back???

So… it’s been over a year since I posted. I never had any loyal readers according to analytics, so I don’t feel the need to apologize, but still want to say why and what my plans are.

I got laid off from my job at a brewery. I didn’t post much as it was, but got let go, in a new and foreign city. I didn’t have much in the way of connections, and had a very hard time finding a job. It took me a long time, with a lot of temporary, grueling, and uncomfortable jobs along the way the didn’t last too long.

One thought, which I got from a friend soon after I lost my brewery job was that I should start my own place. I thought about it a lot, but with the dreaming and insecurity of a person lacking self confidence. But I’m getting better. I’ve got more stability and security, and am starting to more actively work on this project.

What is this project? Well, it’s pretty simple, I think. I want to open a craft beer and sandwich pub. It’s scary, and the hardest thing I have ever tried to figure out. Especially knowing that I have to figure out how to get all the money with basically nothing to put in myself besides my name and experience, which isn’t anything in this town.

I need to sit down more, and focus, and learn all the details, and gather them into an acceptable form, but that isn’t what this is. This is typing.

I need to type, to put stuff out there.  I ain’t posted shit on this blog, about anything, and that’s a problem. This blog will be my brain drain, of all the things I want to get out while trying to figure out the details of what I want to do, and the help in figuring out financing, and venting frustrations.

But… Financing, that’s what I need. about $200k. it’s both a huge number, and also tiny in comparison to most restaurants, especially with the numbers that I think I could sell. I could fucking kill it. I would work to hard, with too good a palate, and the ability to be too good to the staff not to do great.

That’s the key, staff. Ive worked lots of restaurant jobs, been in the shit and the high horse. Staffing and motivation are the hardest parts of running a successful and profitable restaurant, but I could do it. As much as I am awkward and weird, I’m also honest and trustworthy and willing to get in there to do a bunch of shit to make things work.

I started out great, but have been getting sidetracked, all I know is that my hibernation is over. It’s been a while, but I have a lot to say, and a lot I want to do. I’m getting over my year and a half winter, and am coming out to play. Good things are starting. I want to make good things go.

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In Praise of Boring

It seems like nobody respects a brewery anymore for doing the basic stuff. Go big or go home has become the theme for modern craft beer. Double IPA aren’t big enough, so breweries now make Triple IPA’s, and any beer that is made can be put into barrels to age. And there is also this new sour craze which going like this; sour, more sour, and “this beer is gonna make your asshole pucker”.

I here to say, “Fuck. That.”

Seriously. What happened to craft? What happened to quality? Breweries are now making whatever they feel like, knowing they can overcharge the customer for these fancy beers indifferent to the level of quality they have. And people drink them up. Everybody wants to try the new stout with “cherrywood smoked peanut salt” or whatever crazy ingredients that people are trying to get for their beer.

But here is one style, that whenever I see a brewery make gets me excited. I always like it whenever I see a brewery that makes a helles beer. You don’t know what a helles is? I’ll tell you. It’s boring. To use the term from Greg Koch, it’s fizzy yellow beer. It’s not even a pilsner, because it lacks the hop bite. It’s some boring fucking beer, and I love it.

The thing that makes a helles so boring is what makes it so exciting to me. It’s simplicity. It’s the Italian cooking of brewing, a few high quality simple ingredients done really well. And a helles has to be done really well, it’s one of the hardest beers to make. It’s simplicity will bring out any flaws that can happen. The nakedness of the beer will shine in all of it’s glory, or else be like the naked flappy grandfather who just lost his towel.

So keep an eye out for a helles. They are a hard beer to spot, but totally worth it if you find a good one. Oh, you also have to be over IPAs and be looking for a beer to complement the company you keep, instead of a beer that will dominate the conversation.

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Off Flavors

So…  I recently helped me friend out with some notes for this article. Most of what I told him went unused, but I did write it up, so I thought I would post it up here. It’s fairly rough, and poorly edited, but it won’t really matter because so is everything on this site.

Skunky: This is the flavor associated with Heineken, and comes from light exposure to the beer. The sun’s UV rays break down the hop chemicals in the beer to give it a skunky flavor. A good way to understand this flavor is to pour a good craft pilsner into 2 glasses, and leave one in direct sunlight for a few minutes, the difference is noticeable that quickly.

