Category Archives: Notes/Memos

The circle of blogs

Thanks to Beervana for turning me onto a new beer blog. It’s called Beer Sensory Science and seems to be really fun and interesting. I’m still reading through some of the posts but you should check it out. One of the posts I read had this really cool link to 20 things we didn’t know about taste. There was also a link to Fresh Beer Only which shows which breweries mark freshness on their products and how they do it. Be sure to check out the blogs and articles they are really interesting.

As a side note for those looking for beer reviews. I will get back to them. Soon. I promise. I’ve been thinking about a slight format change on them. As soon as I decide what I like I’ll post a few and see what you think about it.

Salud!

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Moving Forward

I was originally intending to only have about a week long hiatus as I figured out some directions for the blog. That turned into about a two week hiatus. Sorry about that. In that time though I was distracted with thinking about working in the beer industry in some manner. What exactly does that mean? Well as I’ve said I’ve been actively seeking employment at a brewery and even at a distributor. The state of those seems to be nothing yet. The distributor position seems very unlikely. As for the brewery, only time will tell. In the mean time though we’ve been thinking about our brewpub idea. Ultimately it would be awesome. As of right now it’s fairly unrealistic. One reason is that I don’t have enough  experience at brewing. Another reason is just the market in the area. I’m not fully convinced that it could handle having 2 brewpubs and a brewery within a 20 mile radius. So here is the thing if we are to have a brewpub. We need a brewer. I’m not talking about someone that has done some home brewing but has done some serious brewing. If we do this I would like to hit the ground running with some really fantastic beers. Yes I did mean multiple beers. I don’t see the point of a brewpub that has one beer and supplements the other taps with beers from other breweries. If anyone knows of a brewer that would like to start a brewpub in the middle of Kansas feel free to have he or she contact us.

Another idea that we’ve been kicking around lately is starting a home brew shop in Manhattan. The nearest one is in Topeka and in my opinion not the best. Other than that one though the next closest home brew shop would be near Kansas City. I know there are several home brewers in Manhattan and I’ve seen that craft beer is catching on more and more with the younger crowd. So it would seem perhaps a home brew shop that had grains, extracts, bottles, kegs, starter kits, and all the other parts and pieces needed to home brew might go over fairly well. This one would probably be just slightly easier to pull off as well since all that would really be needed is a building, website, and wholesaler for the equipment.

Let me know what all of you think. Would you be interested in a brewpub? Would you be interested in learning how to brew your own beer? Do you think this would go over well in either Manhattan or Topeka? Comment below and let me know. I’m interested to hear your take on some of this.

Salud!

The State of Brewmiscuous Address

My apologies to all for the sudden pause on posts. It was pointed out to me that I seemed to be getting increasingly negative towards breweries when I shouldn’t be. I decided it’s time I rethought what this blog was to stand for and where it needs to go. But to get where we are going we should take a look back at where we started.

The Past

The blog was originally started as a way to get the good word out about craft beer in Kansas. As we both grew up the beer everybody seemed to gravitate towards was Bud, But Light, Coors, Coors Light, Miller, etc. As I began to drift away from that I found newer and more exciting beers out there to try. I found that those lighter beers could not quench my thirst when it came to beer. I needed flavor, hops, and all the amazing things that can be put into beer.  For me, this blog was a way of writing down what I’ve had and letting you all know what was available. In my mind it is a stepping stone for people who are trying out new beers but are still timid about trying some of those beers.

This blog was also started as a way for the two of us to learn more about beer. The terminology, the flavors, and all the little things that are involved in the beer industry. I feel that we have both come a long way in our ability to taste the little nuances in beer flavor. I’ve also learned way more about the industry through various friends that are directly involved in the beer industry.

The most important aspect of the blog though is to educate. There are not a lot of people talking about beer in Kansas and I felt that should change. Not only do I want to inform people of the different offerings available to them but I want to spark a change. It’s probably naive of me to think this but I wanted to spark a change in laws, distribution, and drinking habits of all Kansans. I felt the laws hold back something that gained a lot of momentum and provided many jobs in several surrounding states. I also feel the laws limit the breweries that are active in this state. The distribution and drinking habits I’ve noticed are changing.  Slowly. But the times they are a changin’.  It will take a while for those to fully embrace the change but it will come. At least this infographic gave Kansas to Free State Brewing so that’s something.

