Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Session #44: Frankenstein Beer Costumes

Welcome to The Session – a collaboration of bloggers writing on a common beer-related topic.  For the month of October, Ashley Routson a.k.a. The Beer Wench chose "Frankenstein Beers" as the collective topic to explore.  A round-up of all the blog posts will be posted in the near future.  You can read more about Beer Blogging Friday (“The Session”) over at the Brookston Beer Bulletin.

One of the best attributes of posts for The Session is that they can range all over the map.  Some posts follow common themes and can be grouped well with other posters, while others venture into areas that can only be labeled "off topic."  This month's host, The Beer Wench stated "there are no rules about how to write this topic . . ."  I intend to take her at her word.

One of the most fascinating things about Halloween is how inventive people can become when designing their costumes.  The tradition of dressing in costume on Halloween dates back to the Middle Ages, possibly from the practice of "souling," where the poor would go door to door on Hallowmas (November 1) and receive food in returns for prayers for the dead on All Souls Day (November 2).  Dressing in costume, and arguably the entire Halloween holiday, has become commercialized in modern times.  This has resulted in costume inspiration coming from a variety of commercial products, including the Lug Wrench favorite - beer.

In this mode of thought, I decided to link beer related costumes with this month's Session topic of Frankenstein Beers.  Below are several of the more humorous and surprising costumes I could find on the web, along with brief commentary one each.

Beer Man and Beer Woman - Who could resist wearing a beer-inspired super hero outfit, especially with a utility belt that can hold canned craft brew?

Beer Pong Table - It is easy to be the hit of any party when you bring this popular game "to life."

Flying Dog Six-Pack - It is truly creative to go out as a variety six-pack of your favorite craft beer with your closest friends.  I would imagine the six-pack holder for these people was an exercise in invasion of personal space.

Coors Light Gladiator - Speaking of homemade, this defender of the American light lager is ready to battle, all for the low price of - FREE.

Human Breathalyzer - Beer related - yes.  Inappropriate - YES!!!

I hope you have enjoyed this journey into a world tangentially related to beer.  If you have seen your own humorous or horrendous beer-related costumes, be sure to leave a comment and tell us about it.



Monday, September 27, 2010

2010 Samuel Adams Longshot Winners Announced

Last week at the Great American Beer Festival (GABF), as has become a tradition, Jim Koch announced the winners of the 2010 Samuel Adams Longshot competition.  As we posted earlier, this year's Longshot competition was only focused solely on Category 23.  Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) Category 23, Specialty Beer, is the catch-all category.  Commentators predicted this departure from the normal complete beer-style competition format would lead to some interesting results.

So, who were the winners (information taken directly from the September 2010 Samuel Adams "What's on tap" newsletter)?

  • "Rodney Kibzey - a second time winner (he also won in '07), Rodney's Blackened Hops is sure to please beer lovers when it appears in the 2011 Longshot pack. Harnessing eight years of homebrewing knowledge, Rodney found that combining debittered dark malts and citrusy hops yielded a surprising and unique flavor for this brew. Its black color hints at roasted malt and coffee flavors, but its the big hop character that really steals the show. Packed with citrusy and piney American hops, this beer has a big flavor and clean bitterness."
  • "Richard Roper - Richard’s Friar Hop Ale combines his love of hops with his affinity for spicy Belgian ale. To develop his recipe, he created a hybrid of two styles, uniting the big hoppy taste of an IPA with the spicy, fruity flavor of a Belgian. The toasty caramel sweetness from the malt and Belgian candy sugar mimics a Belgian ale, while the big citrus hop notes of an IPA balance the style. A spicy yeast fermentation and hints of orange and coriander round out the brew. It's a refreshing beer that can be enjoyed any time of year." 
  • "Caitlin DeClercq - a first time homebrewer, Caitlin is this year's employee homebrew contest winner. Caitlin's "Honey Bee Lavender Wheat" is an ale brewed with lavender petals & honey. A citrus tartness and slight sweetness from the honey and vanilla balance out the finish in this beer, perfect to sip while kicking back and relaxing."
One observations that can be made about the results is that the two non-employee beers feature styles that have become very popular recently, the Cascadian Dark Ale (CDA) and Belgian IPA.  The July 2010 edition of Brew Your Own Magazine (BYO) featured an article discussing the origins of the CDA and state it is a deep brown to black ale with prominent citrus and pine hop aroma and flavor, balanced by a light roast/chocolate flavor.  The Belgian IPA style, which combines a large hop character and bitterness with the traditional Belgian spicy character found in tripels, has also been gaining favor in the past few years.

Another observation of the results is that the employee winner again features a "flavored" beer.  The 2007 employee winner was an ale flavored with white grapes.  The 2008 winner was a cranberry wit and the 2009 winner was a lemon-pepper saison.

