someone like me.  I grew up after the Brewery on Gratiot (Stroh's. Detroit, Michigan) was already gone, but I always had a fascination.  I don't know how long Detroit went without having any breweries.  Maybe a decade?  It wasn't a highly sought after profession in my neck of the woods, but even still....I am saddened by the thought as I sit in my beige cubicle.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Re: Learning to Like Pilsener

After discovering craft beer 20 years ago, I have often said that I am not much of a lager person.  After discovering American Craft Beers (mostly ales), and then exploring the English style ales, I have been describing myself as a "Malt Guy".  It has taken a full decade to learn about first Belgian styles and then turn my attention back to lagers.  I am still not much of a lager guy, but I do love my malty Oktoberfests, Bocks, and Helles.

German Pilsner has been ruined by my formative years drinking American Style Pilseners (or light lagers as described by the Beer Judge Certification Program).  When I look at a Pilsener, my mind thinks of the watered down American type....so I have a rude shock to taste a more aggressive hop profile and that sulfury lager yeast taste/aroma.

I have had to teach myself to like them again....I used to like the mass produced German varieties (think Becks, or Heinekin) as a precursor to craft beer.  Now that local breweries are making them, I am finding that they are a nice alternative on a beautiful spring day.  They certainly are easy drinking, and very beautiful in a nice Pilsner Glass.

Friday, March 29, 2013

The Grass is Getting Green!

With the outside temperature pushing 20 or more degrees above that of my quickly emptying keggerator, my thought turns to summer beers.  I am needing to brew, and now is the time to put some hot weather beers in the can.

I actually got a request (rare) to brew my wheat beer.  It is a beer that while I never fell in love with was light and non-wheaty and served a nice twist on the lawnmower beer.  In recent years I have been experimenting with watermelon in it (which has been well recieved by all but me), but maybe it is time again to brew a naked version.  I don't know.

My summer brewing schedule is needing to start taking shape, however.  So far, if we hold to tradition, we have only the watermelon wheat, which is a late summer brew (watermelons ripen in June, so the beer is ready in July/August.  I need a plan.

So, what should we brew this summer?

We have loose plans to brew a Gratzer (in German) or Grodziskie in my family's native tounge, which is a smoked wheat beer indiginous to Poland.  For me, it is about getting back to my roots, and interesting, but not sure how I will like it.  But it is different, and I know a guy with a smoker, so I may be able to smoke my own wheat malt, just to make it a little more interesting.

I have been enjoying the Helles style, but there isn't much to it and my window of opportunity for lagers is kind of closing.

I am interested in a Steam Beer again, but I have been disappointed with my attempts at this style compared to a fresh beer on tap from that certain brewery in San Francisco that owns the trademark.  Perhaps I need to find my own version of this beer away from the clone.

Sour Mash something.  After tasting the Sour Mashed Red Saison from Black Shirt Brewing, I am aroused by the thought of trying a sour mash to impart a tartness in a beer.  But which beer should I choose?  I am not sure I am up for a full-on Berliner-weiss.

Saison.  I have fallen in love with some local examples of this style, but each of them is so different.  I thought I would wait until mid summer and ferment this beer relatively warm, but haven't given a thought as to the type or variety that I could employ.  Saison translates to season, so it is a beer made from the fresh ingredients on-hand.

Mild Ale.  Being a malt forward kind of guy, this style has not gone well for us, and there are not many commercial examples to point to.  Locally, Pike's Peak Brewing keeps theirs as a regular offering, and Dry Dock and Copper Kettle have them as one-offs or occasional seasonals.  Our last example was a 2nd runnings from our Barley Wine, and I had a love-hate relationship.  I though it was okay when I just poured one, but I thought it was awful when I poured one after having something else.  It doesn't inspire confidence in me, but I feel like it (along with Brown Ale) is a style that could be a nice choice in the session beer catagory.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting

A friend of mine pointed out that I didn't give any information about this picture that I posted on Saturday night.  I truly phoned it in, so to speak.

Anyway, my brother delivered to me our kegs of our once still-born Oktoberfest and we took the opportunity to visit a couple of local breweries.  The picture above is from Black Shirt Brewing in the River North neighborhood of Denver.

Black Shirt is a one of those hard to find, easy to miss type places.  Hard to find at first (the building is a windowless early 20th Century brick shop next to a little liquor store with the letters BSB stamped on the side of the building.  It is easy to begin to miss, because the beers are so good.

