Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Almost Recovered

I got back from the Craft Brewers Conference on Monday morning, but it's taken me until now to emerge from the sleep deprivation and foggy sense of bliss. Read on for the rundown.

Each time slot contained 4-5 presentations, so Jane and I decided that we'd get more out of the conference if we split up. For any given time slot, we picked the two most useful-sounding seminars and I went to the one that was more likely to contain lots of brewing terminology. As much as I wanted to attend the startup sessions, Jane went to them while I learned about sustainability. It ended up being a wise decision because the startup seminars focused on information that we already knew - we would've been mad if both of us sat through the same talks. All of the other seminars that we attended were excellent.

Trade Show:
We learned a ton, but there's not much to say about it - there were a bunch of booths manned by people who provide goods & services to brewers. We asked a lot of questions about how much things cost and how long they take. We also won the giant mug pictured below.

We had Lakeside Press print 500 business cards for us before the trip, and we gave out A LOT of them. What we did was similar to networking, but the people we met were way too cool to think of as business connections. That's the brewing industry: "99% asshole-free" according to Sam Calagione, the owner of Dogfish Head. It was great to catch up with old friends, as well. Way more of them were in attendance than I expected. Until now, I didn't think that my past brewing experiences - both at home and at commercial breweries - provided very much exposure. I was wrong!

We wouldn't be doing the conference justice if we didn't mention the free beer, which was everywhere:

-The welcome reception at Stone Brewing Company's extravagant facility.
-Daily, during breaks between seminars and other conference presentations.
-Every night at the resort's tiki pavilion, which featured 100 taps of beer brewed in California (pictured).
-On the complimentary shuttle rides between bars.
-Beer festival-style in the parking lot of a Karl Strauss brewery.

With so much beer provided, we only made it to one bar in San Diego: Hamilton's Tavern. It was a great bar with tons of taps and a colorful atmosphere that I can only describe as the opposite of sterile (I'm not very observant), but I'd like to go back when it's not packed with conference attendees.

Overall, we had a lot of fun and took in a lot of information. We can't wait to do it again!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

well, sh--

Well folks, we may be in the market for a name again here. Turns out there's a Republic Brewing Co. opening up in Austin, Tx in 2009. booooooo....... how dare they steal our name! especially since we've just handed out a hundred or so business cards at the conference with our name on it. So now we have to decide: do we change our name, or no? We were really shooting for an original name, but as we're about to start writing this business plan, it's really crunch time. What do you all think?

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Goin' Out West

We'll be in San Diego tomorrow through Sunday for the Craft Brewers Conference. This year's program includes a lot of seminars on startups and brewpubs, so we're betting our bank accounts that the information will be worthwhile. I'm excited to finally meet some equipment manufacturers and dealers at the BrewExpo trade show, as well as drink some new beer and get to know brewers from across the country.

I'm an individual member of the Brewers Association (the group who organizes the annual conference), which caused a little confusion about my registration. Most attendees are covered by their brewery memberships, which means the breweries themselves are members, so the association wasn't looking in the right place when they first tried to verify my membership. They called me to investigate, assuming that I wasn't a member, and make sure that I actually work in the brewing industry. I was amused to learn that a lot of random people try to sign up for the conference, at the non-member cost of $750, because they think it's a beer festival. That's dedication!

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Brewing Continues

In the last couple of weeks, we've released pilot batches of untraditional pale ale and chocolate stout to the tasting panels.

The pale:

Traditional pale ales usually fall into one of two categories: American pale ales and English pale ales. American pale ales feature loads of US-grown hops, which impart strong citrus flavors, and are fermented with yeast strains that don't produce much flavor (they result in "clean" beers). English brewers tend to hop their beers with more restraint, using floral English-grown varieties, and ferment their beers with yeasts that add noticeable levels of fruitiness. Both styles have similar colors, which are primarily derived from the use of candy-like caramel malts.

I brewed my version with a mix of German and English hops and fermented it with an English yeast. I used a small amount of caramel malt but added most of my color through the addition of roasted barley, much like the brewers of Scotland and Ireland. I added some flaked raw barley as well, hoping the extra protein would create a creamy mouthfeel. The beer received mixed reviews, which focused primarily on the hopping. As expected, some people thought it was too bitter while others found it very drinkable. What I didn't expect was that several hopheads and bitterphobes switched teams for the debate. My prognosis: the hop that I used for bittering was too harsh, but the overall hop presence was too low. The flaked barley resulted in a stable head of foam, but didn't add any creaminess.

The stout:

Before I brewed the beer, I went to the homebrew shop with a list of three English yeast strains to choose from. None of them were available and, since I'm not selling my beer, I decided to try a strain called Super High Gravity Ale yeast. It originated in England and is used to produce beers up to 25% alcohol by volume. I was aiming for about 5.6% abv with the stout, but was intrigued by the yeast manufacturer's claim that the strain produces malty regular-gravity beers. The finished beer was drinkable, but definitely had some eau de rocket fuel from unwanted esters and higher alcohols (aka fusels). That's why I'm experimenting now instead of at the pub!

The future:

I'll be brewing a gluten-free beer from sorghum extract on Wednesday and pouring a relatively full-bodied mild for some friends this weekend. The mild showed a lot of promise after primary fermentation, so this guy is excited.