Category Archives: General
Some Colorado State University students recently set out to make a video chronicling the making of a beer from the first hop picked to it rolling off the bottling line at Odell Brewing. They did a great job.
Earlier this week I learned about a new invention that would allow for counter-top brewing at the touch of a button. No boil overs. No burners in the garage. No worries about correct temperature control, water flow, or finding someone to watch the kids while you brew. Two questions immediately came to mind:
1. Could this be true?
2. If it is true, would I actually want to use this thing?
The “thing” that I am referring to is the Picobrew Zymatic. As of writing this, it has 5 days left to solicit investment dollars on Kickstarter. And it’s already raised over $510,000 (on a goal of $150,000.) It’s the Keurig of beer-making and, if it works like they say it does, could significantly alter the entire beer landscape as we know it.
Here are a couple of predictions.
Craft Beer sales will increasingly pull market share from the Mega-Breweries.
People who make their own beer are the same people who appreciate great beer the most. Just like people who truly know how to cook appreciate great food. Once you understand how beer is made and the effects of the different ingredients and the patience and skill it takes to make a great beer, your appreciation for craft beer is raised tremendously. This means more support for great beer and less support from the crap that the big guys have been churning out for the last century.
Local Homebrew shops will flourish.
You might be thinking “What? What the hell are you talking about? This contraption is going to kill homebrew shops – it makes brewing too easy!” Wrong. The Picrobrew only facilitates the “hot” phase of the brewing process. You’re still on your own for the fermentation phase – kind of important. You still need fermenters, equipment for yeast starters, measurement tools and, most importantly, ingredients. Barley, hops, yeast – these come from your homebrew shop and the more beer you brew, the more ingredients you need.
Your homebrew show also has KNOWLEDGE. I can’t stress this enough. The Picobrew doesn’t protect you from using a shitty beer recipe. It doesn’t teach how to formulate recipes or give you advice on what yeast to add, what additional ingredients can be added to the secondary.
It won’t replace the all-day brew sessions.
People will brew MORE 5-gallon and 10-gallon batches, not less. This thing only makes about 3 gallons worth of beer. That’s about 30 beers, which might seem like a lot until you throw a party and you’re out of homebrew within an hour. Or until you go on a business trip and realize that your wife drankyou’re your best stuff while you were gone (that’s never happened to me, of course). But the real thing is this – thie machine takes 90% of the fun OUT of homebrewing. Standing around the brew kettle on a weekend afternoon with a bunch of friends, smelling hops, judging the quality of the first runnings – that’s what it’s all about.
Bottom line for me is this: I don’t want it. It’s not just because these puppies are expected to retail for over a thousand bucks (once it’s $99 and I can buy it in SkyMall, I might take a gamble). It’s because I like the PROCESS of brewing. It’s therapeutic, rewarding, and fun. It’s the same reason I don’t own a bread machine or a push-a-button espresso maker. Others will love this thing (it’s pretty cool technology) and I think it may help raise the overall beer IQ of the population – but it’s not for me.
Family and Friends,
I’m just going to cut to the chase – I’m asking for donations. In a couple of weeks, I’ll be running the Wild West Relay for the third time. It’s a 200 mile relay race from Fort Collins to Steamboat Springs and all the money we raise goes to help Gwen’s organization (The Matthews House) serve underprivileged kids and their families right here in our own town.
You guys know that I’m crazy proud of my wife and the work that she does and supporting this race is immensely important to me. So, this year, I’m upping the ante a little bit.
Here’s the deal: If you donate more than $100 bucks, in addition to running my butt off, I’ll give you a 12 pack of homebrew. You choose the style. (Or you can donate $200 bucks and I won’t make you drink it.:)) Out of towners – I’ll mail it to you. Or you can come visit, stay at my house, and we can drink it together.
Many of you have supported me in this race in the past – thank you. And even more thanks for considering supporting me again.
The Matthews House has set up a new fundraising page this year – here’s what you do.
Visit this website: http://communityfunded.com/projects/matthewshouse/wild-west-relay-run-for-hope/
- Click on the rewards button in the middle of the page.
- Find my name – I have one award for $25 (retro western mug shot) and one for $100 (beer mug). Choose one of these two rewards and then buy as many as you can afford.
