Monday, January 30, 2012

New Lug Wrench Website Look and Feel

We would like to introduce the new appearance of the Lug Wrench site.  It has been over two years since Jeff and I first started this side project.  We felt that it was time to overhaul the look and feel of the site to make it a bit more modern and just try something different.

The new look features the following:
  • A great Lug Wrench logo that was designed for us by Jeff's friend Rob (Thank you!)
  • Wider main column to allow for easier positioning of images within the blog posts themselves
  • Wider side column to prevent the blog polls from requiring scroll bars
  • Inclusion of social icons for Twitter and our RSS feeds at the top
  • Making the search box more prominently available at the top right
  • Changing the color scheme to relate more to beer (golden) rather than green (St. Patty's Day?)
The new look also features tabs at the top left of the screen.  At this time, there is only one tab for "Home," but we plan to add some additional content going forward. The tabs will link to static pages that include more information about each of us, the collaborative beers we have brewed, and our more prominent blog post series (brewing charts, nanobrewery interview, etc.).

We call this change our new BETA look and feel.  While we like it, in general, and felt it was good enough to release, there will be some adjustments moving forward.  Jeff is currently fine-tuning colors and textures and I am working on adjusting some of the content placement, eliminating duplicate Blogger widgets and playing with item page placement.  

So, stay tuned to Lug Wrench because there is more to come, both in website appearance and great new content.



Thursday, January 26, 2012

Rhode Island Beer and Farmer's Markets

Over on the other side of Lug Wrench Brewing, the State of Rhode Island is trying to pass a law that would be a great boon for craft beer brewers and consumers.  The bill (House Bill 7125) was introduced into the state's General Assembly last week which would allow brewpubs to sell the beer they manufacture at farmer's markets. Awesome!  The bill, which is directed at economic development, is offering expanded venues for brewpubs and winegrowers to sell their products. 

There is a discrepancy on how beer and wine are being handles, which irks me.  The proposed bill is very cut and dry for the brewpubs - "brewpub manufacterer's license shall further authorize the sale of beverages manufactured on the (brewpub's) premises at any farmer's market".  However, the winegrowers / farm wineries are getting the same with a little bit of a kicker in the language of the bill - "A wingrower may sell wine or winery retail by the bottle or by the glass for consumption at a farmer's market".  There is no talk about "for consumption" for the brewpub's products (which are called out as typically being sold in growlers).  Could a brewpub bring in a draft system and sell beer by the glass at the farmer's market "for consumption"?  The bill is silent on this, leaving it a bit grey for the beer lovers.

I could grind me teeth about the small details, but if this bill is passed into law, it would certainly bring more good to the craft beer lovers in our state.  If you are a Rhode Island resident and a beer lover (and if you are reading this, you should be!!), contact your local representative and ask for their support on the bill.



"They who drink beer will think beer."
-Washington Irving

Monday, January 23, 2012

Bourbon Barrel Project - Overview

My local homebrewing club, the Charlottesville Area Masters of Real Ale, have been trying to organize a bourbon barrel project for several years now (photo from Barlow Brewing).  Aging beer in bourbon barrels has become a popular treatment in the craft beer industry.  The general process is to take a finished beer and transfer it to a used bourbon barrel.  The beer, which is often a stronger darker ale, is left in the barrel for a period of time, depending on the oak and bourbon character profile desired in the finished product.  When that time arrives, based on taste testing, the beer is transferred out of the barrel and moved to packaging.  At that time, a new beer is usually transferred into the barrel to keep it from drying out.  As subsequent batches of beer are moved through the barrel, aging time must increase to receive similar flavor characteristics because the oak and bourbon flavors gradually leach out of the barrel into the beer.  At a certain point, the barrel is deemed flavor-neutral and is either retired from service (i.e. cut in half for planters) or is used to make sour beers where the barrel is simply the place for the wild yeasts and bacteria to live.

The transfer and sale of bourbon barrels has long been a steady business in the United States.  This is because, by law, bourbon can only be made in new charred-oak barrels.  After the bourbon has been removed from the bottle, the barrel is usually sold to a barrel merchant, whose job is to arrange the sale of the used barrels and transport them to their new home.  Historically, these barrels were only used to age other types of spirits, such as Scotch, Irish whiskey, Canadian whiskey, tequila, and rum.  These beverages do not require the use of new oak barrels and their manufacturers could buy the used barrels for less and have a less aggressive oak character in the finished product.  In the last 10 years or so, the American craft brewing industry has become another purchasing stream in the bourbon barrel market.