Oxidized: The oxygen in the bottle or can or keg will change the beer inside to give it a stale or old flavor, similar to licking a cardboard box. This is more likely to happen to beers that are older, but can happen to any beer, especially if it isn’t kept at a constant temperature. This also happens if the beer isn’t packaged properly at the brewery.

Green Apple: This flavor comes from a chemical called Acetaldehyde that occurs naturally during fermentation. Given proper conditioning time, Acetaldehyde will be consumed by the yeast. This is generally a sign that the beer was rushed to the market before it was ready. This has also been compared to cut grass and or latex paint and people will often refer to this beer as being “green”

Boozy: When you smell the beer before you drink it, and it smells like the cheap vodka your older cousin bought you when you were a freshman, this is what is referred to as “hot” beer. This problem usually happens when during fermentation. Beers that are “hot” are often beers that are higher in alcohol, and will benefit from aging for a year or more.

Buttery: If your beer has a problem that its taste makes you think it got a little bit of the butter solution from a movie theater, The beer has a problem with Diacetyl. This is a problem when the beer is removed from the yeast too quickly, or if there is a bacterial infection. A little bit is ok for some ales, but you shouldn’t be able to detect it in lagers, which is where it usually is a problem.

Vinegar: If you’ve ever opened a beer, and thought it would be better if it was used as a salad dressing then as a beverage, you know the problem if infected beer. Sometimes, this can be an intentional thing, when the beers are called “sour beers, but if there isn’t anything on the label about the beers being sour or wild, then there is a problem. This flavor comes from when wild bacteria find their way into the beer somehow, and they turn the sugars into acids instead of alcohol.

Creamed corn or cooked vegetables – You might have tried a beer once, and the taste reminds you of boiled cabbage, this is from Dimethyl Sulfides or DMS for short. DMS can come from either an infection in the brewery, or from lazy brewing practices, and is most likely to be found in pale lagers.

Baby vomit: Did he just say baby vomit, really? Yeah, I did. This smell in the beer comes from a chemical called Butyric Acid. Butyric acid comes from poor sanitation practices, and means either the brewery has a problem, or the bar that is pouring your beer has a problem. Either one can lead to a really nasty smell, that can make you feel like you don’t ever want to drink a beer again.

Gym Socks or stale cheese: This is from Isovaleric Acid. Isovaleric Acid is very similar to Butyric Acid, but it isn’t quite as putrid. Isovaleric Acid comes from the hops being used in beer. It is either from using hops that have gone bad, or using too many hops. Noticing this can lead you to either take back your beer and ask for another, or decide to spend more time in the boys locker room.

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Great American Beer Bars

CraftBeer is putting out their annual survey to find the best craft beer bars in America.

I’ll admit that the last couple of years, I have picked Draught House. This year, I have been to more beer bars than the previous 31 years of my life. I’ve traveled to San Francisco, Denver, Chicago, Boise, and Philadelphia, and in all of those cities, I went to at least 1 beer bar. And in all of those cities the beer bars I went to could make their claim why they are the best beer bar in America.

But the beer scene is a lot more crowded than it used to be, and I had a lot more to think about for my selection.

The first thing I thought about was food. Food is much more important to me at a place than it used to be. I think a place without food cannot be considered a “best” bar.  It doesn’t have to be fancy gastropub quality, but quality food is an important part of a great beer bar.

Tap selection is another thing which has changed for me.  I no longer want an extensive selection of taps where I can get 12 different IPA’s at any time.  I want a curated variety of taps, where I can always get a good pilsner if I want, but also get the limited run barrel aged sour from the new Denmark brewery. If they sometimes collaborate with a local brewery to make something special, even better.  But the tap limit for me would top out at 30, 25 with one or two being on cask would be even better.  If I spend more time studying the beer menu at a place than I do talking with friends then it isn’t a good selection.

Liquor is something I now prefer at a great beer bar. I like the ability to get a good cocktail or whiskey when I want something besides beer. I also know people who don’t like beer too much, and won’t come out if the place just serves beer, then I end up going somewhere with a shitty selection, because that is the only place they will go to.

Other things I just notice a little more than I used to, like the quality of the service I get, overall design of the place, and the music they are playing.

So, what bar did I pick of all that I’ve been to. I picked Fountainhead in Chicago. 27 taps, which are extremely well curated, great food, great service, and great music. It really comes down to that fact that from all the beer places I visited in the past year, this is the one I would most like to live next door to.

