Thursday, April 25, 2013

Modern Times Beer's Use of Kickstarter

I have been following the development of Modern Times Beer for quite some time now.  The brewery, which will be opening in San Diego later this year, is the brain child of Jacob McKean.  Jacob was involved in marketing beer for Stone Brewing Company and decided to strike out on his own.  I first heard of the venture because he reached out to Michael Tonsmeire to help with recipe development (Lug Wrench readers will recognize Michael's name, as we have exchanged beer with him before and are huge fans of his blog).  This collaboration has been featured extensively on the Mad Fermentationist blog, mentioned on the Basic Brewing Radio podcast, interviewed on the BeerSmith's podcast, and others.  But, what I have found most amazing about Modern Times recently is their use of Kickstarter.

Kickstarter is a relatively new method to fund creative projects that was launched in 2009.  The basic idea is that a person wishing to develop a project creates a Kickstarter account.  The resulting Kickstarter campaign page details what the person/company wishes to accomplish and also sets a very specific monetary goal and a fund raising deadline.  The Kickstarter campaign then begins to crowd-source funding for the project to help meet the goal.  People can give whatever amount of money to the project they wish and the person/company usually promises to give away incentives or prizes for different giving levels to help encourage participation.  If the Kickstarter campaign is successful and receives enough funding by the deadline, the money is awarded to the person/company, after Kickstarter takes a five percent fee to maintain the website and service.  If the campaign is not successful, all money is returned to the donors.  It is all or nothing.

As of this writing, the Modern Times campaign has been the most successful funding of a brewing yet on Kickstarter.  The purpose of the campaign is to raise money to help outfit the Modern Times tasting room, purchase wine and spirit barrels, and buy lab equipment.  The brewery set a $40,000 goal for the campaign and it has blown by it.  They are currently working on a stretch goal of $65,000, which will fund a solar water heating system for the brewery.

Public response to the campaign has been amazing to watch.  I think this has a lot to do with Jacob, who has experience marketing beer and a solid understanding of the market he is reaching.  He has created a number of prize packages that are unique and rather hipster (interesting t-shirts, brewer playing cards, brew sessions, etc.).  The success is also due to the campaign trying to raise money for a specific, and very public, part of the brewery - the tasting room.  I think that people identify with the tasting room and can see their money extending their enjoyment of visiting the brewery.  Yes, the brewery will still open without your donation, but it will be much cooler for you if you donate.  Finally, I think there is a snowball factor going on.  Jacob has highly publicized how they were approaching the Kickstarter record and even organized a donation to a local charity when they passed the record.

What can other breweries learn from Modern Times' success with Kickstarter?  First, do not try to finance your entire brewery through Kickstarter.  Instead, use it to augment something that the public can directly relate to, such as a tasting room.  This will encourage participation.  Second, ensure there are a number of interesting prizes for all donation levels.  If there is something interesting, even for the lower levels, the campaign will get more people who were on the fence about donating   Finally, understand that one of the biggest benefits about a Kickstarter campaign is getting the public to invest themselves in your project.  Set a reasonable goal and its success will be an excellent source of interest in the brewery for years to come.

Let us know if you have ever started or contributed to a Kickstarter campaign and how it worked out.  We would love to hear from you.



Thursday, April 18, 2013

Electric Hot Liquor Tank Regulator

Having an engineer as a friend can have its rewards.  My friend John, the one who I brew beer for his summer party, has come up with a new gadget for the homebrewery.  I like to fly sparge, which means balancing a slow flow of hot water out of the hot liquor tank (HLT) into the top of the mash tun, while allowing wort to trickle out of the bottom of the mash tun.  The hot water slowly rinses the grain bed of additional sugars, a process that mimics what is done at the professional brewery scale.  However, the flow rates must be adjusted during the 45 minute sparge because of the changing head pressure from the HLT as it empties (I use a gravity feed).  Having witnessed the many adjustments, John has designed a gadget to automate the adjustments.