Homebrewers are also interested in using bourbon barrels, but their size and cost are usually prohibitive and the homebrewer must settle with other oak products (cubes, chips, etc.) that have been soaked in bourbon before use.  New barrels are over 50 gallons in size and cost between $150 and $250 a barrel.  The same problems that face the individual homebrewer make bourbon barrels attractive projects for clubs.  The basic concept is that the homebrewing club can used its pooled resources to purchase a barrel and to find a place to store it.  The club can also assemble a number of brewers using the same recipe that can, collectively, fill the barrel.  In order to do this, the club must tackle, at least, the following issues:

  • Assemble enough interest to support the project and its associated costs
  • Collect the funds to purchase the barrel
  • Make arrangements with a barrel wholesaler to have the barrel delivered
  • Find a suitable location to store the barrel, as the barrel will not be easily movable once full
  • Assemble a list of brewers who will collectively fill the barrel, which can present an additional problem of winnowing down the list of interested brewers if there are too many to accommodate
  • Select a common recipe for the brewers to use and decide what, if any, variances are allowed in the recipe ingredients
  • Organize a group brew day, if desired, and a group filling day
  • Determine how long the beer will remain in the barrel and how to distribute it when the aging is done
  • Start the brewing process again to refill the barrel when the first batch is removed
Our club has been planning a bourbon barrel purchase for over a year now and things are finally coming to fruition.  I plan on doing several future posts covering our plans and their implementation, including the group brew day and filling day.  Stay tuned.



Thursday, January 19, 2012

Some Of The Best Pub Names .... Part II

The tradition of the Angelo-Irish pubs always carry the best names for the establishments.  Several of these great names were derived from the nicknames the pubs got form their illiterate patrons who could not read the sign, but recognized its image.  Many of these pubs are oozing with local lore and history.  Of course modern businessmen has tried to take advantage of this with gimmicky branding efforts for new establishments (i.e. Slug and Cabbage, etc.).

Back in the begining of Lug Wrench, I started a list of of the best pub names that I found amusing and tickled my funnybone (The Hairy Lemon Pub, the Bloody Bucket Inn, etc).  With a little bit of research, I was able to uncover a few more gems and expand the list.  Below are a few of the standouts that I figured were worth sharing.  Enjoy.

Norwich, England

A haunted pub, where the mumified hand of a cardplayer caught cheating can still be found.
Salisbury, England

Victoria, London, England

Aberdeen, England

Mayfair, London, England

Toronto, Canada

Portsmouth, England

Moorgate, London, England

Norwich, England

There are plenty more out there, both abroad as well as in the US. Drop us a comment if you’ve got any good ones to share.



"I spent 90% of my money on women and drink.  The rest I wasted."
-George Best

Monday, January 16, 2012

Craft Beer Purchasing Styles

It is common knowledge that craft beer drinkers vary dramatically in background and reasons for loving our favorite fermented beverage.  Intelligent brewing companies and marketers must learn this fact and find their niche in advertising to the growing number of craft beer drinkers, or quickly find themselves out of work.  However, I am not sure how many people have devoted research to the actual purchasing styles of their consumers.

Lets take a hypothetical situation.  Imagine a massive beer retailer, the size of a large grocery store.  This beer store has beer from hundreds of breweries and perhaps thousands of brands on its shelves.  The variety of beer is stunning and features brands from almost any country that exports beer to the United States, as well as half the store is devoted to the Unites States craft beer market.  Further, this beer lover's dream allows almost any beer in the store to be purchased by the bottle, six-pack or case.  As you, our stalwart reader, enter the store, you ask yourself how will you choose what beer brands to take home and enjoy.

Just this situation presents itself to my wife and I every time we visit Rochester, NY to visit my family.  Rochester is home to Beers of the World, a wonderful bottle shop located 15 minutes from my parents' house.  Beers of the World began when Tony Angotti purchased a small beverage company back in 1982.  He envisioned a retail business that would introduce area drinkers to the enormous variety and beer flavors that existed around the world.  The first Beers of the World store opened in 1987 and has expanded since to three locations in the Rochester area.  The store offers a mind-boggling array of beer brands, and also sells cider, specialty sodas, wine, and even homebrewing equipment.

My wife and I have very different methods to choosing the beer we bring home when going to this store, a highlight of our trip north.  Our general process is to each fill a six-pack of beer that intrigues us, and then pick a few bottles together to share or that have special interest to both of us.  My wife loves IPAs and they tend to make up the bulk of her purchases.  She walks around the store with her iPhone set to the Pintley app and looks at all of the beers that it recommends for her (see our post on Pintley here).  She tempers its recommendations with brands that she already knows, but tries to pick some things she cannot get down here in Virginia.  At the end of this particular trip, her six-pack contained four IPAs and two ciders.  From the six-pack, her favorite beer was Green Flash's Hop Head Red.

