Friday, September 30, 2011

200th Post: Still Going Strong....

I would not have guessed we would have made it this far when Tom and I started this little 'project', but here is our bicentenial post.  I'm a bit of a data hound, so as I've done for our prior milestone posts, here's a roll up of all the content that have passed through these pages.

As of today...

Number of Posts: 200
Number of Days Old: 635
Number of Comments: 110
Number of Subscribers (via Feedburner): 97

Top 10 Pages Visited (via Google Analytics):
  1. Single Hop Beer Experiment (1,108 page views)
Number of Tags: 233
Top Ten Tags:
  1. Nanobrewery (19 tags)
  2. Humor (18 tags)
  3. Competitions (17 tags)
  4. Homebrew Recipe (17 tags)
  5. Poll Results (17 tags)
  6. Breweries (17 tags)
  7. Homebrewing Clubs (16 tags)
  8. Interview (16 tags)
  9. Collaborative Beers (15 tags)
  10. Nanobrewery Interviews (15 tags)
Number of Lug Wrench Collaborative Beers: 6
Number of Gallons of Collaborative Beers Brewed: 36 gallons
Number of Gallons Remaining: ?
Look for our 201st post to be coming out next week and we are hoping to keep up the same posting cadence moving forward.  As always, if you have any comments, suggestions, or questions about anything on the site, please let us know - we always love hearing from readers.



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

Monday, September 26, 2011

Money Saving Site - Homebrew Finds

I recently stumbled upon a money-saving website geared towards homebrewers - Homebrew Finds.  The authors of Homebrew Finds scour the web looking for great deals on equipment, ingredients, and supplies used by homebrewers.  They feature a wide variety of deals on products, from grain storage devices, to thermometers, to vacuum-sealing bags.  Homebrew Finds also has an arrangement with Northern Brewer, so they post information about recently released products, such as NB's new hop, German Opal.  There is even a portion of the site dedicated to Amazon fillers that can help you get to the free shipping threshold.

I recommend you subscribe to their RSS feed to keep up on various deals.  You might be surprised to see what information they send your way.



Thursday, September 22, 2011

Evolution of the Beer Geek

I first saw the "Evolution of the Beer Geek" image by Beer & Whiskey Brothers on Hop Talk and I wanted to pass it along.  It has a lot of detail and its humor is intellectual, as well as based solidly in many of the experiences we beer drinkers have encountered in the past.  However, the last two rows in the image made me pause and think.  The primary difference between the "Beerdouchicus" and the "Geeko Sapien" is the way they use their knowledge of beer.  Unfortunately, there are many examples of beer geeks who use their knowledge to prove their worth and browbeat others into submission.  As the image says, this often turns people away from craft beer, something that none of us should desire to happen.

Well done, Beer & Whiskey Brothers.  The image was funny, enjoyable, and informative, all at the same time.



Monday, September 19, 2011

Beer Brands Who Have Tumbled...

Sometime last week, I read this article entitled "8 beers Americans no longer drink" that Sean Paxton reposted on his Facebook page.  The article's research focuses on 8 "big" brands that have lost an amazing 30% or more in sales in the last 5 years.  I would assume no one who reads this blog would shed a real tear for any of the brands listed below, but I did find many of the brands a bit nostalgic from college days.

The analysis points out that most of the losses in sales were from the current trend in light and ultra-light beers that have swept the mass market beers.  Apparently, to maintain or gain sales, the industrial brewers need to drop of 30 - 40 calories from their offerings in order to keep their bottom line healthy.  Sad if you ask me.

The article give a bit more commentary on each of the brands listed, but briefly here are the brands who have been tanking...

"Beers Americans No Longer Love"

8. Budweiser (-30% sales)
7. Milwaukee's Best Light (-34% sales)
6. Miller Genuine Draft (-51% sales)
5. Old Milwaukee (-52% sales)
4. Milwaukee's Best (-53% sales)
3. Bud Select (-60% sales)
2. Michelob Ligth (-64% sales)
1. Michelob (-72% sales)

Tough couple years for Milwaukee or anyone who had anything to do with Michelob.  Even the "Light" tag couldn't help Milwaukee's Best from sinking and Michelob is probably still looking up at the lights wondering what hit it.