Once inside, the place was packed with locals and regulars.  I was told by some folks from the neighborhood that it is always this way.

Black Shirt is also notable as they only serve red beers.  It seems sort of limiting, but at the same time inviting.  If you are a long time craft drinker (like me), your gateway beers started somewhere between Leinenkugel's, Killian's, Fat Tire, 90 Shilling, or Avalanche.  It was a time that dark meant Guinness Stout, and every national brewery was making Ice Beer.  The choices weren't many, but you'd always be safe with a nice malty, red (amber ale) beer.  Even still, whenever there is a very limited selection, you can usually find one of these "safe" type beers.

Black Shirt takes safe and turns it around.  All of their beers are delicious, and red, but few follow the "safe" route.  Sure their basic BSB Red and Pale Red are almost sessionable, my personal favorite was their sour mashed Red Saison...slightly tart and effervescent.  Nothing is so overpowering or unusual that anyone can find their home beer here.

For the red (read safe) beer lover, you can find yourself in some interesting territory pretty quick, but not so unfamiliar that makes you uncomfortable.  And if you feel like you have lost your way, the friendly servers are always quick to get you back on track.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Another test

Having cider at cedar creek pub!


I am playing with the ability to post stuff from my phone. This will
allow me to share deep thoughts from illicit places where I don't have
access to a computer. I am hoping that photos will work, too. It
should make my site a little more interesting/timely.

Also, did you know that my blog is optimized for mobile as well? Check
me out anytime!

Sent from my iPhone

So Who Reads this and Why?

I never really believed that this blog would be widely read (and it isn't).  It is merely a personal journal of sorts about my experiences brewing and in the world of craft beer.  I am sure it is interesting to no one that doesn't already know me (and even then...).

I do get a small amount of traffic from around the world, however, and some of it is repeat customers from interesting corners of the earth.  Being the curious type, I always want to know why.

So, if you would help me understand, post a comment and tell me how you stumbled into my little virtual microbrewery world, why, and if there is anything else you'd like to see, or what you are enjoying, or hating.  Tell me what you are brewing or drinking, or doing.  Keep it clean, as my mom sometimes wanders in.

I will post the responses, provided I can read them (I only can barely understand English....I am an American after all) and we can have a discussion from time to time?

In the meantime, Cheers!

Denver, CO

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

All's Well that Ends Well

I just realized that I never posted an update to the NHComp.  After the whole system crashed around me on registration day, the American Homebrewers Association stopped the registration.  You can read about it and the apology from the AHA at the AHA website.

After they sorted everything out, I got an e-mail that since I had logged in but didn't get beers registered that I would have a 2nd chance to do so.  Which I did.  I ended up putting two beers forward.  The two beers were our 2012 Barley Wine (extract recipe) as an English Style BW, and our 2013 Barley Wine (all grain recipe) as an American BW.  I don't necessarily think that these are really contenders to go all the way, I just want to get feedback on them to support or re-align my thoughts on them.  I figure that they will score between 28-33 points, not bad, but not likely high enough to get into the top three and a chance to move on to the finals.

The beers themselves are nice, but not assertive.  I don't necessarily believe that Barely Wines should be assertive (especially the English variety).  Some might disagree, but I believe that due to aging and strength that strong flavors should age out and be a more rounded "soft" beer.  Sharp hop bitterness and high roast character shouldn't be the mainstay of a Barley Wine.  I think of some casserole type dishes that taste better as leftovers (such as lasagna or chili) as the flavors meld and begin to compliment or work together.  This is (in my opionion) is the differentiation between the Barely Wine and the Imperial IPA or Imperial Stout that take one or two elements and elevates them.  I think of the scene in the 1980's movie Risky Business where Tom Cruise's character is admonished by his father that the stereo's equilizer is not a toy.  The settings his father had set is the barleywine.  The Imperials are what Cruise's character does in the beginning of the Old Time Rock n' Roll Scene.

Our BW's are not assertive, it is just if they are percieved to not have the alcholic strength, hoppiness, etc., or if I get a judge that thinks the assertiveness of certain attributes should be present to an offensive level, we will be on the lower end of the spectrum.  If I get a set of judges that think like I do, we might surprise....other flaws notwithstanding.