I tend to enter Beers of the World with a theme in mind.  The theme varies dramatically, but this time I wanted to find several Rochester-area beers.  Like most cities in the past few years, a number of small craft brewing companies have opened their doors.  Because many of these brewing companies do not distribute outside of the Upstate area, I thought it would be neat to truly "buy local."  I have also been enjoying a fair number of Belgian-style beers lately, so I wanted to pick up a few of those as well.  Winter also puts me in the mood for stouts, so I wanted to find some unique dark and roasty beer brands.  I ended up with two beers from each category, and a bomber of a local Rochester beer to have with dinner that night.  My favorite beer of the bunch was North Coast Brewing Company's Brother Thelonious Belgian-Style Abby Ale.

There is certainly no "correct" way to respond to the Beers of the World situation.  My wife and I have had several interesting discussions on how our beer-selection methods reflect on our personalities.  Have you visited a bottle shop with a similarly huge craft beer selection?  If so, how did you spend your hard-earned money on wonderful beer?  How do you feel this reflects on your personality or beer-drinking habits?  We would love to hear from you.



Friday, January 13, 2012

Beer Comic: Patrick and Sam

From time to time, I find my way back over to The Full Pint to check out their weekly comic entitled Trouble Brewing, which regularly pokes fun at the craft beer world.  In a previous post, we shared a few installments that featured Patrick Rue of The Bruery.  Below is another that features Patrick and Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head.

If you don't get it, go take a look at the beer lineup from Dogfish or the recipes they discuss on the TV show: Brew Masters.

You can find the entire collection of Trouble Brewing (both the good ones and the .... not so good ones) over at the Full Pint.

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



"I'm going to drink till I reboot!"
-Bender, Futurama

Monday, January 9, 2012

Selin's Grove Brewing Company

One of the stops that has made the trip from central Virginia up to my parent's house in Rochester, New York more pleasant is the Selin's Grove Brewing Company.  I first heard about Selin's Grove Brewing Company on a Craft Beer Radio podcast, where one of the hosts did a brewery trip up Route 15 that runs through the middle of Pennsylvania.  He covered a number of small breweries, but Selin's Grove was interesting because of its location in a historic building and the owners' interesting story.  I remembered the interview more then a year later and suggested to my agreeable wife that we stop and eat lunch there.

Selin's Grove Brewing Company opened in 1996 in the former home of Pennsylvania's third and only three term governor, Simon Snyder, who led the state through the War of 1812.  The building, a Federal-style stone mansion, remains remarkably intact and is on the National Historic Register.  The pub portion of the brewery is located in the ground floor, around the back of the building.  This is where the governor's kitchen would have been located and the pub preserves much of that rustic charm.  It has two walk-in fireplaces and lots dark wood and open rafters.  The pub has a two rooms, one with the bar and several tables, and another room full of tables.  While space is slightly cramped, it has a homey and welcoming feel to it that feels historically genuine.

The Selin's Grove brewing system started out in 1996 with a tiny "frankenstein" 3 barrel system that was located in one of the basement rooms (9' x 13').  Based on the success of their early years, the system was upgraded to a 7 barrel brew house that came from Avery Brewing in Colorado.  This system could not possibly fit the basement, so the owners renovated a 4 bay cement-block garage that was built in the 1930s.  Now, well still cramped, the space holds several more fermenters that allow the brewery to offer more beer styles.  The brewery offers the following year round beers: Captain Selin's Cream ale, a Scottish ale, an IPA, Stealth Belgian Tripel, White Horse Porter, and Shade Mountain Oatmeal Stout.  My favorite beer there has been the Shade Mountain Oatmeal Stout and my wife's their New Zealand Galaxy-hopped IPA.  They also offer a number of seasonal beers.

My wife and I highly recommend stopping by and trying Selin's Grove Brewing Company out.  Do note that the two times we have been there, both in the winter, it has been absolutely packed.  But, the wait for the beer and food, along with the place's general charm, made the reward worth the wait.  If you do stop, make sure to order the soft pretzels, which are made on site.  I would also encourage you to order one per person, which results in less fighting at the table, particularly if kids are involved.



Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Lug Wrench Brewing's Second Anniversary

It seems like I was just writting about our first year anniversary when the reminder that our second year milestone was coming up quickly.  I know it is cliche, but where does the time go?!?  I thought it would be fitting to carry on the tradition of rolling up our numbers and seeing what the stats looked like for our little "pet project".  (I promise this will be the last 'round-up' type post for a while.)

Since our very first post back on January 3, 2010 and in the two years that have ensued...