Right or wrong, the numbers are what the numbers are.  Let us know if any of the listed brands resonate with you - we'd love to hear about it.



 "I do not drink more than a sponge"
-Rabelais, 17th Century French Satirist

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Iron Brewer, Round 6, Results and Wrap-Up

As I mentioned in previous posts, I was fortunate to participate in the Iron Brewer competition this year.  When signing up for Iron Brewer, a contestant agrees to brew a beer that features the three special ingredients and to send two bottles of the beer to the judge and to each of the other seven contestants in the round.  This is the actual cost of Iron Brewer because, while it is free to sign up, the shipping costs for all of those packages can be staggering (approaching $100).  Additionally, the contestants each agree to provide a brief brewing biography and a full recipe.  My biography and recipe can be found on the Iron Brewer website, along with the others from the round.  Finally, the contestants agree to participant in a live conference-call judging session to wrap-up the round and announce the winner.

The judging session was something I was looking forward to for quite a while.  Besides symbolizing the final part of the round, it allows each of the brewers to present the fruit of their labor to a receptive audience.  My homebrewing club, CAMRA, does something similar at the end of our meetings, though not as formal, and it is the part of the meeting I most enjoy.  As a whole, homebrewers are an interested an gracious audience; one that will hopefully provide constructive criticism, but one that is also appreciative of a brewers efforts.  The Iron Brewer judging session was an hour and a half of trying other people's beer and hearing their stories.  It was very cool to see how each of the brewers could take the same three base ingredients and come up with a wide variety of styles and flavor profiles, ranging from an IPA to a beer designed to taste like Turkish delight candy.  My personal experience was further enriched by having both my wife and the owner of our local homebrewing store, The Fermentation Trap, on hand to try the contestant beers and compare perceptions with me.

Each beer's score is a composite of the Iron Brewer judges selections for first and second place, which is weighed 75 percent of the total, and the scoring from the contestants on the conference call, which is weighed the remaining 25 percent.  In the end, I did not win.  I received some nice scores from the other contestants (one first place and one second place, if I remember correctly).  The winning beer was It Must Have Been the Roses, by Amy Gentry.  It was a fantastic beer, with a wonderfully refreshing hop and rose hip combination that was augmented by ginger (the second bottle was secreted away by my wife, so she could enjoy more of it later).  Amy now moves on to the championship round to take on the other winners from the previous 2011 rounds.  I wish her the best of luck.

Iron Brewer was a lot of fun and I intend to participate again next year.  I would encourage any of our readers to consider doing the same.  If there was only a way to reduce the shipping costs somehow.  However, the judging conference call and tasting was the most fun part of the whole process, and that is only possible if all of the contestants have each other's beer.



Monday, September 12, 2011

Poll: Social Media for Beer Information?

Like all our prior blog polls, this post takes a moment to memorialize the results we received on the most recent blog poll.  The readers responses to the question "What social media sites do you get the most beer-related information?" are presented below.

Total Votes: 10

Twitter and Facebook were the only two sites the voters seem to use for beer related information.  In fact, about a third of the voters indicated they don't use social media for beer, which we found to be interesting.  Furthermore, this poll had one of the lowest participation rates of most of our recent polls, which can be interpreted as a lack of interest by the readers in social media related topics.  Who knows...

Let us know what you think.  And if you are reading this, our next poll is up awaiting your participation.



"Beer kills brain cells."
-Homer Simpson

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Beer Art Clothing

It is amazing what you can find while randomly Googling beer-related terms.  I typed the phrase "beer art" into Google earlier, and ended up with a Girl vs Beer, The Art of Beer post.  There were several interesting images on the site, including two where artists turned beer cans and tabs into clothing (seen below).