At any rate, I know that I won't be judging the Barleywines at the 1st round here in Denver as a result.

The beer that I had hoped to enter in the competition was the 3rd rendition of our award winning Oktoberfest/Marzen.  The windowell was probably both our downfall and our saving grace.  Our windowell lager series for last 5 or so years had us putting our beer outside in my brother's basement windowell to ferment.  This year, it proved to be too cold, and the yeast fell out of suspention before they even got started.  I think we pitched the yeast a little cooler than we had in years past, so that the beer was cold and getting colder while the yeast were trying to get going.  That and the yeast weren't raging yet as we pitched.  But, the cold probably had the effect of keeping our wort (and yeast) in the refridgerator for a few weeks.  While that isn't a practice you want to make a habit out of, it stayed well preserved and kept bacteria at bay as well.  We warmed the beer to 58F and re-pitched healthy Bavarian Lager yeast (couldn't find more Oktoberfest blend) and it fermented, albeit too late for nationals.  Time will tell how it ends up tasting.

Maybe we can find a local competition to put it in.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Denver Post Beer Night

I am going to let you in on a little secret on where I get a lot of my information.  It really is no secret, as I always cite my sources, especially when I talk to brewery people where I heard about them.  I enjoy the Denver Post's Blog, First Drafts by Eric Gorski.

Last night, my brother and I attended First Draft's 1st Craft Beer Roundtable at Wynkoop Brewery.  I got to thank Eric for hosting the symposium, but I really didn't get a chance to hang around and talk as I would have liked as my brother and I both needed to feed the Denver parking meters.  We did come back to have dinner and beers at Wynkoop (thanks Wynkoop for hosting the event).

The speakers were Chad Yakobson, from Crooked Stave Brewery (Denver, CO), Brad Lincoln from Funkwerks Brewery (Fort Collins, CO), and my friend Kevin DeLange from Dry Dock Brewing (Aurora, CO), speaking about their experiences in the past, their current challenges, and where the future of craft beer in Colorado are heading.

The answers weren't all that surprising.  There was talk about the saturation point of breweries in Colorado/Denver especially, and the importance of differentiation and locality as secrets to success for new brewers.  There was a discussion about the Brewers Association coming out against the big breweries for creating faux craft brands and how that doesn't make sense from these brewer's perspective, and a number of other topics.

The most surprising things came from my brother's mouth.  Firstly, he wondered aloud if we should have moved to open a brewery three or four years ago when we first started talking about it and if we "missed it".  The answer is probably yes.  If there was a good time to do it, 2008 was as good as any time you will ever see.  But, facing facts....we make too much money doing what we currently do.  We'd have to keep our day jobs, and all of our endeavors (including our relationships with kids and spouses) would suffer.  That, and we'd have to decide on a location that was either close to Denver or Colorado Springs.  I think the surprising take away is, that some day in the future, one or the other of us will come to the other and say...."Let's Do IT!, and we just might.

The other thing is my brother's new(ish) affinity for saisons.  His tastes continue to evolve as he learns and experiences.  I bet we will try brewing one soon.

We have also made loose plans to try a Polish-Germanic smoked wheat beer called a Gratzer that the Brewer's Association just recently included syle guidelines for.  Again, First Drafts reported on it here....again, where I seek information about local beer things.

It was nice to go out, but it being Tuesday, we wanted to check out Black Shirt Brewing, Our Mutual Friend, or one of the other breweries up in River North, as a nightcap (around 9pm), but all of these small artisinal places are not open late, nor until nearer the weekend.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Beer Judging Certification Program, part 2

Over the weekend, I re-took the BJCP exam here in Denver.  I initially offered to give up my seat to anyone on the waiting list, but the organizer informed me that he had plenty of spaces avaliable, and I wouldn't be taking up wanted/needed space.

I was much more relaxed at this testing.  Knowing what to expect, and knowing that I at least know a little about beer, made the experience much more enjoyable.  Did I do any better?  No, probably not.

I did get my exam sheets and the proctor scores (along with beer info) last night.  Here's the info:

Beer 1:

Judged as a German Pilsner

Proctor Total Score: 40
My Score 39

The beer was a Heinekin Light.  I actually said in my overall impression that it was a nice beer with nice balance, but perhaps too light in body and hop character for the style (I almost said "this tastes like a light beer")....