The Present

This blog was and is a way to show that at least some of us here in Kansas want better tasting beer. Some of us want the same access to that beer that other places have. We lived in Atlanta for 4 years and we could get beer there that came from neighboring states to Kansas but once back in Kansas we couldn’t get it. I know you’ve all heard this rant before so I apologize for the redundancy, but I feel it’s a valid point that needs to be repeated over and over again.

If you haven’t noticed by now I am very passionate about beer. This is probably the one thing I have been most excited and passionate about ever. Sometimes this passion leads to frustration, jealousy, and anger (oh no, the Darkside). I read other beer blogs and I become jealous of the beers that they can access. Some are beers that we can’t get in this state (Dogfish Head, Nebraska Brewing, Oskar Blues, etc) and some seemingly are, but not really. For example, Lagunitas. They show up in the states ABC list and they can be found in Kansas City KS but that’s it. At least for now. I hope that they make it statewide, but it’ll take work to get them there. Others such as Dogfish Head will just be a brewery that I will have to drive to a neighboring state to purchase. Maybe someday they’ll get here (and hopefully not just KC) but that won’t be for a long while most likely.

Other frustrations I’ve had lately have been finding bad beer stocked on the shelves of liquor stores, liquor stores being told things that are not true (I wish I could explain better on here but I can’t), and other things that involve my real job as an archaeologist (those too I cannot discuss). All of these frustrations lead to some anger that is lashed out at the wrong people and yet sometimes the right people. As a consumer of beer if I find a problem with the beer who do I tell? Odds are if I tell a brewery about the problem they will tell me that they are sorry and that will be the end of it. This leads me to my biggest frustration and that is the Kansas Wasteland. I get frustrated because of this due to breweries avoiding Kansas. This is either by not bringing their beer to the state or offering special deals/tastings/get-togethers in cities that are several hours away. I realize that KC and Wichita have a large portion of the population in this state but there are other large cities or large towns that could and probably would support such a thing.

I apologize for that rant. As you can clearly see it is the one major irritation I have come across with beer in this state.

An Apology

It was pointed out that I unfairly put blame on the breweries for some of these flaws. So I would like to take this time to apologize to those breweries. I know that you can’t be everywhere all the time to check on your products. I also know that many times even a single beer is so miniscule in the grand scheme it’s not worth doing anything about. I also know that each liquor store can make the mistake of putting out a beer they find buried deep in the back somewhere without checking on the dates on the bottle. I also realize that even the distributors are partially at fault for some of these slip ups. Instead of rushing into a conclusion I should step back and look at the larger picture. From here on out I will complain about these problems without putting blame on anyone. Instead it will be my way of politely informing you that there is a problem with one of your products purchased from a local establishment.

I would also like to apologize for any other negativity that I have said about breweries.  If I have questioned whether you are a real craft brewery or not I apologize.  You see sometimes beers show up on liquor store shelves with little to no warning and when there is more than one six pack with fantastic artwork that I’ve never heard of before, I take a second look at it. I’ve bought some beer in the past only to learn of conections to much larger institutions. So I am sometimes very skeptical about what I am picking up. I also apologize to breweries if I have been overbearing on bringing your product to the state of Kansas. Again that is a jealousy issue and all I really want is to experience it myself in my house without having to drive any further than my local liquor store.

One thing I won’t apologize for though are my reviews of the beers themselves. I know that my taste buds are going to be different and what I like may not be what everybody else likes. As I’ve said before taste is subjective. I try to be fair but at times I have found some beers to be no where near what I enjoy. If I don’t enjoy a beer then it is very difficult for me to write a positive review. Just remember that some of the best criticisms are the negative ones. Things cannot improve if you surround yourself with yes men. Besides many beers that I’ve enjoyed other bloggers or beer enthusiasts have disliked.

The Future

The first thing about the future of this blog is that it is an uncertain future. The reason is that at this time I am actively trying to get a job in the beer industry. If and when that happens it is likely this blog will have to go due to conflict of interest. Perhaps though I can just turn in it into a simple photo gallery of the beers that I have. For now though I will continue to do reviews.  Although it should be noted that all reviews and anything I say is my personal opinion and in no way are these opinions associated with any breweries, brewpubs, distributors, or personnel from any of the previous mentioned establishments.

