March 22, 2012

Interview: Thomas Kolicko, Director of Crafting a nation (part 2)

This is the second of a two part interview with Thomas Kolicko director of Crafting a Nation and Beer Culture the movie.

HBC: Why did you choose to make films about the beer industry?
Tom:  I grew up in New Jersey I moved here (Colorado) when I was 22 years old. Jersey doesn’t have too many craft breweries, there’s a bunch, and I follow New Jersey craft brewers on Facebook. I want to go back there and see what they have because I know their scene has been growing. The county I grew up in didn’t have a single craft brewery in it, not one. Just recently I found out that one did get founded its supposed to open up by the time I’m planning to head back, they also have a homebrew store there so the seed has been planted.
I have always loved craft beer, but in jersey you go to a bar and you see bud, Coors, miller, corona, Stella and they have Yuengling. In Colorado you see red left hands, you see red A’s, you see odells all these tap handles I hadn’t seen before the Budweiser one was the little black nub hanging out, like the bar was embarrassed to serve it. I wanted to figure out why. I took a class in documentary filmmaking and I wanted to figure out what the beer culture was and the project grew traction from there. I didn’t realize how much support people give these breweries, being a filmmaker; it was cool to see when we launched our trailer how much support we got from telling the story of these guys and I’m like “okay were on to something here, this is really cool”
Beer culture started out to be a 15-minute short project just a general overview. When we released the trailer the amount of emails we got we were like okay, the final cut was 55 minutes. What I liked about beer culture was how it transformed from a film about beer to a film about the American Dream. 
HBC: How do you define craft beer? People have lots of different definitions.
Tom: I like that question.  I always ask a question with my interviews that stumps everybody I guess this is one of those questions. You know? I would say a craft brewery is a business that is committed to improving the quality of life to a community. There’s beer aspect to this film but the story follows craft brewers but it’s really about the growth of the small business right now in America. What were trying to say is these craft breweries, these small businesses that are socially responsible, sustainable and are committed to making a quality product that in every facet will improve the quality of life in these communities. I think that’s a craft brewery.
You mentioned Widmer, you mentioned the big guys. That can be a slippery slope to go down but they all started somewhere, people go into business to make money and we live in a capitalist society. You as a consumer or people as consumers have a right to support the business you want to support. It boils down to where you want to spend your dollar, who you want to vote for with that dollar. Personally I want to vote for the little guy I want to see the little guy succeed. That’s something I believe in, it’s the reason I want to make this film.
That’s what I think a craft brewery is. A business somebody can believe in and want to see succeed as long as that business is smart, sustainable, responsible and morally conscious that’s the answer to go with.
HBC: Are you a homebrewer?
Tom: I am a homebrewer. That was one of the coolest things about making beer culture. I went from extract to all grain in like 8 months. I’m still working hard so I don’t get to brew as much. Luckily the beers I brewed over break have to age a little so I wont be bottling them until April.
HBC: How are you planning on getting the word out about the film?
Tom: Numerous different ways. Were really focusing on the growth of new media in film. It seems like the traditional system of distribution is kind of going out of the mix. Were looking into several different avenues.
Our deadline for the first final cut is December 12th with intended distribution through whatever medium around January.
What were trying to do for marketing right now is utilize the tools our web site can give us. Search engine optimization, were doing the whole webisode thing were trying to increase everything that’s new and cool. We have a bunch of avenues that are opening up I really can’t go into too much detail right now. Were going to be doing promotional events, a lot of community outreach starting out here in Denver and branching out nationally from there. Were looking to partner with a lot of small businesses, It’s getting the community involved to get the film out there.
HBC: Anything else I should have asked?
Tom: I wanted to go back to my inspiration to make the film. You talked about my passion for beer, prior to my getting involved with beer I had a job in New Jersey, the last job I had in the state. I was working for a farm to table operation prior to that I never really understood this independent part of the market. That job really gave me inspiration for how small business works, how trade works, how collaborating works. I think that was one of my main inspirations for a “return to normality” as I like to call it. 

