Thursday, April 29, 2010

Floculation Rating Ranges by Yeast Strain (White Labs)

Below is the second Yeast Strain Chart in the series, which visually compares the relative floculation rating of each yeast strain in the White Labs catalog.  As mentioned in the first Yeast Strain Chart posting, this project intends to visually compare the critical parameters of each yeast strain to one another.

Click on the thumbnail below to get a higher resolution image of the chart.

In addition to the above, check out the other yeast strain charts (all the links will be updated when the charts are posted):
If you'd like higher resolution PDF's of this or any of the charts, just shoot me an email. I'm more than happy to share them.



"If God had wanted us to filter our beer, he wouldn't have given us livers."
-Larry Bell

Monday, April 26, 2010

Interested in Taking a "Longshot" to Get Your Beer Distributed Nationally?

The Boston Beer Company, makers of the popular Sam Adams line of beer, has long been running an annual homebrewing competition called Longshot.  Sam Adams runs the contest to pay homage to the company’s roots, which started in founder Jim Koch’s kitchen homebrewing an old family beer recipe.  The contest also provides Boston Beer with an influx of new beer recipes and a good deal of marketing and exposure. 

Winners of the Longshot competition receive a great deal of recognition and prizes, which attracts a large pool of entries every year (averaging over 1,550 entries per year over the last four years).  Prizes for winning the competition include:

  • All expense paid trip to the 2010 Great American Beer Festival, where the finalists pour their beers and the winners are announced.
  • National distribution of the winning beers in the 2011 Longshot Variety six-pack, which includes each winner’s likeness on the beer caps.
  • One-time royalty payment of $5,000 for winning recipes.
  • Invitations to events to promote the winning beers.

Participants send four bottles of homebrew per entry and every beer will receive detailed feedback via judging score sheets.  However, unlike most other homebrew competition, entry into the Longshot competition is free – Sam Adams covers all the expenses for running the contest.  Thus, every contestant gets feedback on their beer, as well as the chance to win big, all for the cost to ship four bottles of beer to a drop-off location.  Information on past winners, finalists, and category winners can be found on the Longshot website.

The contest has been around since at least 1996, as a quick Google search turned up this article from the Sun Sentinel of Fort Lauderdale.  However, the 2010 contest is different from all of those previous to it.  This year, the Longshot competition will focus solely on Category 23.  Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) Category 23, Specialty Beer, is the catch-all category.  Sam Adams notes that they are looking for a beer “that is a harmonious marriage of ingredients, processes and beer.  The key attributes of the underlying style will be atypical due to the addition of special ingredients or techniques.  The overall uniqueness of the process, ingredients used, and creativity should be considered.”

This twist on the traditional homebrewing contests, where brewers can enter all 23 beer categories and awards are given for each category, is a fairly dramatic one.  While all of the entries must indicate a “base beer” that the brewer is seeking to innovate upon with different ingredients and techniques, this contest is truly about looking for what is new and different.  Beer brewed to traditional styles, even if they are World Class examples, will not do well in this contest.

Sam Adams is likely changing the Longshot contest for several reasons.  First, it tracks with the current American craft brewing craze of making extreme, different, and crazy beer.  Second, Boston Beer is a commercial brewery that offers more than 30 different beers that cover the style gamut.  As such, any new ideas it could get out of the Longshot competition need to push the brewing envelope.  Third, the change in the rules is a big one and it can be marketed as such – something new and different.

Personally, I think the change in the Longshot competition is unfortunate.  This mostly comes from a deep-seated appreciation of traditional beer styles.  I enjoy trying experimental beers periodically, but I dislike the current American beer trend towards all things extreme and different.  If we brewers spend all our time looking for the next best thing, we miss the incredible variety of beer we already have.  The results of this process are often unbalanced and unpleasant to drink, but are awarded accolades simply because they are different.  As such, a contest that promotes this idea as its key concept, even if it has good intentions, is not as good as one that provides opportunity for all the styles.

For more information on entering the Longshot, look here.  The deadline for entries is May 28, 2010.



Friday, April 23, 2010

Poll: What Season Do You Homebrew The Most?

As the current blog poll comes to an end, as done with prior polls, we wanted to report back on the results we recieved.  Based on the question: "What Season Do You Homebrew The Most?", presented below are the preferences of the readers who participated...

Total Votes: 15

It looks like most of the participating homebrewers really don't care what the season it is or at least they don't let it effect their brew schedule.  I would have thought there might have been a bump in the spring / summer timeframe with the better weather and longer days, but it looks like these brewers follow the "where there's a will, there's a way" mentality.  For me, I'm right there with them - as an outdoors brewer, my system sees the worst of New England winters and the scorching sun of summer just about equally.