I interpret the results to indicate that this year's competition is not that different than previous years.  The focus on Category 23 may have led to the selection of some newer styles, but it did not lead to the crazy concoctions that I have seen entered in the catch-all category.  It seems that the wildest recipes in the competition, whether the event was limited to Category 23 or not, comes from the Sam Adams employees.

The 2011 Samuel Adams LongShot American Homebrew Contest – Category 23 Variety 6-Pack, which features two bottles from each winner, will be available nationwide in select retail stores beginning March 2011.

What do you think about the competition and its winners.  Post a comment and let us know.



Thursday, September 23, 2010

Local Beer Festival: River Bend Beer Festival

This past Saturday, I had the privilege of attending the River Bend Beer Festival, located in Scottsville, VA.  The festival, which is in its second year, features a variety of breweries from around Virginia, including both regionally-known breweries and smaller obscure ones.  In fact, I was surprised to note that about a third of the breweries at the festival were ones I had never heard of before.  It was very enjoyable to sample beers I was unfamiliar with and talk with the brewers about their craft (most of the smaller brewery booths were actually staffed by the head brewers or owners).  Breweries represented at the festival included:
I was equally surprised by the breadth of people I met at the River Bend Beer Festival.  I spoke with a public official from the Rehoboth Beach, DE, who was unsurprisingly a huge fan of Dogfish Head.  I also met a couple from Europe who were visiting Virginia and randomly heard of the local festival.  I met a manager from a MillerCoors plant.  The variety of people that this local, and relatively small, festival drew was quite interesting.

This experience leads one to thinking, are beer festivals on the rise in the United States?  What do beer festivals represent to the larger craft beer market?  Locally, I would say that there is an increased interest in beer festivals, with River Bend in its second year and a new festival, Top of the Hops, debuting this year in Charlottesville.  Anecdotally, I have read more about beer festivals in the past couple of years, as well as growing attendance by brewers and craft beer fans at the Great American Beer Festival (GABF) and the National Homebrewers Conference, which seems to indicate increased interest.  However, there is a surprising lack of data on beer festival trends out in the public domain.  Several quick Google searches yielded some sites that featured calendars of beer festivals, but no analysis of the number of beer festivals in the United States or if such festivals are growing in popularity.  I would think this sort of information would be of interest to a number of people and should be generally available.

What about the Lug Wrench readership?  Have you been able to participate in local beer festivals?  Do there seem to be more festivals now then five years ago?  Post a comment and let us know.



Monday, September 20, 2010

Beer + Movies = Arlington Cinema & Drafthouse

While this is a bit more “local” to Tom and the readers down in Maryland/Virginia, when I heard about it, I was overcome with envy.

How come there are not more places like this around -especially up here in New England?!  This movie theatre beats all other movie theatres I’ve seen before – it’s a hybrid between a full service bar/restaurant and a cinema.  The tables themselves are laid out in the actual theater and the wait staff serves the guests right there.  Want a Dogfish Head while watching Inception?  No problem.  A Hefe while taking in Avatar?  Absolutely!

On top of just the concept of being served in front of the screen, the establishment is playing up its unique feature and catering to beer enthusiasts.  One of their recent events: a screening of Beer Wars coupled with tasting flights of craft beer.

While I am sure like most “mainstream” bars and restaurants, the industrial lagers are probably their biggest sellers.  But being able to order a Heavy Seas or Starr Hill beer while watching some great CGI special effects is certainly worth its own salt.

Let us know if you’ve been to Arlington Cinema & Drafthouse or alert us to other kick-ass beer joints.



"Without question, the greatest invention in the history of mankind is beer. Oh, I grant you that the wheel was also a fine invention, but the wheel does not go nearly as well with pizza."
-Dave Barry

Thursday, September 16, 2010

GABF Pro-Am Competition and "McSteamy"

The Great American Beer Festival (GABF), which is run annually by the Brewers Association (BA), has been doing a professional-amateur (Pro-Am) competition for four years now.  The concept is similar to pro-am competitions in golf in that they pair a professional and an amateur together to see what they can do.  Professional craft brewers can select an award-winning homebrew recipe and brew a scaled-up version of the beer at their brewery.  Highlights of the competition rules include:

  • The brewery must enter at least one other beer at the GABF competition;
  • The Pro-Am beer must be available for sale before the middle of August;
  • The Pro-Am beer must be available for tasting on the floor of the GABF;
  • The homebrew recipe must be an award-winning beer from a sanctioned Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) competition; and
  • The brewery can only submit one entry into the Pro-Am competition.
The entries to the Pro-Am competition are judged using best-of-show rules.  This means that all of the entries are compared against each other, regardless of beer style, and the winners are selected from the entire flight of beers.  The three best entries are awarded gold, silver, and bronze medals.  The 2009 GABF Pro-Am competition had 72 entries in 39 different categories, coming from 21 different states.  This was an increase of about 25% over the previous year, indicating a growing interest in the competition.  A list of the 2009 winners can be found here.

