Brewing for the Impatient

I’ve been thinking long and hard about writing a series on homebrewing. By no means am I a great homebrewer…in fact I am only beginning to dabble in brewing all-grain beers. However, after surveying the various writings on the internets about the subject, I have found that most have one flaw in common: they go too deep.

To make good (often very good) beer, it doesn’t take a deep understanding of flocculation curves or the dynamics of viscous fluids. It takes a cursory understanding of a number of interrelated phenomena, the ability to execute on simple instructions, some gear, and a lot of water.

This series will not prepare you to enter competitions. It will not even scratch on the esoteric knowledge that is possessed by a number of brewers I admire. It will show you some places where you can cut corners.

If you read this, and it makes your brewing better (or worse) please, let me know. Also, many areas have clubs where homebrewers gather to share their experiences and learn or bitch about stuff. The people are typically friendly (often in a curmudgeonly way), and are happy to help.

cheers
rick

Maritime Pacific Brewing Co. Jolly Roger Christmas Ale

My old college buddy Tiffer brought me a few bottles of this choice ale. It serves along the lines of of hoppy amber. It is hazy, and despite the head fading quickly, it maintains its carbonation nicely. Not particularly balanced, it remains unoffensive, and is quite nice for fans of the western style IPA.

Jolly Roger does open up during the course of consumption, sweetening a little, and smoothing out from the earlier faceoff. There is a hint of caramel, and a light fruit flavor. And its made me start thinking about skiing so I’ve totally lost my train of thought, so anyway, it’s pretty good, fairly potent (maybe that’s what derailed that train…), and has some interesting twists. cheers.

Oregon HB2641

Rob L of the Oregon Brew Crew posted this to our listserv in a conversation about a new beer tax proposed in Oregon. He makes a number of lucid points. And doesn’t just complain but proposes action.

Oregon HB2461 surprised me. Actually, at first it was shock, then
disbelief and anger. Now I’m ready to do something about it.

Jim P wrote:
> Cost of producing each keg (tax is production cost) would go up $25.
> Average distributor markup is 20-30 percent. Average pub markup is
> 300-350 percent. You get 100-120 pints per keg. You can do the math.

Not everyone finds it easy to do the math, so here goes:
$100 keg today, about $1/pint
$1.30/pint from wholesalers
$4.00/pint at a pub

After the punitive “death to local beer” tax (using same markups):
$125/keg, or $1.25/pint
$1.63/pint from wholesalers
$5.00/pint at a pub

All of a sudden, that “15 cents a bottle” sounds downright misleading, when realistically it is an extra $1 for your pint!

Yes, raising taxes will reduce access to beer for kids; in fact, that 25% price hike will reduce access to beer for many adults, as well. In fact, this is already an extremely challenging time for the brewing industry, and it would likely drive a significant number of local breweries and pubs out of business.

If the problem is insufficient money for particular services, instead of proposing these punitive taxes that would throw more people out of work during the 2nd biggest recession in 200 years, then from the $140 million in “alcohol taxes” already being levied, why is less than 6 percent going to substance abuse treatment and prevention? Why not simply amend the bill to fund those services from the taxes already collected for that purpose?

If the authors of this bill actually have the well-being of high school youths as their primary concern, then they should recognize that most of the industrialized world allows drinking at age 16 (or so), and those countries have lower incidences of alcohol and drug abuse. They should provide sources for their outlandish claims such as “half of the students in every 11th grade classroom in Oregon drink” (really–in the classroom? Heck, not even half my adult co-workers drink!). And where is the causality — the connection between “having a beer” and having a “chronic, relapsing brain disease”? Beer is the healthy alcohol beverage of moderation. It just doesn’t make sense.

It also doesn’t add up economically.

Breweries and wineries in Oregon are locally-managed, world-class, family-owned, high-employment, tourist-attracting businesses. If we want to cripple our local economy because some businesses make products which might be mis-used, why are we only taxing beer? Should we also be taxing the local wineries and micro-distilleries? Isn’t obesity a leading health concern — should we be taxing our cheese, fruit, and filbert industries out of existence, too?

No! Oregon is famous for these specialty products, often hand-crafted or grown by businesses which often operate on thin margins; yet these historic mainstays of our economy could too easily be closed by sudden, thoughtless, extreme government over-taxation like this. I want Oregon to be a place that we’re proud of, and when tourists from all over the world come to the “Oregon Brewers Festival” — drawing over 70,000 people — it seems like our internationally renown breweries must be doing something right; something to be encouraged, not penalized.

Forcing draconian economic neo-Prohibitionism on our local world-class breweries, with built-in yearly escalating penalties, is short-sighted and misguided for our kids, our economy, and the standing of Oregon in the eyes of the world.

I love good beer, I love to share good beer with friends, and I believe responsibly enjoying good beer should have a greater role in our society.

I love Portland in part because of great (amazingly delicious!) beer, good biking and hiking, good coffee, wonderful food, nice wineries, beautiful rivers, the mountain and ocean nearby. We have great public spaces like museums, music, theatre, lovely parks, bookstores, brewpubs, and coffee shops. The casual wonders of our city are reflected in the people — we are generally the most polite, friendly, nice bunch of folks you could find.

I want to keep and cherish these things. If this bill was about creating a 2000% coffee tax, or taxing bike and parks usage, or driving local bookstores out of business, I think a huge number of us would be angry about those things, too, because they are special to us.

So what are we going to do about it? Well, I’m going to:

1) Write my state senator and state representative.
http://www.leg.state.or.us/findlegsltr/

2) Encourage my friends to “speak up, if you don’t want beer taxes
to increase 2000 percent, about $1/pint, if HB2461 passes”.
I’ll offer to let them join me in taking action, too.