Thanks to all those that participated.  Please take a moment and participate in our next poll, which should already be up.



"When I read about the evils of drinking, I gave up reading."
-Henny Youngman

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Top 50 Craft Breweries in the US: Where Are They Located?

Anyone that regularly reads beer blogs has no doubt already heard that the Brewers Association has come out with their 2009 version for the Top 50 Breweries in the US and the Top 50 Craft Breweries in the US. I’ve always interested to watch the lists from year to year and see how certain breweries fall in and out of favor. If you haven’t already seen it, go read Jay Brook’s Annotated List of the Top 50 Breweries, as Jay tracks who the movers on the list between 2008 and 2009.

While reading through this year’s rankings, as I’ve done on other topics, I kept wondering where these Craft Breweries are actually located throughout the US. Which states claim the most Top 50 Craft Breweries? Are there more on the east coast vs. the west coast?  Are any of them close to me?

This line of thought got me goofing around with Adobe Illustrator and I began plotting out the 2009 Top 50 Craft Breweries.  When finished, Tom encouraged me to post the resulting map on our blog and share it with anyone who points their web browsers our way. So, without much fan fare, below is the resulting map showing the locations of all 50 Craft Breweries from this year’s BA ranking.

Circling back to the question I posed at the beginning of this post: which states claim the most Top 50 Craft Breweries? The Golden State was the front runner with 11 Californian breweries followed by Colorado with a very respectable 6 craft breweries. A run-down of all the states with ranking craft breweries is listed below.

Top 50 Craft Breweries by State
RankStateNo. of Breweries% of Total
1California11 22%
3Oregon4 8%
4New York3 6%
5Massachusetts2 4%
5Missouri2 4%
5Texas2 4%
5Vermont2 4%
5Washington2 4%
5Wisconsin2 4%
11Alaska1 2%
11Delaware1 2%
11Georgia1 2%
11Hawaii1 2%
11Louisiana1 2%
11Maine1 2%
11Maryland1 2%
11Michigan1 2%
11Minnesota1 2%
11Montana1 2%
11Ohio1 2%
11Pennsylvania1 2%
11Tennessee1 2%
11Utah1 2%

Jim Koch and the Boston Beer Company is the closest craft brewery to me, at least by car.  If I felt like going to a marathon swim, Blue Point Brewering Co. would be just across the Long Island Sound.  What about you?



“You can never buy beer, you just rent it.”
-Archie Bunker

Monday, April 19, 2010

Homebrewing Art - Beer Labels

For some of us, homebrewing offers many outlets that allow creative expression to shine through.  There is the culinary art of crafting a great beer at home to make your taste buds smile.  There is the analytical art of designing a recipe to meet parameters of a particular style (such as the BJCP style guidelines).  But the creative muse doesn't stop just at the beer itself.  Logos, labels, and beer names offer creative options only limited by the imagination.

Over the past decade, there has been enough interest in homebrew beer labels that Brew Your Own (BYO) Magazine hosts an annual contest for the artwork that adorns homebrewed beer.  This year, the 2010 competition (entry deadline: May 1st, 2010) marks the 15th year of that contest.  The contest attracts hundreds of entries and commercial sponsorship from BYO's advertisers.  Pictures of past winning labels can be found here:  20092008, and 2007.

But these contests are not just limited to BYO, as other smaller competitions are hosted by local fairs, homebrewing clubs, and even breweries themselves.  A sample of other homebrewing label contests include:

The creativity of the label designers is boundless.  When looking through collections of labels, it quickly becomes apparent that the "best" labels can come from any medium, not just those with created by expensive computer graphic programs.  Some of the best examples can be communicated to audiences through pencil sketches and drawings.

With all that being said, Jeff and I here at Lug Wrench Brewing love a good laugh as it appeals to our sophomoric senses of humor.  So in keeping with that theme, here is a selection of some of our favorites homebrew beer labels:

Cranky Wife Tonic - Ryan Lockard

Holy Habanero Hot Pepper Pale Ale - Michael Thompson

Cross Czech - David Levesque

Hopzilla's Revenge - Stiller

Old Master Belgian Dubbel - Sean McCauley

Trail Rash Ale - Papa Homebrew

Baby Got Bock - Katie Kregal

For those interested in entering the 2010 BYO label contest, more information can be found here.



Thursday, April 15, 2010

Beer Taxes: How much is the government taxing your beer?