The film will not be out for a while but there is plenty of activity on Crafting a nations Facebook page and website to keep you interested until then. Additionally, Beer Culture is out and available for download here. I want to extend a big thank you to Tom for taking the time to give me an interview I'm looking forward to checking out Crafting a Nation. 

March 16, 2012

Taking Notes

One of the most important parts of brewing is taking good notes. Aside from printing out the recipe you're brewing there are a bunch of other things that you should be writing down, in three months you're probably not going to remember if you were one degree high or low on your mash or how good the crush was on that bag of grain.
I was used to miss some important details when taking notes and I was unhappy with all the spread sheets I was finding online so I decided to make my own note taking sheet.
This is what works for me. The Variables table is for the amount of strike/sparge water as well as the temperature, I use this website to fill out the table, it takes it's calculations from Designing Great Beers by Ray Daniels.
There is a space for your water adjustment information you can note the amounts of chemicals you're adding and the final water profile for that beer. To get this information I use the EZ water calculator V3.0. It can be downloaded as a spreadsheet.
The averages table is something I developed in response to using a RIMS system and having multiple data points for my mash. Home-brew mashtuns are notorious for not holding a uniform temperature throughout so I average 3 of my data points (center grain bed, RIMS output, blichmann thermometer on my mashtun) throughout the mash. I take these average readings and average all of them to get what i call my mash temperature.
The bottom table has a space to keep track of all your cellar activities (racking beer, dry hopping, temperature changes, gravity changes) as well as your attenuation and alcohol by volume. Here I also keep track of my kegging activities (date, C02 pressure applied) and bottling information (date and number of bottles)
Aside from all the tables there is a space to write down your starter information, a space to write the beer you're brewing, the version and the date, and a space to make notes for a starch conversion test.
Usually any other notes I need will be put on the back of the page or on a separate blank page, usually this is where i write information on my flow rates, crush information or anything else that comes to mind. I attach this to the recipe I have formatted in beer alchemy and printed out as well as the receipt from my home brew store giving me a complete picture of the beer.

March 12, 2012

Interview: Thomas Kolicko, Director of Crafting a nation (part 1)

A few weeks back Thomas Kolicko was kind enough to grant me an interview to talk about his latest project Crafting A Nation. Tom also directed the film Beer Culture an expose on how craft brewing embodies the american dream. I want to extend a big thank you to Tom for taking the time to be interviewed.

HBC:  What’s Crafting a nation about?
Tom: Crafting a nation is a feature length documentary about how the American craft brewers are building the economy one beer at a time. After Beer Culture the movie came out the biggest criticism we received was “why was it only Colorado?”  so after thinking about it for awhile we were at Oskar Blues we were about to do a screening of Beer Culture and we said “lets do a national version”. We understand the story, we know the story the best and I think we can tell it the best and if we don’t do it somebody else will.
 Crafting a nation evolved out of there its come down to more of a social cause kind of project, we going to have a very interactive website that backs up everything about the film. You can find more about other breweries; start up businesses and webisodes, business profiles. All types of features that back up the film and support the films message.
HBC: What breweries did you visit?
Tom: For Crafting a nation we just got back from Texas and Saint Louis. We also are following a couple breweries here in Colorado, our main characters are here in Colorado as well. Beer Culture was more of a multi character expose figuring out there is beer culture and why people are supporting it. Crafting A Nation does that to a certain extent but heightens what we initially set out to do with Beer Culture. This ones going to be more character driven, were following three main story lines right now.
In terms of breweries we’ll start with Texas. There’s freetail brewing company, north by northwest, jester king, thirsty planet, there’s so many… Austin beer works, hops and grain. In Saint Louis there’s schlafly, four hens, urban chestnut, perennial and, civil life… I think I got them all. And then out here in Colorado were going to be following a couple brewers that have not opened yet there expected to open within the next month to two months. That’s the cool thing, most of the breweries were going to be talking to have been open for less than three years. Were really trying to focus on how these businesses are growing, why they’re being founded and just showing the economic benefits of craft beer in America.
HBC: Do you have any favorites?
Tom: We definitely have our main characters. We have been in research and development since August trying to hone in on who our main characters are going to be. We narrowed it down by region, in terms of characters we have Scott Metzger of freetail brewing company; I think he still is an economics professor and full time brewer/owner of freetail brewing company. Then Ron Extract from jester king, a cool experience, really revolutionary beer.
On the beer side perennial in St. Louis, artisan ales they have a cool story. I cant talk to much about our main characters I can say that there our main characters for a reason, they are all young, most of the this them is their first big business venture. Its cool to see the amount of spirit these guys have to go out into the world now with the economic times the way they are and try to pursue their dreams and passion.
HBC: You guys had a kickstarter fund, was that always part of the plan?
Tom:  Were independent so funding is whatever we can get. Without going into too much detail we have hit a little snag with our funding, were planning to over come that. This film is going to be made regardless were going to knock on every door once if not twice to try to get this thing funded. We have really cool and kind sponsors.
For the film we have raised about 25%. Kickstarter was always part of the plan because it’s a really cool platform where people can get involved with the project, that’s exactly what crafting is. I want to give back to the people that inspired me to make this film.
Its not cheap, we have a really tight knit crew. When you think film crew you think a lot of people, but it’s a couple guys. I recently had to expand, Beer Culture was originally made with five core people and I recently had to add three more.
HBC: So Crafting A Nation is your full time job then?
About two months in (to beer culture) I was working a random nine-dollar per hour job and my company was founded. There was too much of a difference and I took the leap of faith and make this my full time gig. I haven’t paid myself that much yet and the crew is the same were doing this out of passion.