The 2010 Pro-Am competition is of particular interest to me because I know one of the entrants.  One of the co-founders of my local club, CAMRA, Jamey Barlow, was selected by Starr Hill to supply their Pro-Am homebrew recipe.  They selected Jamey's recipe for a California common-style of beer.  Jamey shared some of his experience in brewing on the much larger commercial system at a recent CAMRA meeting, which included some practical considerations like hop substitutions (pearle versus northern brewer).  Best of all, Jamey's beer, named "McSteamy" both in reference to Anchor Brewing's trademark of "steam" beer and the Mark Sloan character in Grey's Anatomy, was available on tap at a local bar.  I was able to try a couple of pints and talk with Jamey and a Starr Hill brewer about the beer, which qualified as one of the coolest homebrewing events I have taken part in.

So, please wish Starr Hill and Jamey good luck as they enter the GABF Pro-Am competition later this month.



Monday, September 13, 2010

Floculation Rating Ranges by Yeast Strain (Wyeast)

Below is the second Yeast Strain Chart in the series, which visually compares the relative floculation rating of each yeast strain in the Wyeast 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 Wyeast 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.



"Prohibition makes you want to cry into your beer and denies you the beer to cry into."

-Don Marquis

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Wort Pump in a Toolbox #5 - Pump in Action

The previous post in our series on building a wort pump discussed creating the connections used by the pump on brew day.  This last post focuses on using the pump during an actual brew day.  The brew day in question was brewing a 10-gallon batch of American India Pale Ale (IPA) as part of a brewing demonstration at my local homebrew shop, The Fermentation Trap.

The wort pump tool box is not used until the end of the brewing process (typically for the transfer of hot wort).  However, when getting out all of the equipment for a brewing session, it is important to make sure your pump and hoses are clean, available, and in working order.

Fifteen minutes before the end of the boil, I hook my pump up to the kettle (connections noted in the image with red arrows).  The purpose of running the wort through the pump before the end of the boil is to sanitize the entire pump pathway before cooling begins.  Note how the pump is located below the kettle, which is important to prime the pump.  I first connect the ball-valve that exits the kettle to the pump's intake.  I connect the pump's exit port to another high pressure tube, but do not yet connect it to the quick disconnect on the "J" connection on my immersion chiller.  Holding the exit tube that will connect to the immersion chiller high in the air, I open both the kettle's ball valve and the pump's ball valve.  The wort will flow up through the pump and part way up the exit tube (this is important to prime the pump and get all the air out).  I then connect the tube to the immersion chiller and turn the pump on.  It should be fully primed and push wort through correctly.  If not, play with the throttle ball valve until it pushes properly.

At the end of the boil, add any flame-out hops and put a lid on the kettle.  Then, connect the cooling coils to your garden hose and slowly push cold water through them.  The "J" return on the immersion chiller will spin the wort past the coils and cool it much faster that normal.  On the brew day in question, the pump dropped the temperature of 13 gallons of wort from boiling to 75 F in about 45 minutes.  Once the wort temperature has reached its target cooling point (I like to switch to pushing ice water through the coils after the temperature is below 90 F), turn the pump off and let the wort sit, covered, for 20 minutes.  This allows the hops to settle in the middle of the kettle.

After the settling is done, close the ball valve on the kettle and switch the exit tubing to a sanitized line that runs into a carboy.  Then, open the valve slightly and turn the pump back on.  The goal is to fill the carboys slowly, so the hops in the center of the kettle do not get pulled into the pump intake and moved to the carboy.  I would estimate that I pump to the carboys at about 25% of the pump's maximum speed.

Once all the wort has been transferred to the carboy, make sure to clean the pump and hoses well.  I do this by immediately putting the emptied hoses into a tub of sanitizer.  I clean the pump itself by flushing cold water from the garden hose through the pump head, followed by pouring sanitizer through it as well.  The pump head does not need a extremely good cleaning, as it will have boiling wort move through it again on the next brew day.  But, it helps to flush it well when the wort has not had a chance to dry inside the pump head and hoses.

We hope this series of articles on building a toolbox-mounted wort pump has been useful.  Please leave a comment and let us know your thoughts.  As a point of reference, the other posts in this series include:


Monday, September 6, 2010

Beer-Related Ideas That Make You Say ‘WTF’? – Part II

Whenever I start getting into a lot of patent related work as part of my day job, I almost invariably seem to gravitate toward patent searches that reveal incredibly silly / bizarre concepts. This, in turn, gets me to alter my keywords to look for stranger and stranger inventions. Before I know it, I’m completely given up on my intended search and just keep poking around for patents that I find just plain amusing.