The gadget has a rather simple concept.  It uses two metal wires that are mounted close together and suspended over the mash at the desired height of the mash column.  As the sparge water flows into the mash tun and the level rises, it eventually contacts the two wires.  This completes a circuit that closes a valve and blocking the HLT port.  As the mash tun drains, the water level goes down and breaks the circuit, thus opening the valve and allowing the sparge water to flow again.  This is all powered by a "wall wort" that came from an old electric keyboard my wife used to play.

In a way, the mash acts as a switch.  John has explained it in detail to me, but most of it is over my head.  My understanding of circuits does not extend much past the light bulb and battery circuit experiment I did in 4th grade.  But, I can say the gadget is really quite cool.

The prototype is currently on version 3.0.  The main problem we have had so far is the size of the electrical valve's aperture.  The first two versions used valves that were not large enough, mainly because John scavenged them from other projects he has worked on.  Now that we have a good idea of flow rates and how the gadget works in practice, we will pick up a valve sized for the job.  Other, more minor adjustments have included how to mount the gadget and how to secure the probe wires.  Once these are complete, we still have to figure out how to put it in a durable package so that it can be protected for years to come.

Thanks for the idea and all the hard work, John.  I look forward to many more years of gadgets to come.



Thursday, April 11, 2013

Mason Dixon Line Mead Tasting

Jeff recently posted that our Mason Dixon Line Mead won a gold medal at the 2013 Ocean State Homebrew competition.  He had mentioned to me that he brought it to a recent homebrewing club meeting and that it was really well received.  Jeff encouraged me to open a bottle and give it a try, something I had not done for quite some time.  After it won gold, I figured the least I could do was to enjoy a glass and post some tasting notes.

Upon opening the bottle of Mason Dixon Line Mead, there is a clear hissing sound, demonstrating evident carbonation.  This is confirmed by medium sized bubbles racing up the sides of the glass when the mead is poured.  The mead appears brilliantly clear pale straw color.  It carries a delicate floral scent along the lines of honeysuckle, though not nearly as strong.  A light honey aroma is also present, especially as the mead warms. I did not detect any of the medicinal aroma that I recall from the mead shortly after bottling, more than two years ago.

The mead's flavors are delicate, much like the aroma.  The initial flavor perception is floral and smooth.  This fades to a slightly herbal or spice-like character, perhaps something warming like cinnamon  though this could be related to the alcohol strength.  The end of the taste is slightly sweet on the tongue, though it fades rather quickly.  There is also a lasting alcohol warmth in the back of the throat that is rather pleasant   The carbonation level is light and provides a mild mouthfeel.

Overall, I would say Jeff is correct.  The Mason Dixon Line mead has completely turned around.  It lacks its former medicinal and abrasive flavor characteristics.  It is enjoyable to drink now and has a positive character all its own, supplemented by the back story of where the honey was sourced.  In many ways, I am glad that I did not like it at first, so I still have a decent stock to age for years to come.  Congrats to the mead for winning gold!

Photo credit: The mead appears with a picture drawn by my daughter, who nicely granted the rights so that it could appear on this blog.



Monday, April 8, 2013

Two Lugwrench Beers Medalled at OSHC

The results of the 2013 Ocean State Homebrew Competition were announced last night and Lug Wrench was elated to see two of our "beers" on the list of winners.  It has been a real pleasure watching the OSHC grow from small beginings into a sizable competition, with 359 entries this year.

Our Frosty Fool Eisbock was awarded a silver medal in the Bock category (out of 12 entries).  I struggled with whether to enter it as a doppelbock or a true eisbock, but ended up putting it in the doppelbock category as I didn't think it was "over-the-top" enough to do well as a eisbock.  Competitions tend to award those beers that stand out in their categories, so strong doppelbock would likely do better than a middle-of-the-road eisbock.  The true test will be when I get to read the judges comments to see how the pegged the beer, but given its place on the awards table, it obviously did well as a dopplebock.