This post is fitting given that today is the deadline for individual federal tax returns here in the USA (unless you’re like me, being in a state affected by the recent flooding where Obama has kindly given us a 4 week extension). With all the paperwork and number crunching associated with these returns, it got me thinking about how much money government officials are receiving from taxes buried in the price of the commercial beer I purchase (i.e. excise taxes, etc).

The answer, it turns out, depends greatly on where beer is sold given that excises tax rates greatly vary from state to state. Alaskans, for example, have the misfortune of paying the highest state excise tax - $1.07 per gallon, while Wisconsin and Missouri share the lowest excise tax rate - $0.06 per gallon. But what the hell does 'state excise tax rate' really mean to the consumer? How much am I personally paying each year as a beer consumer?

To get an idea of what different state resident pays for “beer taxes”, I took the individual state excise tax rates and multiplied it by the annual per capita beer consumption for each state. The results indicate what an average individual would be paying out of pocket (in the form of margins built into the retail beer price) each year in state levied “beer taxes”.  While the range of annual expenditures is not a large burden, the relative differences between states can be very dramatic. (For the purposes of this post, the reference to "states" includes the 50 US states and the District of Columbia.)

Top 5 States with the Highest “Beer Taxes” Paid Per Capita
  1. Alaska ($32.64 per resident)
  2. Hawaii ($30.97 per resident)
  3. South Carolina ($27.95 per resident)
  4. New Mexico ($16.15 per resident)
  5. Alabama ($16.06 per resident)

Top 5 States with the Lowest “Beer Taxes” Paid Per Capita
  1. Missouri ($2.01 per resident)
  2. Kentucky ($2.09 per resident)
  3. Wisconsin ($2.32 per resident)
  4. Maryland ($2.34 per resident)
  5. Pennsylvania ($2.40 per resident)

So according to all this number crunching (the full dataset presented below), I’m only paying $2.90 per year to the lovely Ocean State in “Beer Taxes”. Of course this doesn’t cover the federal taxes levied or sales taxes lumped on top of the retail price, but overall these numbers are showing that Rhode Islanders are actually doing quite well.  As a comparison, for example, the beer drinkers in Alaska, Hawaii and South Carolina are paying just about 10x what we pay here in RI.  So for every dime I pay in "beer taxes", the residents of these states are dropping down a full dollar on the counter. 

And of course, in good fraternal rivalry, I’m happy to my New England state of Rhode Island (#42) is only paying 40% of the taxes that my brother Tom has the privilege of paying down in Virginia (#18).  Right on.

Ok, enough rambling.  Here’s the overall data…

The state excise tax rates were taken from the Federation of Tax Administrators and the Per Capita Beer Consumption Rates were taken from the Beer Institute . State populations were taken from the 2009 US Census estimates.

So where did your state net out? Let us know…



“… how unfairly taxes are levied on the brewing industry, who have to pay more taxes than any other product in America, except tabacco.”
-Jay Brooks

Monday, April 12, 2010

Fermentation Attenuation Ranges By Yeast Strain (White Labs)

In a manner akin to the Visual Beer Style Charts that were featured in prior posts, I turned my attention to comparing some of the most common brewing yeasts available to homebrewers.  Focusing specifically on the White Labs Brewing Yeasts (sorry Wyeast users), I wanted to see how the different strains compared against one another.  Which yeasts were notorious for attenuating a ferment on the low end of the spectrum?  Which yeasts have the best shot at fermenting a high alcohol beer?

The first comparative yeast chart - Attenuation Ranges by Yeast Strain - is preseted below.  Click on the thumbnail to get a higher resolution image of the chart.  The other yeast charts in the series will be added in susequent posts.

In addition to the above, check out the other yeast strain charts (all the links will be updated when the charts are posted):
If you'd like higher resolution PDF's of this or any of the chats, just shoot me an email.  I'm more than happy to share them.



"Not everybody is strong enough to endure life without an anesthetic.  Drink probably averts more gross crime that it causes."
-George Bernard Shaw

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Coastal Extreme Brewing Co.’s New Brewery

“Drink Local”. I feel like I could easily slip into a soapbox rant on this one if I’m not careful, but hopefully those whose eyes are reading this post already know and appreciate the concept. Support your regional breweries. Take advantage and patron the beer establishments around you while you have the opportunity – if you don’t, they may not be around the next time you get the itch.

In the same vein of Tom’s prior visit to the brewery formerly known as Clipper City Brewing Co. , I recently had the opportunity to visit the brand new home of the Coastal Extreme Brewing Company (CEBC), makers of Newport Storm Beer and distillers of Thomas Tew Rum in Newport, RI. Newport Storm has been in Rhode Island since ’99 and has branded itself ‘RI’s only Microbrewery’ (which is true if the brewpubs are discounted). In the latter part of 2009, the CEBC closed the doors of its old brewing facility and prepared for its expansion into a newly constructed building that will house the brewery going forward. While construction and relocation were delayed for a few months due to a series of contractor disputes, the brewery is now in its ‘soft’ opening with beer being brewed on facility.