I would like to apologize to Draught House and Billy’s on Burnet in Austin, Falling Rock in Denver, Cannonball Creek in Golden, Toronado and Monk’s Kettle in San Francisco, Olympic Tavern in Rockford, Illinois, Owen & Engine in Chicago, Monk’s Cafe and Eulogy in Philadelphia, Bittercreek Alehouse in Boise, and of course the Dog & Duck Pub.

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thoughts on customer balance

No matter where I work, I will always have an agenda of pushing craft beer. There, I said it. I’m a pusher. But walking home tonight from 7-11, where I stopped in after work to get some Oreo’s, I started thinking about the balance of what I want for the customer and what the customer wants for themselves.

I know what I want, I want to get people to open up to new things. If they are bud light drinkers, I want to be simple and get them into Fireman’s #4. If they just drink ambers, I want to find the beer to open them up to a hoppy American Pale ale.  If they claim to hate wheat beers, I want to find the wheat beer that will change their mind and think maybe they’re not all that bad. And if all they drink are American IPA’s, I want them to stop getting drunk all the time.

Balance is something there is where I work. While it is rare that there is any extreme beer available on tap, there is a good wide selection to please anybody from the most snobbish of beer geeks to the dude that doesn’t want to drink anything that isn’t in a commercial during his football game. Balance, it’s good in the beer you drink and it’s good in the bar you drink at.

So, this is a drunk late night rambling thought, but not that many bars have beer balance. There are bars that call them selves craft beer bars, where everything they have is made by ImBev or MillerCoors.  There are also bars that the tap selection will totally bend to the buyers whim, and 1/3rdof the handles will be IPAs and another 1/3rd will be big stout and belgian beers and most of the rest barrel aged and fancy seasonals. Bars skew one way or another.  I wish the bar I worked at skewed a little more to the creative craft and had 1 or 2 taps dedicated to getting some crazy shit on tap, but that’s not really for the best. Even I have trouble keeping up with the regular beers that are available on tap, and if new and one off taps were a regular thing, staff training would have to completely change for the bar. Also, a lot of people would…

Something, I don’t quite know. I lost my tain of thought and suddenly got really tired after work. Balance is as important to the bar as it is to the beer that is served.  I think that was my point.  I’m a little drunk and a lot tired, but I think you should watch this oreo commercial that inspired me to go to 7-11 after work.  They were great, and I ate the whole package of 6 by the time I got home.  I was hungrier than I thought.

Seriously, so great, so pretty, so poppy, I love it.

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Thoughts on becoming a Master

I can understand why people climb Mount Everest. I mean, sure, it’s really hard to do. It requires an incredible amount of preparation, the task will be demanding, and it ain’t cheap. But, you gotta admit, it’s pretty cool to see the world from it’s peak. And afterwards, you get to brag talk brag about it for the rest of your life.

I’m never going to climb Everest. Shit, I am unlikely to ever climb something even half that height. My 14ers club card has one punch, and I don’t even know what that mountain is called. It was high school, and I never paid any attention to anything, gimme a break. Life is full of mountains to climb, from easy to seemingly impossible, which is why I took the Master Cicerone exam.

Do I think I passed the test? Nope, but that wasn’t my intentions. I took the test to push my self, make myself study and learn everything I can about beer. I did that, why should I care if I failed the test. Taking the test showed me how much I have to learn, how much I will always have to learn.

When I took the level 2 exam, I learned so much right after the test ended. Everything that was on the test clicked over the next month of work.  That hasn’t happened with this test, not at all. Everything on this test I already know really well, and the things I don’t know really well are not going to be part of my in and out workday experiences. They are the things which I am going to have to go back to the books to look up.

The other part of taking this test is the confidence its given me. I am a man with zero bullshitting ability. Seriously, it’s bad, I might be the worst liar that you’ve ever met. Everything I now know I can use in conversations with customers and vendors. I know all about things I would never think about before. Like the difference between a pils, helles, and export lager, or how to design and balance a draft system. I can talk to people with confidence about beer, and know I’m not bullshitting them. Now I just have the problem of sometimes coming off as a pretentious dick, but I think bullshitters usually come off the same way.

I love my job, and working in the craft beer industry. It’s fucking awesome, it really is. So I think it’s important to talk about the biggest reason I hope that I passed.  Bragging rights.