Look out for part two of the interview coming up soon, in the meantime check out to watch some trailers and contribute to the production of the film.  

March 8, 2012

Concise Course in Brewing Technology Review 2/3

Recently I reviewed the first part of my introduction to professional brewing. I have been keeping up with the course work without any real problems. The weekly chat sessions were condensed because not as many people were showing up as the instructors wanted which means I have to try to do the chats at work so I'm not getting quite as much out of them.

The topics on the life cycle of yeast, yeast management and control of fermentation temperatures were really useful and interesting. The material was presented in a way that the biochemical aspects did not make me feel like I was going to pass out. The filtration chapter was probably the hardest I have come across so far, I feel like the provided material was not terribly clear in describing how a filter operates (in terms where wort flows and where the filtration medium is deposited) but my instructor provided me with some additional information that cleared up my questions.

This week I finally read the module I was most interested in, recipe formulation. There was not a lot of hard data on formulation (there were some slides adapted from Designing Great Beers by Ray Daniels). There were however a few good things to think about regarding the difference between professional and home brewing, like the focus of recipes and brewing in general "homebrewer: art and craft, professional brewer: craft and science" and "The process of consistently producing the beer within defined specifications separates professional brewers from amateurs". The chapter also gave some good tips on taking notes during brewday. It was not what I had in mind but it was still a really useful read.

March 5, 2012

Beer Alchemy Review

Recently I had the idea to review my brewing recipe software of choice, this got me to thinking about the other types of software out there and I decided to get some other bloggers involved to review the software they use.
I use beer alchemy for all my recipes, I liked the look of the interface and the fact that it was mac native was attractive as well. The software retails for $29.95 and gives you the ability to install the software on up to two computers.

Admittedly I don't use all the features the software offers. I mainly use it to write out my recipes and get a target for original gravity, IBU, and color. All of the measurements have options for which method you choose to calculate them. You can keep brew day notes, a record of what you brewed and when and track your inventory. (these are the features I don't use) The software is really easy to jump in and start using, It's fully customizable to your batch sizes, extract or all grain, and addition of new ingredients. To get your recipe onto paper you can either export the files through email, PDF, or as a webpage (I use the webpage so it prints nicely). Additionally you can change the alpha acid amounts on the hop additions, and formulate your grist bill by desired pre boil gravity and percentage of the individual malts and you can create custom mash schedules. It really has all the features you would ever need.
Additionally there is a mobile version of the software available. The mobile version has all of the same features as the desktop version, however, it's not quite as user friendly as the desktop version.

All in all I think the software is totally worth the $30 price, I have no interest in doing all these recipe calculations by hand. I think the simple interface makes it easy to jump right in and start designing recipes.