CEBC decided to open its doors to the community while the finishing touches were still being made.The tasting room/visiting center itself is still a bit of a work-in-progress, with the stained hardwood bar installed but the carpeting, shelving, and displays still unassembled.  Flights of beer or rum are available to visitors at a cost of $7 and $9 respectively (which includes the branded glassware).  While a guided tour is only given once a day, the new building features an observation deck above the tasting room overlooking the entire brewery. Being open at all times the tasting room is open, the deck provides the public with a way to experience the whole facility without letting people run free on the brewery’s main floor.

The view from the observation deck

With the brewing operations active again onsite, the ECBC brewhouse is active 1-2 days a week to keep up with the current demand, leaving plenty of room for expansion.

The 30 bbl (I believe) brewhouse

The oversized fermentors were chugging away during our visit.

As part of Newport Storm’s expansion, the company was able to bring in a full bottling line onsite. At their prior facility, only kegged beer was produced at the brewery, with all the Newport Storm bottles being brewed offsite by a contract brewery about 45 minutes away in Connecticut (at Cottrell Brewing Co., for those keeping score at home.) With the new warehouse facility complete, all the ‘Storm beer is produced under one roof.

Bottled exiting the bottle washer heading toward the fillers.

In addition to producing the line of Newport Storm beers, ECBC is also Rhode Island’s only micro-distillery producing Thomas Tew Rum. Interestingly enough, ECBC was the first company to receive a distillery license within the state in over 125 years. Taking its name from the 17th century “Rhode Island Pirate”, Thomas Tew Rum is a throwback to the golden years of the sugar trade. During this time, Newport, RI was considered the “rum capital of the world” with over 20 distilleries within the city proper. Using blackstrap molasses, ECBC’s Thomas Tew Rum is the result of two distillations, after which the liquor is aged in American oak barrels for 1 to 2 years.

ECBC’s pot still (looking a little lonely)

Thomas Tew Rum aging in the corner of the brewery, waiting for its day.

If you’re a local New Englander or just happen to be in our section of the map, make the trip over to the new brewery and distillery. And if you reside in other parts of the globe, get out there and support your local brewing establishments instead.



“Beer isn’t just beer…beer needs a home”
-Stephen Beaumont

Monday, April 5, 2010

Wort Pump in a Toolbox #3 - Build Steps

After the previous post in our series on building a toolbox-mounted wort pump, the next post features the steps used to actually install the pump in the toolbox.  The steps outlined below are, in a large part, based on an articled entitled "Pumped-Up Toolbox" that appeared in the October 2009 issue of Brew Your Own Magazine.  The primary difference between that build and mine was that I included a functioning electrical outlet in the toolbox.  This allows the pump toolbox to function both as an extension cord, which can be used to power miscellaneous brewing equipment like a grain mill, and a protected wort pump.  The build also featured brass quick disconnects to allow the easy changing out of hoses during brew day.

The steps used to mount the pump in the tool box and complete the electrical circuit are presented below as a series of pictures with brief commentary.  Hopefully, this presentation will make the explanation of the steps clearer.  Please let us know if there are any questions with the presented information.

All of the parts are laid out on a work surface.  This allows us to make sure no parts are missing and to dry fit the parts to ensure the installation will go well.

Dry fit the pump against one wall of the toolbox.  Make sure that where the pump shaft goes through the toolbox wall allows enough room for the wort intake and return, which are mounted vertically.  In my build, I had to prop the pump up on some scrap lumber to raise it high enough.  Once this is done, mark the wholes and drill them out.

Dry fit the electrical boxes against opposing sides of the tool box.  Mark the appropriate holes and cut them out.  Then install the boxes in the resulting holes using the bolts, locking washers, and nuts.

Front view of an installed electrical box, which displays how the mounting brackets are used to hold the box in place.

Place any raising scrap lumber in the box and then slide the pump through the precut hole for the pump shaft.  Attach the pump to the lumber with zip ties or a long worm clamp.  Make sure that the wire coming out of the pump has enough room to avoid getting snagged on any tool box shelves.

Lock the pump in place by screwing in the pump shaft collar through the pre-cut holes and into the pump body.  These screws will tighten the collar against the pump body, through the side of the tool box, and make the whole assembly one unit.