In other news, I finally bottled the wild kitchen ale I brewed in January.  FG 1.002. SO LOW!!! FUCK YEAH ATTENUATION!!! And here’s most of the books I read as part of test prep.

Beer Books
Beer Books
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Here’s How

The words Here’s How came from a trip I took to Berlin one winter with my friends Jon and Ryan. We found ourselves in a Mexican restaurant drinking absinthe and looking at a menu, that as far as we could tell, didn’t get anything correct. It had a list of about 50 countries and the words said when people drink together.  A lot of things we had heard before, but for the United States, it didn’t list the expected “Cheers” but the strange “Here’s How” which none of us had ever heard before. We decided that we need to fix that situation, and instead of accepting that the restaurant was wrong, to do what we could to make it right. Here’s how became our rallying cry for the trip, and for a while after we returned to the states.

Well, the words were fun for a while, but enthusiasm quickly faded and the words were often forgotten.  Our quest to help that sad menu get one thing right quickly got forgotten among other stories of our favorite bar, the currywurst truck by our hostel.

I don’t know what made me remember the toast, but something brought me back to it. I thought about what saying “Here’s how” could actually mean, and I like it.  So, I decided to write a toast. Enjoy, and if you like, share with your friends.

Here’s How we toast the time with our friends,
In elegant houses or dark basement dens.
Here’s How we mingle for work or for fun,
And Here’s How we bitch that we never go run.
Here’s How we praise the new friends we’ve made,
We love them forever or just for today.
Here’s How we celebrate accomplishments done,
For friends or ourselves, for work or for fun.
And Here’s How we remember our friends who are gone.
… Jerks.

This toast has gone long, but our time here is short.
I’ve wasted much time with my speech holding court.
Remember the things that I have just said.
(or maybe it is things you have just read)
So look to your friends, and raise up your glass.
And say those two words full of meaning and class.
So, say we all.
Here’s How.

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Noble Pig food pairing

Last week, they announced the next Master Cicerone exam in May in Chicago, and I decided “fuck it” and registered for it.  I don’t plan to pass the exam, but I want to do well. A big part of the program is about the pairing of beer and food, so I thought I would examine the Noble Pig dinner happening this Thursday. I can’t go, but I have been there for lunch several times and do love their food. It’s also BYOB, what a perfect chance to get started thinking about this. I just saw something about this today, and have to work, so I can’t go, but I recommend this place highly. If not for the dinner, at least go for lunch sometime.

I’m trying to set this something as doable, nothing which will end up too crazy.  These beers should be nothing which are too out of the ordinary.  I’m trying to pick beers that you can buy individually at Whole Foods, to share a beer for each course.

Sweet Potato Biscuit with Duck Confit Crepinette, Duck Jus and Quail Egg

This doesn’t sound like a Light appetizer, but something for people who are coming hungry and ready to eat. So the starting beer would need to match that level of hunger, but something also to keep the people ready for more food. I would suggest the Ommegang Rare Vos to start. This Belgian Style amber ale is one of their more mellow offerings. The malts giving it the amber color should complement nicely with the fattiness of the duck and richness of the sweet potato biscuit when you drink it. The peppery character of the yeast, along with the brisk carbonation, should give you an enjoyable contrast and clean finish.

“Shrimp and Grits”
Smoked Shrimp Mousseline, Bacon, Blue Corn Posole, Leeks and Chili Vinegar

This sounds good. Writing this and thinking about the food is making me hungry, but I’m only on the second course. I gotta recommend a saison with this. Really, cause I just love a good saison, and think there isn’t any better general beer with food. This probably the best course, because a saison would go well with either Shrimp, or Grits. And I think the best one for this is still the classic, Saison Dupont. The only problem with this beer pairing is that you might finish the meal hungrier than you started. Also, if you decide to only have one beer for the meal, I would recommend getting a champagne bottle of this one.

Feijoada
Smoked Ham Hock, Shoulder, Corned Pork, Italian Sausage with Collard greens and Black Beans

I didn’t really realize yet how much this meal is inspired by the south, so I think I should recommend a southern beer. The Real Ale Brewers Cut 004 is an imperial red ale. And delicious. This beer is big, but it needs to be to match up to such a hearty course. A hearty malt backbone with an equally hearty amount of American hops. I imagine it will match well with the smoked flavors of the meat.