Or, you can send me $$ via paypal or mail me a check . No matter how you donate, you’ll get a donation receipt so that you can write this thing off come tax time.
Thanks again for supporting me.
OK – so here’s the deal – I am looking to finally brew a sour. This is my wife’s favorite style of beer, and she’s been after me ever since the start of TCB to brew one for here. So after many hours or research on line, reading books, and listening to podcast, I have finally decided to stop procrastinating and actually start looking into how to make a sour beer. The style of choice – Flanders Red. I’m using a base of Munich and Pale, with a little Caramunich, Aromatic, and a touch of Special B thrown in. Hops are gonna be Saaz and Fuggles to about 20 IBUs. I may back that down to 15-18. I’ve got a Belgian Ale yeast (WLP575) that I was going to use for a my last Dubbel, but opted to hold onto it for this Flanders. Mash will be pretty straight forward ~ 148° F for 75 minutes, mash out and batch sparge. Then into the primary for a week…and then the fun begins…
For bugs, I haven’t fully decided. I’ve seen three different types of brett, plus pedio and lacto. I’ve also heard of just adding a commercial sour beer or two and let those bugs do the work. Any recommendations?
Also, looking to add some oak and cherries if I can find them. Should be a fun experiment, even though it will be a few months before we know if it worked.
Be good and brew adventurous.
Last night, my sons and I needed a new project. So we built the smallest craft brewery in Fort Collins. And yes, those are runes from the Mines of Moria. We spared no expense.
It would really suck if, while you were in the middle of kegging a batch of homebrew, you didn’t notice that the end of the siphon that you had in your bucket of sanitizer had worked itself loose and was running all over your kitchen floor. And it would REALLY suck if you didn’t realize it until 4 gallons had spilled on the floor. And it would REALLY REALLY suck if, after you thought you had cleaned it all up, you realized that it had soaked through your ceiling and created a huge puddle in your finished basement. Man, that would suck.
My worlds collided this week when I received an unexpected package in the mail. It was sent by an old friend and book publishing colleague whom I don’t see often enough, but Facebook allows us to keep tabs on each other and she must have been paying attention to my various dalliances and indulgent distractions (making beer and growing facial hair, among others). The package I received contained a beautifully produced, hardcover book that I’d seen mentioned in my Instagram and Twitter feeds, but had yet to lay my hands on.
The book is entitled Craft Beerds: A well-groomed collection of craft beer labels featuring beards, sideburns and moustaches. The author is Fred Abercrombie, a self-described craft beer aficionado and lover of all things facial hair. While the book concept is hilarious and witty and the production values of the physical book are quite nice, the book publisher in me could not help wondering what courageous soul would take a risk publishing such an impulsive, small-market product. Also, it’s 268 pages of full color for only $19.95 MSRP – a crazy value for this type of book. You can see a couple sample pages on the book’s website.
So I started digging a little and things got interesting.
The book was funded through kickstarter. Over 260 individuals ponied up their hard-earned cash to see this book made – contributing more than $10,000 combined. According to the introduction in the book, that covered approximately 50% of the book’s manufacturing costs. Not bad.
It was self-published. This is an important fact in many ways. First of all – it’s not self-published in the way that most books are self-published (through one of the predatory self-publishing units of Amazon or their ilk). It’s published by the author’s design agency in California (Abercrombie + Alchemy). They apparently designed the book themselves and have some street cred in the craft beer community having done work for Lagunitas Brewing. Second, it’s a book. That’s right – ink on paper. With a binding. This concept could have easily been a just a website at a fraction of the cost, gone viral, yada, yada, yada. But it’s a physical book. The book thing is a key point – because it’s not only a smack in the face to all those “eBooks are the only future” idiots out there, it’s also an indication that people want to invest in the arts. Can you imagine if the author had tried to get this funding for a website? I suspect nobody would have contributed.
It focuses on craft beer. For those of you unaware (your loss), there’s a craft beer revolution going on in the United States (and it’s starting in the UK, too.) Craft beer sales grow while the big guys (InBev and SABMiller) lose market share and see declines in revenue. 10 years ago, a book of this magnitude would have been impossible. There simply were not enough craft brewers around to make a book of well-designed labels, much less with the additional requirement of facial hair. I love this grass-roots, locally-focused movement and we should all do whatever we can to support it. We’re also seeing what I hope is the beginning of a renaissance of independent bookstores (knock on wood) while the big box booksellers struggle.