The things that will change about this blog is the blatent negativity toward breweries. It is not appropriate and uncalled for. I will focus more on the beer and my opinion of that beer. Remember though if I don’t like it that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give it a try. Perhaps you will find it to be quite good. Afterall it is a free country and we are allowed to think what we want. We just have to speak through a filter. Therefore I will also stop posting without having an editor at least read through and make sure things are rephrased properly. Sometimes my filter is as good as hula hoop.

These things are the only problems I could come up that will be changed. If there is anything that any of you (my wonderful readers) have noticed please comment below and I’ll take them into consideration.

Now back to the posts.

Prost!

More than just reviews…

For those who read the very first post you know that one of the things I wanted to do was discuss brewpub, brewing, and other beer related items.  Well this is officially my first post about brewing.  My friend Dustin came over to help me out with my first ever all-grain batch of beer.  We had a few ideas about what it would be, but we decided on a Chicory Coffee Stout.  Then we decided to do a second batch of beer.  That one was going to be a Smoked Maple Amber which was only a partial mash, not an all-grain mash (mash is what the grain is called for making beer).  A partial mash is a recipe that doesn’t use all grain but instead uses a malt extract (which is an already made malt syrup that is mixed in boiling water to create a wort).

Let’s start with the first batch which was the Chicory Coffee Stout.  After an hour or so of getting all of my equipment rounded up, put together, and sanitized we were almost ready to begin.  First problem we ran into was a slight injury. Warning: if you don’t like blood don’t look at the next picture.

It didn’t hurt.  In fact, I didn’t even see it until I saw a small flap of skin on my finger.  I’m not sure what I did but I knew I had to have it bandaged before we began. Blood + beer = off flavors.

Sorry about the previous picture so for those of you that skipped it due to a dislike of blood here is what the bag of grains looked like.

These are not all of the grains but I assure you they are all in there.  The next step we were ready for was to heat some water.  3 gallons to be exact.  The water is going to be brought to about 150 degrees.  Once that occurs the water is poured into a mash tun where we had already put the grains (sorry for the blurry pic, I was excited).

So that’s what the grain in the mash tun minus the water looks like.  I didn’t take a picture of the water in there because the grains need to steep in the 150 degree water for 45 minutes so I have to seal the mash tun to not let the heat escape.  During this time though we heated up another gallon and a half of water.  This time though to 170 degrees.  This is because we need to add that to the sparge tank to sparge the grains after we drain the wort from the mash tun (sparging is the process of washing the grains after steeping to assure that we get all of the sugars we can).  Before we can sparge though we need to drain the mash tun into the brew kettle.  Just to give you a visual see the picture below of how all of this looks.

The guy in the picture is Dustin.  Everyone say hi to Dustin.  Ok.  This is what you see from top to bottom.  The cooler on the counter is the sparge tank.  That will contain the water for washing the grains.  The cooler on the chair is the mash tun.  That is where the grains will have their sugars pulled from them creating wort.

The metal pot on the floor is the brew kettle.  That is where the wort will be brought to a boil.

Once the sparge tank has been used and there is no more liquid flowing we put the brew kettle back on the stove and began the long process of bringing 4 gallons to a boil.

The above picture is the wort getting ready to boil.  The foam shows it’s almost ready.  Once the wort finally begins to boil, depending on the recipe, the first set of hops will be used.  After that we let the wort boil for 60 minutes.  15 minutes before the end of the boil we added chicory.  Once the boil finished we needed to cool the wort down.  Luckily, I have a wort chiller.  That’s a copper tube in a coil with tubing on the ends.  This part requires a lot of water.  I wanted to know how much water so I put one end of the house into a 55 gallon drum.

It filled all but about 1/4 of that barrel.  I thought it might be worse.  Now I need to figure out a way to recycle that water to use only for cooling wort.  It’s a lot to just waste. There must be some use for it while it’s still too cold to water anything outside. Anyways continuing on.  Once the wort hit 70 degrees we put the wort into a bucket with a spout.  We carried that downstairs into my basement where we then let it fill a carboy (a glass or plastic bottle about 5 or 6 gallons).  Once that is filled we poured in the yeast which came in packages just like these. They’re puffy from the carbon dioxide the yeast are making.