After seeing that, I typed in "beer can clothing" and found the following:

I am amazed at the creativity that people exhibit when working with non-traditional materials - including used beer containers.



Monday, September 5, 2011

Happy Labor Day

Lug Wrench Brewing Company would like to wish all of our readers a happy Labor Day.  Hopefully, you have a chance to celebrate the holiday and the end of summer with a fine homebrew or craft beer.  Here in Virginia, some of our evenings are turning chilly and I can sense the crisp autumn coolness in the air.  That makes me want to get out on the back deck and brew beer.



Thursday, September 1, 2011

Dosing Beer at Bottling

Back in July, I posted about being selected to be part of the Iron Brewer competition.  The three ingredients the competitors in my round had to use were melanoidin malt, galena hops, and rose hips.  I had brewed with the first two ingredients before, but not with rose hips.  The turn-around period to brew an Iron Brewer beer was fairly short and I needed to come up with a recipe fast.  I settled on an American brown ale, because it could feature both the melanoidin malt and galena hops easily.  As for the rose hips, I decided to take a gamble and add them at bottling.

Dosing beer at bottling time is not an original methodology that I came up with.  Mike "Tasty" McDole, of Brewing Network fame, has discussed the idea at length.  His basic process is to take a base beer, add a precisely measure amount of flavoring to each bottle, cap and ship the beer.  Mike is fond of doing this because he has done very well in competitions with an apricot-flavored Dortmunder Export lager.   But, he personally dislikes drinking the beer and prefers to dose exactly the number of bottles needed for the competition and keep the rest of the base beer untouched.  I have also seen this process done in flavor demonstrations at homebrew club meetings, where generic industrial lagers are dosed with flavorings to help tasters identify specific flavors and beer flaws.

I have never dosed a beer at bottling before, but the above sources showed me the basic process.  The key is to pick a methodology to deliver the flavor and then determine precisely the amount of the flavoring to add.  One common method is to make a strong "tea" of the ingredient by steeping it in hot water or boiling it for a period of time.  In doing this with the rose hips, the resulting flavor was rather weak and uncharacteristic.  The other method is to add a concentrated extract of the flavoring.  Extracts can be made at home by soaking the ingredient in a neutral spirit and allowing the alcohol to extract the flavor.  I followed this method by filling a mason jar with 4 or 5 ounces of rose hips and topping up with vodka and letting the mixture sit for two weeks.  When it was done, I strained it through a coffee filter into a clean mason jar.

To determine the amount of extract needed, I took an experimental approach.  I pulled multiple 2 ounce samples of the carbonated base beer off of the tap and lined them up.  Then, I used a BBQ flavor injector syringe, which was clearly marked with mL on the side, and put drops into each sample.  In the first round, I added 3, 6, 8, 12, and 16 drops.  For the second flight, we did 10, 12, 14, 16, and 20 drops.  My wife, mother-in-law, and I smelled and tasted each sample, attempting to see which one was the best.  The general rule of thumb is to progressively add drops until the flavoring can just be tasted, which keeps it as a balanced flavor.  However, it is a very subjective process.

In the end, we liked 14 drops best.  That concentration allowed a significant rose hip character to come through, but preserved some of the dark chocolate flavor that we liked in the base beer.  I ramped this amount up to the full 12 ounce bottle volume by multiplying by six and then converting to mL, as that larger scale was easier to work with.  Then, at bottling time, I added the full 4 mL of extract to each bottle, topped up with beer using my beer gun, and capped on foam.  A total of 24 bottles were prepared this way, which allowed for enough beer to send to the Iron Brewer competition and some to hold in reserve.  The remainder of the keg of base beer could also be enjoyed in its own right.

If you have never tried dosing beer at bottling before, I recommend you give it a try.  It is a great way to work with unknown ingredients in a precise fashion.  You could also use this method to split a single batch into multiple variants by using different flavoring agents.  The limit is really your imagination.


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