So, to summarize all this rambling into a key takeaway, I think it’s this: People want to be part of something artistic and authentic with tangibility and a sense of permanence. Books provide the opportunity to create all of these things. And Mr. Abercrombie, who clearly had a mission and a drive to get this done was able to turn his vision into a reality.
I took the book to Equinox Brewing today, my favorite local craft brewery here in Fort Collins and donated it to their bar library. The book sparked conversation on everything from the yeast that the Rogue Brewery guys cultivated from their brewmaster’s beard to Northwest brewing legend Glen Falconer to the local mustache wax company that recently opened up in town. And, of course, this conversation happened over a pint (or two) of local craft beer. Try that with an eBook.
Act I Scene I – Steve’s Kitchen with a clean keg and 5 gallons of TCB Imperial IPA w/ Midnight Wheat. Enter Steve and Keith, empty glasses at the ready to taste the soon to be carbonated beer. Although flat, this beer has some hop muscle behind it. A few days under CO2, and this will be a tasty beverage. Ten minute to rack the IPA into the keg, close it up, and we were done. Damn, kegging is easy. Why did we ever bottle?
Act I Scene II – Steve’s Garage. Steve and Keith are now joined by Wes, David, and Ryan. I have been hearing a lot about SMaSH brewing (Single Malt and Single Hop) and wanted to give it a shot. This is a great way to really figure out how your hops and grains taste and interact. While a red doesn’t lend itself to a true SMaSH, I wanted to continue the journey of Ulysses. Subtract a few specialty grains and you’re left with pale malt and roasted barley for color. Focus in on one hop variety and we now have a “smashy” recipe. This should be a true test of how the pale malt, barley, and hops combine to make a beer…oh the anticipation…But why let the adventure stop with the grain and hop bill? Why not give a yeast starter a try? And what about aerating the beer after pitching (I saw Jonathan do this to a few brew sessions ago…how freakin’ cool was that?). For the yeast starter, I mixed up 900ml of water and DME and Yeast Nutrient in a flask and heated in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes. After the “wort” that was created cooled, I pitched the Irish Red yeast, covered the top of the flask with foil, and hoped it might actually work. Without a stirplate, I had to swirl by hand as often as possible (every few hours during the day, and once or twice in my dreams). Lots of foaming the first 12 hours…I am sure I lost a number of yeast cells from overflow (apparently determined yeast is immune to the sealing power of Reynolds…). Sunday night (about 48 hours after I mixed up the starter), I pitched it and then broke out the old aquarium air pump and brand new stainless steel airstone. Let the aeration begin…
Act II Scene I – Back to Steve’s Kitchen – Enter Wes, Steve, and Keith. Clean bottles and Starsan at the ready, it’s time to bottle Wes’ Belgian Dubbel. For those of you who don’t know the backstory here, we had a popped bung with this beer. Belgium yeast ferments fairly aggressively and overwhelmed the 6 gallon fermentor’s airlock…Twice…And of course, both Steve and I were out of town when this happened, leaving Gwen to deal with this (love ya’ Gwen!!!). After numerous SMS and phone calls, Michael was able to save the beer by scrounging up a blow-off set up from our brewing equipment. At bottling, it has a nice malty flavor and is well balanced. A few weeks in the bottles should do it just right. All in all, this Dubbel should turn out great.
Act II Scene II – Steve’s Kitchen – Wes, Steve, and Keith, each beerless, having drunk much of the beer in Steve’s fridge. More clean bottles (remind me again why we bottle?). On to the Saison Also Rises. As an English major, I thought this was a pretty clever name…Hemingway and all…plus Saison is not the easiest to pun. Some of you might agree. But just as you have to consider all the possible ways a name will be shortened when you name a child, so it is with beer. Much to my chagrin, Steve astutely pointed out this was “SAR”s beer!!!
“Hey man, grab me another bottle of SARS from the fridge”…Bad.
Well, there you have it – Twenty gallons of beer in two acts. And that’s not including what was consumed. One of my favorite things about homebrew: it always tastes better the more you drink.
Be good and brew adventurous.