Here are some links to my collaborators blogs:
BrewMate- Beer & Garden 
iBrewmaster- Homebrew Academy
Beersmith 1- Atomic Donkey Brewing
Brewtarget- Shegogue Brew

March 1, 2012

Book Review: The Brewmasters Table

In preparing for the cicerone exam I have been doing some reading on food and beer pairings. Recently I read The Brewmasters Table by Garrett Oliver, it's the best book I have found yet on food and beer pairings.
The book is arranged into three parts; The basics (includes a definition of beer, a brief history of beer and the principals of matching beer with food), Brewing traditions (covers everything from lambic to british ales to the american craft beers), and the last word (covers glassware, temperature, storage and service as well as a reference chart). The second part of the book makes up most of the reading going in depth into every beer styles history, flavors and how to pair the beer.
This book took me awhile to read, it seems like more of a reference book. It follows the same format for each beer and it took me a long time to get through because I kept putting it down and not coming back to it. Still, it gave me a really good base on which to start experimenting with my own pairings and be pretty successful right away. Unlike Tasting Beer by Randy Mosher The Brewmasters Table does not cover how to taste and judge beer but rather tells you the facts you need to know (i.e. flavors) you need to know to pair just about any beer you may come across making it a great for quick reference.
I would recommend it for a book to keep handy for research on specific styles and/or pairings but nor for a book to sit down and read every night. Additionally it's a good study guide for the cicerone exam for the pairing information (the part I'm having the most trouble with) and a good guide for the BJCP exam for all the style information and history.

February 14, 2012

Concise Course in Brewing Technology Review 1/3

Recently I started studying brewing science and technology with the Siebel Institute. Honestly American Brewers Guild was my first choice  I really liked the idea that they set you up with an apprenticeship but classes were filled so far in advance I could not have begun until 2014 and I wanted to get a start on my brewing education so I could enter the industry as soon as possible. That being said Siebel has the benefit of being Americas oldest brewing school and working with Dommens in Germany as well as the World Brewing Academy.

Siebel has a series of 3 modules (or classes) that make up the associates program in brewing science and technology (raw materials and wort production, beer production and quality control, finally packaging and process technology). The entire program can be completed at the Siebel campus in Chicago or online (online classes last 3 months each).

I chose to take an additional introductory class called the concise course in brewing technology.  It covers the basics of the material from all the other classes. This is ideal for me because I'm currently working on my scientific background at SUNY Albany. The online classes are a combination of reading materials video/audio presentations as well as weekly online chats. The reading materials (and extras) are very thorough but generally the videos are presented by Germans from the Dommens academy and are sometimes a bit hard to understand. The weekly chats are probably the best educational tool and I wish there were more of them, The instructor facilitates a discussion of the topics covered in the previous weeks and answers any questions anybody may have. Additionally at the end of each module there are a series of short answer questions that must be answered and graded by the instructor, the questions are not always easy (a lot of them are) but not hard either. The instructor always provides good feedback on the answers.

In summary I feel the course is good and I am learning quite a bit, I would like to see more discussions but that could be hard to facilitate. My instructor is great he has proven to be very accessible and answers my questions very quickly. He was even kind enough to issue me a letter of introduction to help me in my search for an entry level brewing position.

February 9, 2012


Generally when people get really into home-brewing they start kegging and forgo the tedious process of bottling. I must be a glutton for punishment because I keg then bottle. I always keep some beer on tap in the brewery but I like to have a larger stash of bottles to give away and to drink away from the basement brewery.
I could buy new bottles but at about $1 apiece that could get pricey really fast. Usually the promise of some free beer is enough to get many of my friends to save their used bottles for me, also if I need to I have found my local beverage center will sell me their bottles for 10 cents each.

There is some labor involved in cleaning the bottles (usually people are not great about rinsing out the beer) and getting the labels off but I feel like I have a good method)

I make a strong PBW solution (strong= dump a bunch into the rubbermaid container) and soak the bottles for at least a day. This makes most of the labels fall right off (some need a little bit of scrubbing to get all the glue off) also it loosens up some of the nasty growth that develops in the bottom of some bottles.

Also, I reuse bottles several times so this is the first check for cracks or chips, Capping puts a good amount of stress on the neck of the bottle and it weakens them over time.

