Thursday, March 31, 2011

Tomme Arthur vs. The World

While I was surfing through the forums at Beer Advocate, I came across something humorous worth sharing.  A user with some artistic talent (alfranzell) sketched up a few satirical comic strips with Tomme Arthur, Director of Brewing Operations at The Lost Abbey in San Diego, as the central figure.  While I would not call these flattering to Tomme, I'm sure he would get a kick out of them all the same.

Below are a few of my favorites (click on the image to get a larger image) ...

The entire collection can be found on Flickr using this link.

Got a link to some other good beer realted comics or art?  Let us know!!



"I don't have a drinking problem, except when I can't find a drink."
-Tom Waits

Monday, March 28, 2011

Broken Bottles and Shipping Beer

The first round of the National Homebrewing Competition (NHC) is currently open.  This year features a twist on previous competitions in that there are nine competition sites and each one is capped at 750 entries.  The twist is that a homebrewer can enter any competition site, so long as that site's cap has not yet been reached.  In previous years, the first round competition site was specified by a homebrewer's location, which led to some sites "selling out" while others still had room.  This change is a welcome one and it worked, as all nine sites completely filled up as of March 24th.

I elected to send my NHC entries to the competition site in Nashville, Tennessee, both because it is relatively close and because it is not one of the historically strong homebrewing competition areas (think Ohio area equals Gordon Strong and California equals Jamil Zainacheff, both big-time winnners).  I boxed up my entries, and those from one other member of the my homebrewing club (Charlottesville Area Masters of Real Ale - CAMRA), as I have many times in the past.  I shipped them off via UPS and delivery was assured in two days.  On the day of delivery, I was shocked to receive a "damaged package" report, which stated some of the package contents were broken, but some were salvagable and were delivered to the final destination.  I immediately sent an email to the competition organizer, who replied and stated he would not be able to find the package and get back to me until it was too late to send in replacement entries.  Thus, I packed up another set of entries and sent them off to ensure I had beer for the judges.

Shipping homebrew has long been a difficult process that has caused many homebrewers problems.  One of the members of my homebrew club, Jamey, has written an excellent post on how to help prevent bottle breakage in shipping beer (he has extensive experience in this area).  It is definately worth reading before sending any of your precious creations through the perils of the shipping process.

Good luck,


Thursday, March 24, 2011

Brew In A Bag - Resource

The Brew in a Bag (BIAB) method of all-grain brewing has gained a lot of popularity in the past years.  The basic concept is that BIAB uses a brew kettle as a mash tun, a hot liquor tank, and a kettle all in one.  It is a one-vessel brewing system.  The kettle is filled with all of the brewing liquor (the infusion water and the sparge water), which is heated to temperature a couple of degrees above the sacchrification rest temperature.  A mesh bag that is approximately the size of the kettle is placed in the water and the milled grain is stirred within that bag and left to sit for an hour or until conversion is complete.  The bag is then lifted out of the water and and the bag is allowed to drain into the kettle as it heats to the boil.  The rest of the process is the same as any other all-grain brewing system.  Lug Wrench first reported on BIAB a year ago.

Brad Smith, host of the BeerSmith podcast, recently interviewed Patrick Hollingdale, an early proponent of the BIAB process.  Patrick provided some history on the BIAB method and described it in great detail.  BIAB was first developed and promoted in the Austrialian homebrewing community as a method to get people into all-grain brewing at a lower cost.  BIAB only requires a large kettle, burner, and the mesh bag.  It eliminates the mash and sparge vessel, thus saving the brewer money.  As BIAB has been adopted by the larger homebrewing community, many of the concerns surrounding it as a brewing method have proven unwarranted.  Some of these concerns included:

  • Efficiency: BIAB turns out to be more efficient than batch sparging because the sparge water is actually in contact with the grain for the entire mash time.  BIAB brewers report efficiencies between 70% and 80%.
  • Wort Quality:  BIAB wort is usually cloudier than fly sparging wort because there is no recirculation step.  This can result in larger amounts of trub going into the fermenter, but tasting trials have shown no differences in finished beers in triangle taste tests.
  • Mash Temperature Drop:  BIAB has a larger thermal mass than other sparging systems because all of the water and grain is in one vessel.  This helps prevent temperature loss and can be augmented by surrounding the kettle with insulation of some sort.