And that’s pretty much it.  We sealed the carboy and covered it in a towel.  In case you are wondering there are still more steps involved.  In 2 weeks I will move the beer into a secondary fermenter where I will add cold pressed coffee.  Then it sits for another two weeks before I can bottle it and let it sit for yet another two weeks before I can drink it.  In total both beers should be done in 6 weeks.

The second beer I mentioned so very long ago (remember the smoked maple amber?).  That was the partial mash kit we did.  This was different because after we mashed the grains, we brought the wort to a boil.  As soon as it hit a boil we added a syrup malt extract.  This process killed the boil so we had to wait for the boil to come back before we could add the hops.  This was another 60 minute boil followed by all of the same steps as before.  When it comes to bottling this one I will prime it with brown sugar (priming is adding just a little bit of sugar to allow the yeast to naturally carbonate the beer).  I think this is going to be an awesome beer.  I’ll keep you all posted as to when it is done and how it comes out.

Prost!

Christmas Gifts for Beer Drinkers

That’s right it’s that time of year.  I’ve been seeing in the blogging community that the Christmas gift guide seems to be pretty popular post, so we are throwing our hat into the ring and creating our very own list.  I think instead of just saying you should buy beer or books or clothes for the beer drinker in your life we are going to make suggestions for people that are just getting into beer.

Books

Books are a great way for people to learn about beer.  For those that are just starting out tasting beer or homebrewing these books might be a great starting point:

These are just a few of the books that I’ve enjoyed reading or making notes in about the beers I’ve tried and I think they’ll come in handy for starters.

Beer

You can’t go wrong with getting anybody beer for the holidays.  Sometimes though beer can be very expensive.  Perhaps getting a mix pack is the way to go.  This way you can get multiple types of beer in a 12 pack so they can try new beers.  These mix packs will change depending upon your locale but here are a few in the area I recommend:

  • Tallgrass 2×4 (which is their new mix pack)
  • Breckenridge mix pack
  • New Belgium Follie Pack

Another  great idea is to buy a growler from a local brewpub with a gift certificate so they can go down and purchase 64 ounces of whatever beer they choose.

 Home Brew Equipment

Even somebody just starting to really enjoy beer might like the challenge of making their own beer.  Don’t buy them the Mr. Beer kit but instead get them a small starter kit that will help introduce them to producing beer.  Malt kits are good for getting your bearings on what it takes to brew.  All grain kits will be more of a challenge and may require more specialized equipment.

Beer

Wait didn’t you already cover this one? Why, yes I did.  However this time it’s not about mixed packs but instead it’s about the more expensive limited releases.  This time of year breweries love to crank out limited releases.  One reason why is for people that cellar their beer.  Darker and higher alcohol beers are very good for aging and the best time to release them is now.  Instead of heading over to the cooler section to look at six packs or mix packs you might wander over to the beers that are on the shelf and independent of any packaging.  Some good examples of beer to give might be:

  • Sierra Nevada Estate Ale
  • Oak Aged Yeti (or any of the Yeti flavors)
  • Rogue Mocha Porter
  • Grand Teton In Purist of Hoppiness

These are just a few examples.  Since not all tastes are the same it  would be a good idea to know what the person likes and doesn’t before purchasing these more unique and expensive beers.

Clothes

Nobody likes a naked beer drinker.  It’s always best to make sure they are fully clothed.  Luckily many breweries have T-shirts, hats, scarves, long sleeve T-shirts, hoodies, and other items to help accomodate these needs.  In fact this time of year many breweries are having specials where you can pick up a T-shirt or other clothing items at a discounted price.

*Warning: breweries do not sell pants.  Please make sure your beer drinking friend purchases pants from a retail store.  Shirts only cover so much*

Glasses

We all need something to put beer into so why not get them a glass from their favorite brewery.  This is a great time to go to the liquor store and pick up a pack of beer that just happens to come with a glass.  This way you don’t have to pay shipping and handling.  Samuel Smiths is an excellent example of that.

Ok so some of the categories were ones I said I wasn’t going to do but you really can’t go wrong with getting them any one of those as a gift.

Prost!