Number of Posts: 227
Number of Days Old: 730
Number of Blog Comments: 119
Number of Subscribers (via Feedburner): 100

Top 10 Pages Visited (via Google Analytics):
  1. Nanobreweries - How Small Is Small (5,883 pageviews)
  2. Brew-In-A-Bag Brewing: Something Worth Trying (2,402 pageviews)
  3. SRM Color Ranges By Beer Style Chart (2,160 pageviews)
  4. Wort Pump in a Toolbox #3 - Build Steps (2,081 pageviews)
  5. IBU Bitterness Ranges By Beer Style Chart (1,970 pageviews)
  6. Fermentation Attenuation Ranges By Beer Style Chart (1,495 pageviews)
  7. Original and Final Gravity Ranges By Beer Style Chart (1,453 pageviews)
  8. Single Hop Beer Experiment (1,218 pageviews)
  9. Wort Pump in a Toolbox #2 - Parts List (1,189 pageviews)
  10. Wort Pump in a Toolbox #1 - Concept (1,182 pageviews)
Number of Tags Used: 258
Top Ten Tages Used (as of today):
  1. Humor (22 tags)
  2. Poll Results (20 tags)
  3. Homebrew Recipe (19 tags)
  4. Nanobrewery (19 tags)
  5. Competitions (18 tags)
  6. Homebrewing Clubs (17 tags)
  7. Breweries (17 tags)
  8. Interview (16 tags)
  9. Charts (15 tags)
  10. Collaborative Beers (15 tags)
  11. Nanobrewery Interviews (15 tags)
Number of Lug Wrench Collagorative Beers: 6 - no new beers :(
Number of Gallons of Collaborative Beer Brewed: 36 gallons
Number of Gallons Remaining: ?
Number of Blog Polls: 20
Number of Poll Participants: 427
Top 5 Most Popular/Active Polls:
  1. Favorite "Summer" Beer Style (33 participants)
  2. Ideal ABV for Favorite Beer Style (32 participants)
  3. Homebrewing Recipe Sources (30 participants)
  4. Consumption of 'Holiday'-styled Beers (29 participants)
  5. Ultimate Summer-Time Beer (26 participants)
So far, the Lug Wrench BRewing experience has been very possitive for both Tom and I as we continue the blog's de facto motto: a fraternal bond over beer.  However, we are very curious to know what the readers think - has any of this been interesting?, entertaining?, motivating?, etc.  Please leave us a comment or shoot me an email with your thoughts.  Feedback is what allows for continued improvment.



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

Monday, January 2, 2012

2011 Homebrewing Year In Review - Tom

Continuing with my annual tradition of reflecting on the past year in homebrewing, I have put together the following "brewing year in review" post.  I believe Jeff plans to do the same, so our audience can get a feel for the 2011 Lug Wrench brewing year.

  • Number of Batches Made - 21
  • Number of Gallons Made - 132
  • First Brew Day - 1/8/2011
  • Last Brew Day - 11/20/2011
  • Number of Beer Batches - 17
  • Number of Wine Batches - 1
  • Number of Cider Batches - 1
  • Number of Mead Batches - 2
  • Homebrew Competitions Medals Earned - Silver, 2011 Dominion Cup, Flemish Fisherman
  • Batch with Highest Alcohol - ~20% - Peach Melomel (includes estimate from 20 lbs of peaches)
  • Batch with Lowest Alcohol - 3.8% - Mini-Midnight Wheats
  • Average Alcohol Across Batches (accounting for batch size) - 6.6%
  • Number of "Cloned" Commercial Beer Batches - 2
  • Favorite Brew - Thunder IPA (wonderful IPA with layered "juicy" hops that was perfect in the heat of the summer)
  • Honorable Mention Brew - Big Apple Cider (best cider I have ever made, without a doubt, and my wife's favorite creation from the past year)
  • Worst Brew - Smokin' Wet (beer seemed out of balance, with a sweet aftertaste that does not blend well with the smoke - I still have half a keg 6 months after it was brewed)
  • Favorite Name - 5.8 and Feeling Great Saison (I brewed this beer shortly before the 5.8 earthquake that hit Virginia in August.  The saison fermented right through the earthquake and aftershocks, so it made for a truly unique brew and beer name.)
  • Approximate Amount of Grain used in 2011 - 276 pounds (average of 16.23 lbs/brew)
  • Approximate Amount of Hops used in 2011 - 67.5 ounces (average of 3.97 oz/brew)
  • Most Rewarding Aspect of Brewing - Continuing to maintain this blog with my brother for another year.  We have not seen each other much this year, so the blog is a great excuse to keep in touch. 

Happy New Year!

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