Patrick is an active member of the BIAB online community -  This community provides a lot of free information on BIAB and works to promote this simple, yet efficient method of all-grain brewing.  If you have ever thought of giving BIAB a try, be sure to listen to the BeerSmith interview and take a look at BIABrewer.



Monday, March 21, 2011

Poll: Online Communities

Similar to what has been done for all our prior blog polls, this post takes a moment to memorialize the results we received on our most recent blog poll.  The readers responses to the question "Which online homebrewing community do you utilize the most?" are presented below.

Total Votes: 25

This month's poll most certainly ended up in a run-away win for the Homebrew Talk (HBT) forum - all the other options were left behind in the dust.  HBT is a vast resource of information for sure, with answers to just about any homebrew related question a reader might want (although navigating through the mass of opinions/comments can be challenging).  Just for kicks, type in three random words into the HBT search engine and I've always been amazed what turns up.

Lastly, as is the case in ever poll where we have the catch-all 'Other' category, I really want to know what those votes would have been.  If only the poll could be setup with a 'Write-In' block instead of just a generic 'Other' category...

Let us know your thoughts either as a comment or an email.  And if you are reading this, we've put up our next poll which awaits your response.



"Good beer is the basis of true temperance."
-The Daily Express, 1919

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Making a Small Beer with Big Flavor

The craft beer movement in America is currently dominated by big beers.  It is not hard to understand why, as Imperial-style beer tends to have larger flavor profiles, more alcohol, and can be harder to get, which can create a greater demand (i.e. cult beers).  However, it is often unwise to consume more than one 10 percent or greater beer in a sitting.  Is it possible to take the flavors that someone loves in an Imperial-style beer and inject them into a beer of more sessionable alcohol strength?.

Brew Strong, on the Brewing Network, featured a show on making session beers on October 18, 2010.  One segment of this show discussed how to make full-flavored session beers from larger recipes, ones that have plenty of character and are enjoyable to drink.  The main points the Brew Strong hosts presented included:

  • It only takes about 2 percent alcohol for a beer to taste like a beer
  • Increase the flavor and aroma hops to provide larger hop character, though keeping with the style or recipe concept
  • Raise the percentage of specialty malts, which gives the impression of a bigger and richer beer
  • Adjust the base grains so that they provide greater flavor complexity; for example substitute a portion of 2-row to pilsner or British pale malt
  • Reduce the base grains to lower the alcohol content, but leave the specialty grains the same
  • Use a yeast that does not attenuate as much, which will leave more flavor behind
  • Eliminate or minimize simple sugars, which provides a larger malt character in the finished beer
  • Build the body of the beer by increasing the mash temperature to provide a larger mouthfeel

Last Thanksgiving, Jeff and I made a wheat wine braggot that we called Midnight Wheat.  This beer has quickly developed into one of my favorite recipes that Jeff and I have done together, one that has even won a recent award.  One of the main drawbacks of the beer, when it comes to making it a regular drinker, is its strong alcohol content (10% ABV).  Its alcohol strength makes it great for aging, which is one of the goals of the recipes that Jeff and I develop together, but it is not a beer I would want to drink often.  I wanted to use the Brew Strong advice to see if I could create a smaller beer that I could keep on draft and enjoy more regularly.

Taking the Brew Strong information, I made the following adjustments to the original Midnight Wheat recipe:

  • Reduce the base grain quantity by approximately 60% to lower the overall alcohol
  • Leave the specialty grain quantity the same as the original recipe, in order to provide a richer character
  • Reduce the amount of honey drastically, but do not eliminate it completely, as it adds some flavor
  • Add a small amount of black malt to mimic the original recipe's color
  • Increase the mash temperature to have more mouthfeel
  • Reduce the quantity of bittering hops, to keep the approximately the same specific gravity to bitterness ratio
  • Increase the late hops to have more hop flavor and aroma

The altered recipe, along with side-by-side tasting notes, will be presented in a future post, so be sure to check back.



Monday, March 14, 2011

Fun with Art: Beer Paintings

Not long ago, I came across the webpage of two artists from Bend, Oregon who had forcused their work on painting craft beer crown caps and bottles.  To further market and display their work, a blog was created (simply named: Beer Paintings).  At first I thought the beer-centric pieces might just a nice hook to draw craft beer people in, but the more I (virtually) thumbed through their pages, the more I was impressed with their focus and attention to detail.  Well done guys.