Similar to the first post I did back in January, many of the inventions that I dug up produce a head-scratching “Huh?” or a “who the hell paid for this!” response. These “WTF?!?” inventions were numerous enough that I started jotting down those that were beer-related as I know fellow beer aficionados would certainly get a chuckle from them.

Take a gander at the ideas below, have a laugh, and remember that some people pay $10,000 or more to get a patent issued these days.

* * *

“Decorative Beer Dispenser for Killing Slugs”
United States Patent No.: 5,505,018 (issued: April 9, 1996)
Inventor: G. R. Parker
For those individuals whose backyards, gardens, or green areas are ravaged by nefarious invertebrates, this is the invention for you. This patent describes “decorative dispensers adapted to hold and continuously dispense beer solutions for killing slugs, snails, and the like.” Only the uncouth would use unsightly vessels such as plates and saucers to lay their alcoholic traps. The sophisticated and refined individuals would prefer “an attractive outdoor beer dispenser” that not only “compliment(s) a yard’s decor”, but prevents the pooled beer from soiling by refreshing the pooled beer.

Available in a duck format, a cat format, or a mock bird-bath format.

Various Sports-Related Beer Dispensers
United States Patent No.: D533,739 (issued: December 19, 2006), D501,344 (issued: February 1, 2005), D501,343 (issued: February 1, 2005), D501,342 (issued: February 1, 2005)
Inventor: Miesieski et al.
Taking the concept of a PEZ dispenser, these inventors devised a series of ‘beer’ dispensers that market to any sport or sporting event that can be conceived. Put in a refrigeration aspect to the design, and this can sit in anyone’s living room next to the lazyboy. Finish your beer? Just pull back the helmet and your next cold beer is waiting for your enjoyment.

“Yeast-Containing Beer”
United States Patent No.: 4,911,936 (issued: March 27, 1990)
Inventor: Kijima et al.
While the Germans have been doing it for hundreds of years, apparently it was the Japanese in 1990 that patented the concept of adding yeast to the beer for bottle conditioning. Huh?!? I’m not sure how this patent and it's claims were allowed with all the prior art (knowledge) out there, but it looks like Kirin owns rights to bottle conditioning.

“Beer Bottle Ornament”
United States Patent No.: D610,398 (issued: February 23, 2010)
Inventor: D. R. Bathey
Pictures say a thousand words and the diagrams for this design patent say it all. I guess the idea is that boobs just make everything better.

“Board Game Simulating Drunk Driving”
United States Patent No.: 4,216,966 (issued: August 12, 1980)
Inventor: T. H. MacRae
Even after finding this one and reading it, I’m still a bit dumbfounded. The game is exactly as the title describes: players roll dice and move their pieces from liquor establishment to liquor establishment. “The amount of liquor consumed and the time of consumption … is transferred to a blood alcohol chart which indicates sobriety or drunkenness”. The player wins if they can visit four locations successfully and maintain sobriety. A player is eliminated if their character becomes drunk and either occupies the same square as a police car (i.e. arrested) or by landing on a road hazard (i.e. car crash).


Granted the game was ‘invented’ in 1980 before drunk driving became a vehement enemy of society, but …. Huh?!

* * *

There are plenty more of these head-scratchers out there – if you happen to bump into any other ‘WTF’ beer-related ideas/patents, please let us know.



“… in life, there’s always room for beer.”
-Tom Ciccateri

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Poll: What is the ideal ABV for your favorite beer style/brand?

Similar to what has been done for all our prior blog polls, this post takes a moment to memorialize the results we received on the most recent blog poll. The reader’s response to the question “What would you consider to be the ideal ABV (Alcohol by Volume) for your favorite beer style/brand?” are presented below.

Total Votes: 32

In every industry, there are trends that develop new product offerings and craft beer has certainly seen its share. Whether it’s the Imperial / “Extreme” beer craze or the Return of the Session Beer movement, the ABV of the resulting beers tends oscillate over time. So when this poll was set up, Tom and I were curious how our readership would rate on the ABV spectrum. When we were originally putting this poll together, the original intent was to determine how many people preferred a session beer as their favorite beer. As can be seen from above, the result was neither high nor low, but right in the middle (although I’m sure some purist will yell at me for calling an 8% ABV beer ‘right in the middle’).

We’d love to know what you think of the results and how the information may (or may not) be used. Also, please make sure to take part in our current poll, which should be posted and awaiting your input.



"Everybody has to believe in something.....I believe I'll have another drink."
-W.C. Fields
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