Archive for May, 2015

If you don’t have a calendar, this weekend will be the cause of celebration for some and remembrance for others. This Memorial Day weekend will likely be similar to many others you may have had before. Perhaps BBQs and beer will be the main event of your weekend. Maybe you’re more of a shopping and beer type. Or if you’re a home-body like I am, your weekend will be filled with relaxation… and beer. Regardless of your celebration style, it is always a good thing to remember those who have died for the greater good, and for those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.

Photo courtesy: Wikipedia.org

After spending a few moments in remembrance, your celebration will continue and you will enjoy your craft beers. Hopefully you will enjoy this time with friends and family, who may also enjoy craft beers. But… there is always that one. The one who forgoes your keg of homebrew or craft beer. The one who dodges the hop-friendly IPAs and oak-aged Stouts you so selflessly opened to anyone in attendance. They’ve even managed to offload that pilsner or other craft lager you personally purchased for them since they only drink “light” beers. But fear not! There is hope for this friend, spouse, and/or family member!
The other day my wife and I made a trip to our friendly neighborhood bottle shop (Beverages and More), and sifted through the generous selection they always have available to us VIPs – its called the Craft Beer Aisle. I searched up and down the aisle monitoring my moods and emotions as I scanned their inventory. I selected a few that were recommended, and a few that I read about. All for me, of course. I then encouraged my wife to make a selection or two for her own enjoyment.

Photo courtesy: Bevmo.com

My wife is a Texan through and through. She loves the entire state (I’m not sure how that’s possible). She misses the rolling thunderstorms, and the crazy Texan courtesies. She loves her Dallas Mavericks, her Dallas Stars, and worst of all, her Dallas Cowboys. Now, I’m not a fan of the Cowboys by any stretch of the imagination; but Texas has given her and her family something far worse in my opinion – the taste for the American Lite Lager, especially Coors Lite. The first time we went out she offered a Coors Lite to me. I was still trying to impress her, so I drank it. Once the courtship became official, those went out the window.
Now that you know her history, back to the Beverages and More story. She scanned the few aisles that she was interested in and gently put her selection into the cart. I looked down only to see Boulder Beer Company’s Shake Chocolate Porter. It doesn’t matter what you think of the porter, but I think we can all agree that’s quite the step from Coors Lite. The good news is, her transformation is ALL my doing. And I’ve shared my secrets to getting someone to drink craft beer below:
  1. If they don’t drink beer, make them drink one anyway. They’ll enjoy it… eventually.
  2. While you’re drinking one of your favorites, make sure you force them to have a sip too! It’s a great beer!
  3. Even when trying different, and often weird, styles of beers throughout the day or week, repeat # 2.
  4. You can also try the force method with that 3 hop, 5 malt, 2 yeast experiment you home-brewed a few weeks ago. You’re a good brewer right?
  5. Start with the “best” beer you can find. You know, those Double IPAs, the Imperial Stouts, and the all-Brett Sours. People need to get with the times! Bigger is better!
  6. Don’t start them with something similar to what they already like. If they like sweet, don’t give them a cider, mead, or any other malt forward beer. Try Stone’s Arrogant Bastard or Ruination. Everyone likes Stone, right?
  7. Good beer has no seasons. Founders’ KBS and Rasputin’s RIS drink just as easy in the middle of a Texas summer as Bell’s Two-Hearted Ale or Sierra Nevada’s Pale Ale.
  8. Make them stand in line with you for those private releases, and convince them how amazing it is to wait hours for the opportunity to potentially purchase one.
  9. Or for the average days, allow them to enjoy looking at your local bottle shop’s new inventory for the hour or more that you’re there.
  10. If all else fails, “trick” them by pouring it in a red solo cup and writing their name and “Coors Lite” on the cup.
Hope these work for you as “well” as they’ve worked for my wife and I.

Thanks to traveling, work, and having only one arm, I finally got to brew today. I have to admit, I’m a little rusty on my processes. I haven’t brewed since before the holidays! This year, though, I’m ramping up the grain mill to eventually start entering a few competitions.

Today’s brew: American Wheat. I didn’t want anything special (that’s later in the year) – just a cool, crisp, clean sessionable something or another that also allows my tastebuds to live another day. The original, original recipe was supposed to be an Ode to Oberon (Bell’s Oberon). I saw it everywhere as I was traveling, but of course, it’s not in California. As the brew day came closer, I decided to keep it simple and go with a classic American Wheat.

Here’s what was supposed to happen:

American Wheat Recipe (Jamil Z. Recipe):
6 lbs. US 2 Row (50%)
6 lbs. White Wheat (50%)
1 oz. Williamette at 60 mins
.3 oz. Williamette at 0 mins
.3 oz. Centennial at 0 mins
White Labs WLP 320 – American Hefe
Single Infusion Mash at 150 F for 60 mins

According to BeerSmith (for my equipment profile):
OG: 1.066
FG: 1.017
ABV: 6.43%
17.6 IBUs

Here’s what really happened:

Brew Day 16 May 2015

Brew Day 16 May 2015

I stuck to the recipe intended, with the exception of the yeast used. I procrastinated and didn’t think that WLP320 would be as uncommon as it was. I made the last minute decision to use what was on hand – US-05. Dry yeast (when hydrated properly) is actually a lot better than people give it credit for!