Next the bottles get a good rinse inside and out and are again, checked for cracks and stubborn bits of mold. Then its off to the bottle tree to be sanitized with some bursts of star san.

Once the bottles are cleaned rinsed and sanitized they get packaged. To keep the insides of the bottle sanitized I line the bottom of a 12 or 24 pack box with foil that i spray with star san and put the bottles in the box upside down (this keeps anything that may be in the air out). 

The boxes sit in the fridge until they are ready to be used so they are roughly the same temperature as the beer.

To fill the bottles I use a blichmann beer gun. Its really a great product, a quick blast of C02 purges the air from the bottle and the beer gun then fills it right up. I let a little bit of foam run out of the top of the bottle to ensure a consistent level for all of by bottles, I do loose a little beer by doing this but its not much. All of the filling operations take place on a mimi bottling line I built, It has the bench capper attached to the table and racks for the filled bottles. Once the bottles are on the rack they get a quick water rinse and then are dried and labeled.

February 2, 2012

Interview: Alan Newman of Alchemy & Science

A few months ago news broke about a new company run by Alan Newman, founder of magic hat, and financed by boston beer company (AKA Sam Adams). The only details on the company was that they were going to be a "craft brew incubator", Later news broke about their first acquisition, the angel city brewpub in LA. I was doing research for a post on Alchemy & Science but all i could find were the same two press releases being regurgitated all over the internet. I contacted Alchemy & Science directly to learn more and Alan was kind enough to take the time to give me an interview. 

HBC: Why did you guys choose the west coast for your first acquisition? 
Alan: ‘cause it dropped in our lap. Its really about opportunity, when we started talking about doing this alchemy and science business we recognized that a lot of stuff we can control. So we started looking for opportunities, there was an opportunity so… you know? ... We took it. It’s really not that complicated. 
HBC: So you’re not thinking of nation wide domination? 
Alan: WORLD WIDE DOMINATION! ... No not at all. The task is really to just do great world-class beers and do great things for people interested in beer
HBC: Do you see A&S doing anything outside the beer industry? Maybe getting into ciders or outside the beer industry?
Alan: You know?  Not really looking at other industries was really before A&S took this forum. Stacey and I were looking for opportunities to run another business. Its really all opportunity driven. We were looking for opportunities available around Burlington, had beer come up we might have looked at it, beer never came up. So, we were looking for opportunities in other areas.  Then I had a conversation with Jim Koch and all that changes. 