Beer 2: 

Judged as a Belgian Wit

Proctor Score: 35
My Score: 36

This beer was a homebrewed version.  I don't think I did particularly well with the descriptions...but I felt it looked, smelled, and tasted as it should.

Beer 3:

Judged as an American IPA

Proctor Score: 34
My Score: 36

In reality, this beer was a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale (from a can), which is the archtype for an American Pale Ale.  This is the organizer trying to be sneaky.  I actually loved this beer, had nothing bad to say about it except not quite to style (that is why I scored it so high...nice beer).  I actually typo'd that " hops were a little low for an American APA style"....I meant to say "American IPA", but I was thinking that this was a nice APA.  I hope they give me credit for my brain getting ahead of me on this.... 

Beer 4:

Proctor Score: 32
My Score: 28

Judged as an American Barley Wine

In reality, it was an Am Barley Wine, Old Ruffian by Great Divide.

I dinged it for not enough malt body to support hops....that probably wasn't it, but this was my second worst score (off by 4, is still acceptable).

Beer 5

Proctor Score: 37
My score: 29

Judged as a Robust Porter.

This was my worst score (off by 8), and I don't know if I should be ashamed or not.  The porter catagory is one that I supposedly know a little more about, but this beer to me, was high on roast (as it should be), but didn't have a supporting maltiness in the body and was thin in the mouthfeel.  I felt it was more like a Stout in this respect, which may mean that I have the two switched in my head.  I should have stated that I thought it would have been more well recieved as an export/foriegn stout, or even a coffee stout....

Beer 6

Proctor Score: 42
My Score: 44

Judged as a Flander's Red.

This was a homebrew.  It was another sneaky attempt by the test organizer.  When I was reviewing for the exam, I literally passed over reviewing all of the sour beer catagories saying to myself "they'll never give us one of those".  The reason being is that they are still pretty rare here and take a long time (especially those made to style), expensive  buy (from Belgium), and may suffer from age related problems when imported.  When they announced the style, I muttered to myself "well played evil organizer, well played".  Most other test takers I spoke to thought it was too acetic (sour, vinegar is acetic acid), but this to me is the dominating factor of most Flanders Reds I have tried.  The exception is the Duchess of Bourgogne, which is the most tame Flanders Red I have ever had.  I usually stay away from this catagory.

The beer smelled just like the Duchess....but was more sour.  I couldn't find fault with that (since my experience).  This is such an advanced and relatively rare beer syle, I feel like it is almost unfair.

All in all, I did a little better in the scoring than I did the first time (off by 1 or two in 4 of 6 beers...and sometimes landing in between the master judge proctors), and probably no better (if not worse) describing the beers.  Did I pass?  Again, probably....but I have to wait 3 or more months to find out.

I am likely to find out about my first exam just before the AHA's 1st round of their National Competition.  I may be judging rather than stewarding this time, since I know they need the help.

finally fermenting.

Report from Skeptical Brewing's Southern location (aka my brother's basement) is that after weeks of the Oktoberfest yeast sitting around like Teamsters on strike, the beer is now happily fermenting after we brought in scab yeast in the form of Bavairan Lager.  I don't know if this MP4 file will work, but here's proof:

It sort of looks like the Alien Autopsy, but what do you expect from us?

Of course, I know everyone here was worried, but it isn't time to breathe a collective sigh of releif yet.  In the 3 or 4 weeks the beer has been "sitting" out in the cold, we can only hope that our sanitation practices, combined with the cold temperatures subdued any bacteria as much as or more than our yeast.  With the temperature warm up, the bacteria could have gotten a head start or a foothold before our Bavarians (barbarians?).

We will have beer, but it may not be the award winner we are used to, nor will it be the same.  Could it be better?  Yes, sure, anything's possible, but we need to take good care of it from here on out.

Lager yeast (as we have now been painfully reminded) are tempermental beasts, and need pretty precise temperature control, and then a lengthy cold storage for them to condition the beer the way they need to.