And now for the downer of the day… My 60-minute mash then sparge turned into a 60-minute STUCK mash and another 60 minutes of “kind of sparge.” Turns out the mill made the grains a little too fine/pulverized, and the wheat decided to make my day twice as long. How was it solved you ask? With morning tasters of home-brewed IIPA, Pliny the Elder, and Monk’s Blood (21st Amendment Brewing). Yes it was 0900am, but we limited ourselves to tasters. I mean C’mon, we’re not lushes… Next time I will definitely use a 1/2 pound of rice hulls.

On a separate note, you can now find me as a contributor on SommBeer.com. Check out my posts along with a variety of others written by an awesome SommBeer.com team!

So, I’ve been missing from the Interwebs… again. Mainly because I wrapped up a 5,500 mile round trip drive from California to Georgia a couple weeks ago. That was a great time, which happened to suck the life out of my truck. Sorry, truck.

I have also been missing because not 8 hours after said trip did I separate my radius and ulna from my humorous humerus. Either way, it was not funny. And for those who have been patella deep in Brewers Association books instead of remembering the Bones song, I dislocated my elbow. The latter reference was to the knee. You’re welcome.

Now back to beer.

*****Caution: SINGLE-HANDED-TYPING RANT AHEAD*****

Speaking of Georgia, while I was there I had my first experience with a growler filling station. At Whole Foods. It was AMAZING. There I am looking for good cheese when I say to myself,  “Maybe I’ll have a beer tonight, too.” So I walk my happy little self to the cold bottles and find the selection great, but the indecision greater. Then a friend jokingly says, “Hey, maybe you should get a jug!” I look to where he’s pointing, and there it is! A beautiful, chrome five-faucet system perfectly placed between the wine/beer aisle and the bakery. Cold, kegged beer waiting in front of me. Warm, toasty goodness filling the air. Overly priced, one-time-purchase cheese in hand. It was a great moment in my life. Needless to say, I walked out with two 64 oz. growlers of Bell’s Oberon, which were eventually consumed within the following 48 hours.

That next weekend I decided I would like to try beers more local to the Georgia-Lina area (That’s Georgia-Carolina, by the way). A quick Yelp and Google search, and I find the nearest growler station, Tip Top Taps. I took my Whole Foods growlers in and added one of Tip Top Tap’s growlers to my collection. They flushed my growlers with CO2, and I walked out with a few keg-fresh gallons of local goodness. After I left Georgia, I drove into Texas and did the same thing for some DFW growlers.

Some of you reading this may be thinking, “Cool story, guy, but I get my growlers filled all the time.” Well, this is where the rant begins. According to the Brewers Association,  Georgia ranks 24th in the nation with 40 craft breweries; I found at least 3 non-brewery/retail establishments within a 10 mile radius that fill growlers. Texas ranks 8th with 117 craft breweries. Retail growler filling stations were quite common there as well. Arizona,  Florida,  New York,  and of course Oregon and Washington, all allow retailers to fill growlers. California ranks 1st in the U.S. with 431 breweries and counting. There are 1.6 breweries per Capita (100,000 21+ adults) in California. Guess where it is NOT legal for retail growler filling? And California is not alone!

Now, I get it… why have Whole Foods or independent tap houses fill growlers when I can throw a rock in any given direction and hit a brewery, which IS allowed to fill growlers (with certain guidelines, of course). The beer is fresh. The kegs are controlled. And those filling the growlers will usually know the beer almost as much as the brewers. I’ve heard some argue that breweries lose control of the product once it leaves their doors. I’ve heard others attribute a retailer’s cleanliness (or lack thereof) to a less than satisfactory experience for consumers. And I’ve had conversations with a few who believe the right to sell growlers of beer should stay with the brewers and breweries.

I certainly admire and respect the work done by the growing number of brewers and the breweries they work in. It takes a tremendous amount of work to create the fantastic product that we’ve all grown to know and love. It’s no easy feat to transform water, malt, hops, and yeast into an 8% ABV ale sought after by tens of thousands. I would never ask that the hard work done be compromised for the sake of the consumer or the almighty U.S. dollar. Still, I don’t understand the arguments against the “growler house.”

Sure, breweries have less control of the product. But what about when it’s sent around the nation in bottles? Maybe the local bottle shop will keep them in cold storage and maintain them properly. Will the local convenience store or mom and pop adult beverage store do the same? How does risk in the treatment of bottles differ from the risk in the treatment of growler filling stations? If anything, those hard-working people filling the growlers will be just as passionate as those working on the breweries’ premises. And it’s this passion that will push them to continuously serve a quality product in a clean and inviting atmosphere.

I believe there are so many advantages in allowing retailers the opportunity to pour a 16-64 oz. growler. Now, I write this strictly as a passionate consumer. I don’t work in the industry, nor do I pretend to understand the industry. If I’m incorrect in any of my statements, feel free to contact me. I’d love to have a conversation and to learn more about what I’m missing. Regardless of the reasons, craft beer should not just push the envelope on the beer itself, but it should also push the envelope on how the beer is made available to those who love it so.