HBC: That leads me to my next point; we know Boston Beer’s backing is limited to financial backing. Will you also have access to their facilities and distribution to help reach your goals for A&S?
Alan: This is not an attempt to be evasive; the challenge is how do we do things without disrupting BBC? They are a very successful company and one of their concerns as well as one of our concerns is we could become a distraction, so essentially, they are open to us sharing any resources that make sense for the circumstances as long as were not a distraction. Would we ever brew at their facilities? Of course we would, they have some of the finest craft breweries in America and I would love to be able to use their breweries for some of the stuff were doing. 
We got some stuff were working on now that would definitely be done at one of their breweries. Because the LA brewery is not up and running yet were doing some new product development at the Boston brewery we will move it all over to LA once the LA brewery is operational but they were kind enough to offer us the ability to get working on some new product development ahead of time. So we took it, wherever there are opportunities to share resources were open to it and there open to it. There really is no master plan on what we will and wont use of their resources were really playing it by ear and figuring out as we go. 
HBC: BBC is the biggest craft brewer in the nation and the brewers association changed their definitions of craft to accommodate them. How do you guys define “craft” at A&S? 
Alan: I have long, long standing disagreements with the brewers association on their definition of craft beer. There are two issues: What is a craft brewer? And what is a craft beer? and they are very different to me. Had I been involved with the brewers association, which I was not when they made that decision, I would have argued it has nothing to do with Sam Adams. That is has to do with do we want to penalize people for being successful? And if we do how do we ever expect to turn more and more people on to good tasting beer without pushing them all to the big brewers? 
  To me it was just a natural extension of the brewers association adapting to the times when the brewers association started, when magic hat started, I don’t know that anybody was doing more than 100,000 barrels. I seem to remember that Sam Adams and Pete’s were right around 100,000 barrels, Anchor was right around 100,000 barrels, Sierra may have been right around there and that was the upper limit. Over the years as craft beers have gotten more popular all those business have grown, the idea that Sierra Nevada is not going to be a craft brewer as they pass some imaginary number makes no sense to me. The idea that New Belgium will not be a craft brewer once they break through some false ceiling number makes no sense to me and I don’t think the industry is doing itself a favor by casting out the most successful of the craft brewers. 
I think it was a reaction to the times, I think they did the right thing. I think Sam Adams was the first to hit that point and as many things in the craft beer industry Sam Adams is the first. They were early on the scene, they were not the first craft brewer, but they pushed the bounds in many areas in how craft beer was sold and business models. They pushed the envelope all along so its not surprising to me that they were the first to break through that imaginary barrier but I really don’t believe it had anything to do with Sam Adams and was more recognizing that the industry is evolving and we need to make sure the most successful the craft brewers remain categorized to the customer as craft brewers. 
HBC: You Acquired Angel City and they were kind of on the ropes when you acquired them. Are you looking only to get struggling brewers as part of A&S? 
Alan: That’s your word “on the ropes” not mine. I don’t think you can look at angel city and make any assumptions about future activity from that one action. It was an opportunity that came up. I go way back with a guy named Michael Bowe, who was the founder of angel city, we have know each other about 15 years. Whenever I was in LA we would have dinner together. We just catching up and he said, “well what do you think about buying angel city?” and I said “hum that’s kind of interesting” it really was not a planned activity, it was not indicative of anything else. Every once in awhile I see something written that were out there scouring for all the breweries on the brink and its just not true at all. This was a particular situation and we took advantage, not of Michael at all, I think Michael would agree that we treated him very fairly. We found a way of doing something that made sense to both parties and that’s the only thing it indicates. 
Were working on some stuff were going to create from scratch, we continue to be interest in other brands but there is no one focus on how were going to create businesses or grow businesses, were looking at all opportunities.
HBC: You mentioned you have some projects your starting from scratch; can you give any details on that? 
Alan: I can’t. If you check back in about a month, the only reason is my experience is nothing is final until its final and I would hate to be out talking about something that doesn’t actually happen. But were in the process of developing something that I think is really fun and cool, were really excited about it and I cant wait until I can talk about it. 
HBC: Back to Angel City then; was there any resistance to your involvement in angle city from the local market? 
Alan: I haven’t heard a word, everything I have heard has been pretty positive. People are happy; I think the angel city vision was fabulous. I think what Michael was thinking about with angel city and the move he was in the process of making was pretty damn exciting and people are excited by that vision that an experienced builder of craft beer is coming in to help it. It will remain a local LA brewery with a pub. Our goal with it is to really become part of the LA community. What we learned with magic hat was the way to build the business is to really stay involved with the community that you’re working with and I think one of the things we did best when we started magic hat was we were heavily involved in our local community here in Burlington and northern Vermont. Then as we grew we stayed heavily involved in those communities. We worked with a lot of nonprofits, we worked with a lot of organizations, we worked with a lot of performing arts activities and we stayed heavily involved in the communities we were selling our beer in even as we expanded our territory we expanded our reach. Whether angel city ever has the kind of geographic reach that magic hat has, I have no clue but the focus is totally on building a local fan base. How can angel city be a part of the local arts community, how can angel city be a part of the historic downtown renaissance. How can we be part of that community and how can we bring value to that community? That’s really the focus. 
HBC: I think that’s what’s great about craft beer; it’s really a catalyst for community activity. 
Alan: I agree, and to me that’s the heart of craft beer. It’s the small independent breweries that build roots into the community and really create a symbiotic relationship. I think if you look at the most successful breweries that’s what they’ve all done and the reason that more and more people are trying craft beers. 
Usually the way people get converted to craft beer is because there is a brewery in their neighborhood and they go “let me try that” and once they start tasting better beer that made right in their neighborhood they’ll look around and see what else is available, but I think the strength of the growth of the craft category has a lot to do with the small local breweries that are bringing in their neighbors by being part of the community. 
HBC: Why the name alchemy & science?
Alan: You know? I always liked the juxtaposition and whether its brewing beer which is, to me; a combination of alchemy and part science; it’s part science and part magic. Business is also the same thing, to me; it’s a mixture of alchemy and science. You can look at the information all you want, you can be methodical all you want but at then end of the day there is a magical element that you cant control. So I guess that’s where it came from, I have always been fascinated by that dichotomy. 
HBC: What beers are you guys are into right now? 
Alan:  Well the beers in our office fridge are mostly Sam Adams ‘cause we really like them and we have easy access to them. Today My go to bee is Sam lager, I always liked Sam lager, I learned to love it when I was traveling around for magic hat because there are many places where it was the only craft beer and its always good, its always fresh. In my opinion it really is a great beer and I kind of rediscovered it, but that’s really my go to beer.  
That said, one of my all time favorites is rodenbach. I happen to know the guys that do the importation and distribution of rodenbach and they are nice enough to me that every time they come by they bring me some so I have a nice selection of rodenbach at home. I’ve got a great selection of Sam’s large bottle Belgian beers. 
I tend to like Belgian beers most I think, Belgian white is my favorite style, and I love the sours. I tend to like malt over hops. I’m not a fan of the current west coast kill it with hops thing I find that I can only drink one of them, it ruins my taste buds. So if I have a highly hopped beer I usually save it for my last beer of the night. I tend to like malt I love the well-balanced beers. 