I know my brother was planning to get this into the keg and let it sit to wait for an opening in his fridge.  I am planning on getting this keg and keeping it extremely cold until fall.  I am especially worried about any bacteria that may have been present.  We may be able to tell on kegging if it is okay (or okay for now), but only time will tell.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

More on the National Homebrew Competition

The American Homebrew Association (AHA) forum has been all abuzz about the issues regarding the registration for the National Homebrew Competition.  For those of you who are unaffilliated, the AHA yearly holds a two round national competition that is limited to approximately 8,200 beers.  Their limit this year is 15 beers per participant.  Unfortunately, from prior events and year's past, all homebrewers concerned with getting into the competition know that it will sell out, and almost everybody and their brother (not mine) logged into the system at 1pm Mountain to register.

Some got in, most did not.  I am one of the disappointed many.  I had intended to enter 3 beers, but as luck would have it, I also found out that our windowell Oktoberfest beer did not ferment (it stuck at 1.058).  So, at best we would have put in two beers between my brother and I.

Just as well.  While my brother is looking to get the ferment going at a more reasonable inside/basement temperature with a fresh pitch of yeast, I am starting to think about brewing again.

And besides, I now have room in my kegerator.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Trouble On Both Ends of the Spectrum

It appears that AB In-Bev (or whatever they are calling themselves after they swallow up the rest of Modelo) is being sued for defrauding their customers out of alcohol content and watering down their product.  You can read about it here.


If true, this is pretty sad.  I recently read the book "Bitter Brew" by William Knoedelseder that chronicoled the history of Anheuser-Busch and the Busch family exploits from about the end of prohibition to the end of the family running the business.  Their forefathers were very concerned with quality and tradition while expanding to the biggest and most outlandish beer company ever.  Gussie Busch is rolling in his grave.

I do wonder, however, if the common practice for modern industrialized breweries of brewing at a higher gravity and then diluting down to package strength is being highlighted.  It is just a way to get more final capacity out of your ferementers.

Too bad.  I was kind of a fan of regular Bud when there isn't any other decent choice (or it is extremely hot).  I try to stay away from any of the big breweries big name brands just on principle however....but I do cop to an occasional PBR.

On the other end of the spectrum, there is trouble brewing at the American Homebrewer's Association as well.  For the 4th or 5th consecutive event in the last year, they have had public relations problems associated with their on-line registrations.  Today it was the registration for the National Homebrew Competition.  I tried at 1:05pm to register, and got as far as entering my info, before it kicked me out.  I had to do it on my smart phone because my work's computer isn't upgraded to the latest version of Internet Explorer that the AHA required to register (strike 1 for my employer, my crappy work computer, and shame on the AHA).  It wouldn't have mattered anyway, because my work blocked my access to the site anyway (strike 2 for work).  The registration site wasn't optimized for mobile so I had to zoom in and out to read what I was trying to do (strike 2 for AHA), and then I couldn't register my beers (I intended to put in 3 beers....strike 3.

I guess they had to shut the whole thing down, but I am told most of the competition is sold out.  If true, I have been shut out of the NH Comp, didn't get a discounted room for the 2012 NH Conference, shut out of the member's only session of the GABF, and was shut out of the 2011 NH Conference in Seattle.  Apparently, they are victems of their own success.

I am trying to be part of the solutions....I am trying to become a qualified beer judge, I have volunteered at the 2011 and 2012 GABF and National Homebrew Competition Qualifier as a steward, and intend to do it again in 2013 (maybe as a judge if they want me).  All I ask for is a hassle free experience.  I still think they need to restrict entry to one beer per person (the limit this year was set at 15), eliminate the Ninkaski Award (to the most medaled homebrewer in the comp), bump up the cost per beer entry, and/or institute a lottery system for entries.

Furthermore, perhaps they need 2 members only sessions at the GABF (while adding a fourth day overall).  I guess next step is to try to get on the AHA governing committee.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Next Move

I have been obsessing over our latest Oktoberfest from afar.  It has been quietly sitting in my brother's basement windowell for nearly 3 weeks.  And in all that time my brother hasn't observed any sign of fermentation from the blow off tube.  That is not to say it isn't happily (albeit slowly) fermenting away in its dark, sugar rich environment....it is just that I can't see it.  The switch to a closed keg fermentation from two carboys makes the process much safer and involves less to clean, but it doesn't give a nice view of the action.  Couple that with the fact that the yeast pack wasn't fully raging when we pitched (and the yeast themselves were 4 months old), and it has me way beyond curious to the point of neurotic.

If it was at my house, I am pretty certain that I would have stuck my nose in it to see what I could.  But it is probably just as well that it is living with a far more patient person in my brother.