Dry wire the electrical circuit in the following manner:  1) Extension cord comes into back of tool box and goes into the box that will house the plug.  2) Plug box wire goes into the switch box.  3)  Power cord from pump comes into the switch box.  Lock the cords down with electrical staples, zip ties, or any means possible, as this prevents things from coming loose later.

Complete the wiring at each box.  It goes without saying that you should not do this if you are not comfortable with working with electrical circuits.  ELECTRICITY CAN KILL YOU!  You have been warned.  Once the wiring is complete, make sure to test the plug with an appropriate device.  Then install plug and switch covers to prevent accidental electrical shocking.  Also, do NOT turn the pump on with the pump head on, as running the pump dry will burn it out.

Install the two coat hooks on the back of the tool box so the extension cord can be coiled for storage.

The finished wort pump in a tool box build!

View of the pump head.

Other posts in this series include:


Friday, April 2, 2010

The Session #38: 'Fictitious' Cult Beers

Welcome to The Session – a collaboration of bloggers writing on a common beer-related topic once a month. For April, Sean Inman over at Beer Search Party chose “Cult Beers” as the collective topic to explore.  A round-up of all the blog posts for this topic can be found here.  You can read more about Beer Blogging Friday (“The Session”) over at the Brookston Beer Bulletin.

The topic du mois for April’s Beer Blogging Friday covered Cult Beers, or as Sean mused, “what beer or beers that I would get up at 4:00 in the morning, drive across state lines, stand in a long unmoving line in the cold and rain for a change to taste with a crowd the size of Woodstock?” The short answer for both Tom and I would have to be No - there isn’t such a beer out there that engender such a fanatical quest. Sure I get excited when I get my mitts on a Black Albert or a rare bottle of Cantillon, but not enough to go on an Easy Rider-esque road trip.  As we ruminated on last month, what excites us the most about beer is not neccessarily the contents of the bottle, but the intertwined social connections that result from the love of beer.

Of course, no one wants to be the sour mash that stinks up the mood of the collective effort, so we thought we’d take a bit more of a lighthearted approach as our contribution to Session #38. Here is a look at some of the fictitious “cult beers” that have become part of American popular culture. These are beer brands that have never truly been available for public consumption, but they have still engender a cult-like following.

Pawtucket Patriot Ale (Family Guy). Maybe it is because I live 40 minutes away from the location of this fictitious brewery (Pawtucket, RI), but I’ve always had a love for the brand. Sure it is a knock-off of Sam Adams, but anyone who is a fan of Family Guy would recognize and appreciate this label. Hell, you can buy T-shirts, pint glasses, boxer shorts, etc – all for an imaginary product.

BenderBrau Cold-Fusion Steam Beer (Futurama). While it doesn’t have the same brand recognition as the other fictional beers on this list, Cold-Fusion is a cult favorite amongst the die hard fans of Futurama (rivaled by the likes of Olde Fortran Malt Liquor and a certain other beer making an appearance below).  Besides, what a great freakin name.

Girlie Girl Beer (Married With Children).  The favorite suds of the legedary Al Bundty, Girlie Girl Beer was also the official beverage of NO MA'AM - the National Organization of Men Against Amazonian Masterhood), a pro-male activist group whos meetings were held in Al's garage.  As a symbol of protest for oppressed, suburban husbands in Bundty's neighborhood, Girlie Girl and NO MA'AM gave the guys a glimmer of hope that the free-willed bachelors they used to be had not been completely driven from them.

Löbrau Beer (Futurama). Yeah, another Futurama ‘product.’ While not as popular as the Futurama beers listed above, this one has such a great ‘give the finger to industrial beers’ attitude that it had to make the list.

Bender: Ahh beer. So many choices, and it makes so little difference.
Fry: How about Löbrau? It has dots on it.

Butterbeer (Harry Potter). Ok, while there is a bit of a nerdy side to this reference, Butterbeer is featured during many of the important events in the Harry Potter series giving the beer a sort of brand recognition for fans of the books.  The beer itself  is the low alcohol drink favored by students at Hogwarts School of Wizardry.  

Duff Beer (The Simpsons). Arguably the king of fictitious beer brands.  Its one of the few fictitious beers that have crossed over and been brewed in the real world, even if it was just a gimmick.  Beyond just the beer, Duff has generated a merchandising arm that generates millions of dollars.  And beyond that, it has a brand identity that trancends almost any beer seen in today's craft beer market.  Sad really...

There are probably hundreds of other fictional beer brands out there that have enough of a fan base to be considered ‘cult’ beers. Let us know your favorite.


-The Wallace Brothers

“I’m going to drink till I reboot!”
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