I want to thank Alan again for taking the time to give me an interview. I'm sure the craft beer community is waiting with excitment to see what alchemy & science brings to the east coast.  

January 31, 2012

Whats the focus ?

I have been writing this blog for a few months now and recently i have been being asked what the focus of my writing is. I thought this would be a good opportunity to think about what my focus will be, look at some past posts I have written and talk a little about what i plan on writing about in the future.
Its obvious I write a good amount on home-brewing and I plan on continuing with those posts. One thing I don't think I will continue with is reviews of my own beers. I don't post my recipes online so a highly biased review of the beer on my part is pretty useless. I will, however, continue with posts on my brewing in general or interesting processing of ingredients.
I want to expand the posts I do concerning the professional brewing industry. One of the most popular posts on the blog to this day is the one about New York state hops. I'm already in the process in expanding this portion of my writing.
Finally I have FINALLY started my studies at Siebel ! So there will be many more posts coming up on my experiences in getting a formal brewing education.
In short Im going to eliminate the tastings and beer reviews (I'm not great with reviewing my own product and beer reviews are all over the internet, not to mention taste is very subjective) Im going to keep up the brewing process and ingredient posts like normal while expanding the posts on news/ issues concerning the professional brewing community.
Thank's everybody for reading so far, There are plenty more good posts coming.

January 16, 2012

Blending for consistency

Every year I brew my famous assorted porters which generally include coffee porter, vanilla porter and the base robust porter, additionally, I decided to try some caramel porter this year but that was a resounding failure as i was not able to get the caramel to stay in solution. Because so many people are always wanting some of this beer I decided this year to do a double batch which meant I would have to blend both batches without causing any oxidation or off flavors in the process.

To do this I modified my boil kettle to be a dual use combination/ blending tank and kettle. I split some 3/4 inch vacuum tubing for cars down the middle and placed it on the lip of the kettle. Then i used clamps for woodworking to hold the lid on tight, I put a small hole in the lid so i could purge the entire vessel with C02 and I was good to go.

After the initial fitting of the components We broke down the valve and sight glass cleaned and sanitized everything, rebuilt the vessel, purged with C02 and started racking beer into it. I was able to rack beer i had in corny kegs (not carbed) and from my conical fermentor into the blending tank then back out into corny kegs while only loosing a couple of pints of beer.
Some people think that its unnecessary to blend two batches of the same recipe, especially for homebrew. But I really want to get a consistent product, and i feel like blending separate batches or separate carboys is the way to go. Additionally with my second batch of porter I missed my initial boil volume so blending the two batches was the way to go. Also I have been known to blend two beers if I brew a beer with a flaw so this could be a good method for that too.