At any rate, in the next few days he will bring it inside and warm it up.  We should see some signs of life then.  If we don't, well, then we have a problem.

If we killed it somehow, we can always re-brew it...it isn't like we have financial or some other skin in the game.  I just act like it.

Anyway, my kitchen remodel is almost done, and except for paying for it, I should be able to start worrying about brewing again.

Friday, February 1, 2013

wanted: Job.

I attended the open house for Dry Dock Brewing's new production facility yesterday.  I was invited because of my work with the owners on this project.  While the project was fun, and I feel I accomplished my goals, I can't say that this experience left me satisfied with my career.  I keep wondering what if I actually did move forward on a small tap room brewery after losing my job in 2008.  I was so close....and probably the truth is, that I chickend out.

Somehow, I feel I missed an opportunity.  It left me wondering if there is indeed something else I should be doing.  Truth be told, I have always wanted to work for a brewery....from the very first tour of a brewery (Bud Plant at Busch Gardens, Tampa Florida in 1980 when I was 10, and subsequent visits to the big breweries in St. Louis and even Coors in Golden Colorado in 1998).  Making Beer!  WOW!  I started making my own beer in 1993....but it is those big production facilities that somehow seems like a natural fit.

If you need a communications director/government relations guy and you own a brewery, let me know.  I also know how to drive a forklift, brew, and have a firm grasp of math....sort of jack of all trades.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Wrong, wrong, wrong

It was the least fun I had drinking beer in as long as I can remember.  6 beers, no references, judge on a 50 point scale in 1.5 hours.  Oh, and the beers are 2 ounce samples.

I have my doubts about the Beer Judge Certification Program.  For me, I feel like the rigid tasting process  takes away from the enjoyment of beer.  For those of you unfamiliar, there is indeed a Beer Judge Certification Program with style guidelines, rules, by laws, and a test to become certified (really there are multiple tests).  I liken it to Dungeons and Dragons for Beer Geeks.

At any rate, I wanted to try judging, as this was a way to learn and grow as a brewer, drinker, and self described knower of beer related things.  A sort of chance for me to put my mouth where my mouth was.

Well, you ask, How'd I do?  Seriously, I won't find out for a few months (yes, it is so rigorous and serious and measured that it takes multiple people many months to score and announce results), but I can tell you that I didn't do as well as I hoped, and fear that I must test again.


Let me count the reasons:

1. I can not smell beer.  If you happen to read beer reviews by master judges (in Zymurgy, or All About Beer), they seemingly can smell a butterfly's fart and can adequately describe it in three or four sentences.  I only get faint whiffs of what might smell like beer, even when I use their techniques (covering, swirling, warming it up in my hand, etc.).  I can't tell if a malty beer is roasty, toasty, nutty (let alone what type of nut) or if the hop aroma is tangerine, melon, or cat pee.  It either smells like malt or hops or nothing.

2. Phantoms: I can tell a beer is flawed (once I taste it), but had a difficult time pinning the faults down.  I was chasing phantoms and multiple issues with beers when they really had one or maybe two nominal flaws.

3. Test Anxiety: I guess I was pretty nervous.  If you know me, you know I am a pretty prolific speaker/writer with such a large vocabulary, I can't even pronounce all the words I know.  Yet, when pressed to describe the beers I was being tested on, I couldn't come up with adjectives for what I was tasting.  I couldn't even come up with adjectives (that I had read someplace else) for styles of beers I knew very well, or adjectives for tastes that I wasn't currently experiencing but knew them to be acceptable for the style.

4. Math.  Again, why in the hell was I not able to add up the scores correctly?  I am not usually challenged in this area...but had I had the time, I would have gone through and rechecked.  I found an error in at least one....but you aren't allowed to go back once they say stop.

Of course, I did do something well:  When the proctor spoke to us after the exam, he explained what we tasted.  In most of the cases, I was able to identify the flawed beers, and give a correct assessment of each beer's stylistic accuracy.  I just wasn't as eloquent as I should have or could have been and could not pinpoint specifics to save my life.

So, with more practice, perhaps I will do better next time, if I decide that there will be a next time, if I decide it is worth the hassle.   Seriously, judging beer is a difficult practice, and the certification process is rigorous.  I can't decide if that makes me want to quit or try harder to succeed.