I have placed a few examples below that exemplify Cara and Louie's style.  But there is much more than what I can display.  At the bottom, I have placed a list of links that will take you to a few more of my favorites from the Beer Paintings collection.  Enjoy...  

Orval Crown Cap

La Folie and Surley Smoke

Gulden Draak Crown Cap

*  *  *

Check out a few other great pieces through these links:
Lastly, if you're curious about how paintings like these come out, check out some of the behind-the-scenes photos of a work in progress.  And the artists love commisions - shoot them an email if your interested.



"If God intended us to drink beer, He would have given us stomachs."
-David Daye

Monday, March 7, 2011

Taplister - User Provided On Tap Information

I have discovered a new social media site that applies to beer - Taplister.  Taplister is a free application that provides information about what is on tap at different locations in a given city (called "Taplists").  The application is run on a database of user-supplied information, much like Wikipedia, so the data is only as accurate as the user community that supports it.  Taplister users can provide information to the database in one of three ways:

  • Utilizing the Taplister app for iPhone:  The Taplister iPhone app communicates directly with the Taplister database on the server and provides real-time updates to tap information.  The app uses text completion from the beer name database on RateBeer to save the user time.  It also links to the RateBeer database for the beer’s rating, alcohol by volume (ABV), style, and description.
  • Through the Taplister Site:  The Taplister site allows users to browse and edit Taplists using the navigation bar and the Live Beer Search function.
  • Using codes in Twitter:  Taplister can register Twitter accounts and then scrape information out of individual tweets to update its database.  To do this, the user provides an "at" symbol with the code for the bar and the hashtag that matches the city (example: #ontapcho for Charlottesville).

There are currently 45 cities registered with Taplister in 21 states and Canada.  Take a look and see if your city is there and start utilizing this free service.



Thursday, March 3, 2011

Club-Only Competitions - A Unique Situation

 The American Homebrewers Association (AHA) organizes a series of competitions every year to promote inter-homebrewing club rivalry.  Each Club-Only Competition (COC) focuses on a specific beer or mead style and allows clubs to compete against each other.  Results from a year's COCs are one factor in determining the AHA Homebrew Club of the Year, an annual award given at the AHA National Homebrewers Conference.  The official COC schedule can be found here.

The basic rules of a COC are:

  • Only AHA-registered clubs may participate.
  • Each club may only submit one entry in the style specified in the COC.
  • The club's entry must be received by the COC deadline.
  • All COC entries are compared to the style guidelines and each other and medals are awarded based on overall merit.

If a club wants to participate in a COC, it organizes an internal event to select the single "best" homebrewed example of that style that its members can produce.  In my club, the Charlottesville Area Masters of Real Ale (CAMRA), this process is organized through an annual calendar.  As the date for a specific COC approaches, the club leadership reminds members that they should consider brewing a batch of beer in the specified style and they organize a night for a tasting/evaluation.  Any member who wants to participate in the COC brings an entry on the tasting night and a panel of judges select the example that most matches the BJCP style guidelines.

The COC for February 2011 presented a unique opportunity for Jeff and I.  Our respective clubs (Jeff's club is the Rhode Island Fermentation Technicians - RIFT) the picked each of our beers to send on to the competition.  While Jeff and I have gone head-to-head in competitions before, this would be the first time we represented our homebrewing clubs against each other.  The "Battle of the Bitters" COC featured the English pale ale styles (BJCP Category 8), which represent a series of English session ales that were paler than other beers of their day (porter), and had a bracing bitterness.  Examples ranged from 3.2% ABV on the low end (standard/ordinary bitter) to 6.2% ABV on the high end (extra special/strong bitter).  Commercial examples that readers may have tried include: Fuller's Chiswick Bitter, Boddington's Pub Draught, Fuller's London Pride, Goose Island Honkers Ale, Fuller's ESB, Bass Ale, and Anderson Valley Boont ESB.

Jeff and I are eagerly awaiting feedback on our beer and to see who's club can claim Lug Wrench "bragging rights."  Stay tuned for the results.


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