Our Mason Dixon Line Mead won a gold medal in the Traditional Mead category.  However, given there were only two entries in the category, we'll take this win with a grain of salt.  This was actually the first time I've entered a mead (Tom has won a few medals before for his meads), but this mead was special as it was a combination of Virginia and Rhode Island honey (thanks yet again to Bil for the RI honey!).  What impressed me most about the mead is how it has evolved over the years.  Tom originally described it having a very medicinal quality in its early life and we both shelved it and forgot about it.  But recent tastings showed it to have transformed considerably - enough so to give it a try in competition.  It goes to show that unless a beer or mead is critically flawed, there is always value in letting it age out and watching the flavors change over time - many times for the better.  The scoresheet and score on this mead will be the real tell for how well the taste has evolved.

Our thanks go out to all the organizers, judges, and volunteers who took part in the 2013 OSHC - we look forward to another good comp next year.



"Drink is the feast of reason and the flow of soul."
-Alexander Pope

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Doctoring Beer Post Kegging

I have posted previously about my experiments using tinctures and other elements to alter the flavor of finished beer.  The general idea is that by tasting small volumes of beer, and adding measured amounts of flavorings, you can more precisely control the final blend of flavors.  When the desired flavor profile is reached, the flavorings can be scaled up to the final package size (bottle, bomber, keg, etc.).  I have used this method half a dozen times and found it quite a bit of fun.

Last weekend I thought of an idea to extend tincturing and flavor additions further.  We have a keg of a Dead Guy Ale clone that is about a third full.  The beer is very mild tasting and comes across the palate slightly watery.  It has not been the most popular keg on tap and we have grown slightly bored of it.  While pulling a pint, I wondered if I could alter the flavor of the keg to make it more interesting.  The process would be similar to adding tinctures before, with a few differences.  First, you would need to brainstorm what flavors would be compatible with the beer, as it already exists in a finished state.  Then, after tasting a variety of flavor additions and picking the desired one, you would have to sample for concentration and ramp up the flavoring addition to match the amount of beer left in the keg.

For the Dead Guy Ale clone, we tried the following flavorings:

  • Lemon extract
  • Rosehip tincture
  • Hazelnut extract
  • Islay scotch that had soaked in oak cubes
  • Kahlua
  • Cinnamon tincture
The lemon extract was the winner by far, though the Islay scotch had enough oak tannins in it that it smoothed and blended with the beer in an interesting way, as well as adding a distinctive mouthfeel.  After selecting the lemon extract, my wife and I dosed 2 ounce samples until we ended up with the dosing rate of 5 drops in a sample.  This scaled up to 320 drops in a gallon (or 9 mL per gallon).

However, with a sealed keg, we had no idea of how much beer was left.  To estimate the amount, I pulled the keg out of the kegerator for 5 minutes or so.  After that time, a condensation line was clearly visible on the outside of the keg.  Measuring the number of inches the line was from the bottom, versus the total height of the metal part of the keg, provided me with estimate of 1.5 gallons remaining.  I used this volume to come up with the dosing amount of 14 mL, which we added to the keg.

After shaking the keg up to mix the lemon extract in and letting settle for a day, the altered beer has a very distinctive lemon character and gives the impression of a shandy.  I must say that we both like it a good deal more now and I think the keg will not last much longer.  It was a change for the better.

Have you ever altered the flavor of a partially full keg, whether through adding flavorings or blending with another beer?  If so, leave us a comment and let us know your experiences.



Monday, April 1, 2013

Lug Wrench Chart Featured on Brookston Beer Bulletin...Again!

Back in February, Tom and I were floored when one of our Beer Charts was featured by Jay Brooks's Brookston Beer Bulletin.  Both being fans of Jay's site and the information it extolls, we were thrilled to see that our work some how made it onto the pages of a craft brew icon.

Well on March 25th, another of our Beer Charts were featured - this time the ABV Range by Style chart.  Tickled pink is an appropriate expression....

For anyone interested, all the beer charts we've done can be found on this page, including links to download PDF copies of each collection.



"Be in good cheer, drink only great beer."
-Jay Brooks
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...