Banana Ice Cream with Plantain Crumble, Caramel and Peanut Twills

The Ranger Creek Small Batch series has been pretty great, and I think the bourbon aged imperial smoked porter might be the best one they’re made yet.  The previous 2 courses were both smoked, so why not get a beer with some smoked malt to go with the last course.  I think the bourbon flavors will match nicely with this meal, and there are few better desert beers than an imperial stout or porter. This is also probably the hardest to find of the beers I’ve listed.  It might be breaking the rules a bit, but it’s worth it, and get another to hold on to.

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Craft vs. Crafty

Last week, the Brewers Association released a statement about big corporate breweries making “craft-like” beers. People have been making a lot of online chatter since the statement was released, and I thought I want to release my thoughts on the matter.  It’s bullshit.

Goose Island was one of the most respected craft breweries in America. I say was, because they were bought by ImBev (aka Budweiser) a year ago and are no longer considered a “craft” brewery.  Goose Island is also about to be available in all 50 states, which is something they didn’t used to be able to do.  I am very excited about this new development, because Goose Island is some great fucking beer.

And let’s talk about The Rules.  To be considered a craft brewery, it must produce less than 6 million barrels a year, cannot be owned by another alcoholic beverage company, and must use all malt in their beers. To put it another way, the rules are set up to be a cool kids club which makes the rules to keep out people they don’t like.

6 million barrels. That is producing 186,000,000 gallons of beer a year. That’s 1,488,000,000 pints of beer in a year.  The crazy thing about that number, it was 2 million several years ago.  You know why it changed, because Sam Adams kept growing, and knew they were going to be making more than 2 million barrels.  New Belgium and Sierra Nevada are also probably going to surpass that number in a few years once their East Coast breweries are running.

Brewery independence, what a crock of bull, especially because of the regulation about it being about alcoholic ownership. A rule they don’t even follow themselves.  If Tito’s vodka, an independent distiller, decided to start a brewery, it wouldn’t qualify.  But if Exxon/Mobile decided to start one, it would.   I might be wrong about whether a brewery owned by Tito’s vodka would be considered a Craft Brewery.  I noticed that Anchor isn’t on the list of “non-craft” breweries, but the are owned by the company who owns Skyy Vodka.

Traditional brewing methods also makes no sense to me.  Yuengling is the oldest brewery in America, but they don’t count as “traditional” because there is some corn in their flagship beer.  To me, that is what is in a traditional style American lager.  Why is that not OK, but Belgian style ales that use candi sugar are considered fine. Seriously, the rules don’t make a lot of sense to me.

Making rules about what is and isn’t a Craft brewery is fine, but calling out brand for not being craft is a dick move.  Brewers association, I thought you were better than that.  Almost any craft beer that anybody gets is going to be a business first, and their business is beer.  I don’t know of any craft brewery which isn’t expanding like crazy right now.  They can, the market is there for them, and it’s great.  I just don’t get why you are trying to divert the attention away from the beer.

About the beer, Coors owns a company called AC Golden, and I everything I hear about them is that they make fantastic beer.  If you can send me some I would really appreciate it.  It’s not a craft beer, but if it’s delicious, I don’t care.

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this day, THIS DAY!!!

fuck yeah, it’s thanksgiving.

Seriously, it’s the day of excess, strange eating habits, over consumption, and friends.  What’s not to love, what’s not to fucking love about it.  oh yeah, awkward family times, but I won’t have to deal with those until Christmas, so I don’t really think about that.

as for giving thanks, I’m thankful for everything  I don’t want to get into specifics, do I have to get into specifics, you probably want specifics.  damn.

All of friends and family.  yes, all of them, even the ones I cringe a little bit when I run into them in unexpected places.  i think the same goes for the regulars at the bar, but not all of them.

i’m thankful that I don’t have to follow proper punctuation or grammar rules. FUCK YEAH ENGLISH!!!

I’m thankful that I am in good health, at least I think I am.

One thing I am not thankful for, is distractions.  I thought I finished and published this, but didn’t, and come home from feasting with friends to see this sitting on my computer waiting for me to hit the publish button.  but I am a lot of tasty tasty food. and beer.  i am not ashamed.

this day, THIS DAY!!! now almost yesterday, is a great day.  Happy thanksgivings forever.

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