3) Volunteer for Zwickelmania on Saturday Feb 14th, to help
publicize this misguided government attempt to destroy
our local “good brewery” culture, and those good jobs.

4) Keep homebrewing, stay active in the Oregon Brew Crew, and keep
my ears open about other ways we can help prevent this disaster.

And finally, I’m going to relax and have a beer. A delicious local beer. Like none other in the world, brewed just a few miles from my house; at a brewery open for all to visit. And I’m going to smile, because I firmly believe that by working together, we are going to find a way to prevent a catastrophe like Oregon HB2461 from happening this year. And if we’re really, really smart we might even find a way to introduce legislation to prevent this ridiculousness from happening in the future, as well. And all that time, my friends and family, you and I, will have the pleasure of living in one of the best places on earth.

>> To Oregon’s fresh, local, delicious, healthy BEER! << Cheers and Prosit, Robert L

Note to self: organic brewfest

The North American Organic Brewers Festival is this weekend, beginning tomorrow at 3pm. I had a great time last year, but I generally go to these events early and leave early. This is one of my favorites.

I’m surprised that they picked this weekend since at least one of the organizers is a huge soccer fan and the Euro cup final is Sunday. His boys aren’t in it this time around, though Spain vs Germany should be a pretty awesome match. Both teams play to win.

I know where I’m going to be tomorrow…

At the HUB grand opening. Sounds like it’s going to be hopping. While their beers have been pouring at better local pubs for awhile now, they haven’t had a place to sit down and enjoy the full spectrum of their goodness.

The brewpub and restaurant sounds like a monsterous undertaking. It’s a huge space, and they are going green. Very bike friendly. Lots of organics. Recycled this and that. Hopworks brews are big, bold, and tasty, and I’m excited to see them taking on this ambitious task. Plus they’re right across the street from my team’s home field.

28 hours in Juneau. (part three: the Alaskan Brewing Co.)

After leaving the Mendenhall Glacier, we drove immediately to a beerdrinker’s mecca, the Alaskan Brewing Company, home of the delicious Alaskan Amber and a number of other tasty beers. I was surprised that the Alaskan brewery had no brewpub. From the sound of conversations (though nothing explicit or even really implied), they’ve chosen to respect local pubs who supported them as they grew. It’s a sensible division of labor.

A simple storefront, if it weren’t for the huge vats in back, you’d never guess that this was the home of a producer of excellent beers. Inside, they have a number of taps for sampling the wares, a gift shop, and a windowed room to observe some parts of the brewing process.

Tony (Willie) Hand was good enough to give us a tour of the facility. Well, a limited tour. Upon entering, we were warmly welcomed and prompted to choose one of the ales on tap. I chose the smoked porter, which was a bonus for me, because they had the 2006 and 2007 on tap, so I of course needed both to compare and witness the aging.


Tony “Willie” Hand

The tour was more of a presentation on beermaking and a brief history of the brewery at hand, mostly in the form of entertaining anecdotes related by Tony (Willie). Occasionally, he would stop midsentence announcing in an alarmed voice, “Your beers are empty! Follow me!” and we’d do just that, winding back to the taps to pick another beer to drink.


Possibly the only look at Alaskan’s Baltic Porter you’ll ever get.

I tried three porters (2006 and 2007 smoked porters, and the baltic), the barley wine, the winter, and the ESB. They were all excellent. I was particularly fond of the 9.9% Baltic Porter, as easy-drinking as a mirror pond, so very dangerous on those cold Alaskan nights. Sadly, it is a “secret” locals-only brew for now. I suppose that’s as good a reason as any to go back up to Alaska.

So here are some takeaways. The people who founded the Alaskan Brewing Company couldn’t get financed (because brewing beer in Alaska is kind of crazy…pretty much the only ingredient you don’t have to import is water) so went door-to-door selling interests in the idea, got enough to start, and have kicked some ass. Yay! Their winter ale is brewed with spruce tips collected by area children, a cycle which helps to inject a small amount of capital into some depressed communities. And the Alaskan winter ale is really really tasty, totally lacking that sticky sweetness of so many overstrong winters.

My only regret is that I didn’t pickup the belt buckle while we were there. Thanks Tony and Nancy!

Winter beerfest

Off to the winter beerfest. Personally, I find it too crowded and the beer too strong to stay long, so I try to get in early before it’s completely packed. But gotta get a few tastes in.

Alaskan Amber

Alaskan Amber is an easy-drinking amber that tastes good. Light on hops, and full of sweet malt without being sticky or thin, this gorgeous amber-hued nectar is a pleasure. The head pours thin but full and dissipates quickly, but the body remains consistent.

I wouldn’t call Alaskan Amber spectacular, it isn’t riddled with layers of flavor or surprising subtlety, but it is a fantastic go-to beer. Which is nice because I often find it at pubs and pizza joints as the only non-Bud, non-Hef offering on draught. And it does go well with pizza.

The bottle and the website refer to Alaskan Amber as an alt. As an example of an alt, it seems to diverge fairly significantly from the classic alts, but doesn’t defy the mold. I suppose that why they call it an amber, of the alt style. Alaskan Amber is well-balance, drinks well, and doesn’t linger on the tongue with bitterness.

Delirum tremens

Blonde and a bit cloudy, with a resilient head, Delirium tremens is a very tasty Belgian. It drinks smooth and crisp. Well, it’s smooth, trails slightly yeasty but not in an offensive way, and I like it. Other than that I’ve been totally distracted during this so that’s all I’ve got. I’ll update with a photo when I get a chance to upload it.

rick