Joining a Homebrew Club & Going All-Grain

I’m made the decision to make the jump to all-grain brewing this year. This won’t happen for a while because of the new equipment I’ll have to buy/ make/ procure. So comes the next conundrum, what to brew. This would have to be a pretty straight forward recipe, no need to making unnecessary complications for a first time at the plate. It would have to also be something that I would enjoy myself and would want to share with friends. What I settled on was Yorkshire Bitter. I’m partial to English styles so I think on all counts this will work out nicely.

So that leads me to the other decision, joining a homebewing club. The group I’ll be joining after going to one of their meetings is The Society of Oshkosh Brewers (or as they call themselves The SOB’s, no joke.) The meeting was fun. The members were genuinely happy to see me, a fresh face there. During the meeting the group revived an old tradition among them which is sampling a beer brewed by one of the members and then receiving feedback from the membership. At the end of the meeting was a bit of a social hour with more beers shared by the members and a lot of great talk of beer and brewing. I learned that my idea of a Yorkshire Bitter was spot on and then was given some great advice as to how to go about my new brewing adventure.

What a great time I had at the SOB’s meeting. I was made to feel welcome and not the least bit like a novice. In fact I started to feel very much at home with my new brewing compatriots. Looking forward to the February meeting and seeing what else I can learn.

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Why Are So Many Beer Ads Sexist?

When I consider beer advertising since I have been enjoying beer, I can make one observation and it is this:  The better the beer, the less sexist the ad. Simple, yes?

So if I may make a connection; it seems to me that poor quality macro-lagers want to sell they have to appeal to the lowest common denominator. That means sex if you need a hint.

Jessica Simpson beer ad.

Jessica Simpson beer ad.

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But by looking at the inverse, the craft beer industry appeals to what craft beer drinkers want; intelligent entertainment, or real information on the product.

SamAdamsGlass

I understand that this probably is self evident but is it really necessary to objectify women for the purpose of selling crap?

A couple of my fellow homebrewers in the area where I live are women that know more than I do. They know the craft and craft beer and it doesn’t matter male or female, I try to learn what I can from whom.

Which brings me to a post I read today. Sophie Atherton really brings this point home where a company made the hugely misguided product of beer can and bottle holder with breasts. Yep, you heard right. As if sexist beer ads weren’t bad enough now a person buy a can coozie with boobs. Really, have we sunk that far?

Now I get to show my cynical side. When we consider that the most widely selling  beer is the horribly tasteless Bud Light, and also  given that this beers ads are really  sexist.  So just by sheer sales volume I can’t see the  ad agencies involved with these ads changing  what seems to work  for their clients, no?  With so many people, (and, yes, women too)  consuming  this  there is no  incentive for change.

But at least for those of us that like, no love, craft beer, we support breweries that are not only responsive but for the most part, no where the line for advertising is and have no desire to cross it. Why is that you may ask? Because the quality of the product speaks for itself and the sexiness lies subtly in the beer not overtly in the ad.

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Modern Times Beer and Open Source Brewing

While perusing Drink with the Wench, I came across a posting by the Beer Wench about Modern Times Beer looking for a head brewer. Interesting enough, in its own right, but I read through the blog of Jacob McKean, founder of said brewery in planning. There he writes about the idea of “open source brewing.”

Modern Times Beer

Modern Times Beer logo

McKean explains the idea that the recipes for Modern Times brews will be publicly posted and more than that, he is soliciting feedback from the hive mind (as he puts it) of the homebrewing community. And damn if this ain’t a grand idea.

Here’s why:

Here is a brewery that is looking for feedback from the very people that support the business by consumption. By openly posting recipes for all their beers Modern Times could conceivably change at least a portion of how the growing craft brewing industry operates at its core. I won’t go as far as saying that this is a game changer but the implications are clear. Craft beer is a product that much of the beer drinking public doesn’t get. Most beer drinkers are now and always will be content with the low-grade, mega-corporation, common denominator beer.

The craft beer consuming public is willing to pay more for a better line up of products because we in this group are looking for a broader variety of much more flavorful brews. Yes, I realize I just stated the obvious, thank you, but here is a brewery that is giving a formalized chance to have input for improving the premium product we buy. Think about it, Modern Times is picking the collective brain of its customers knowing that this is where the best ideas will be coming from.

What I’m hoping is that other craft brewers follow suit and this could convert an entire industry to the desires of its consumers. And wouldn’t that be grand?

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A Beer Geek With A Video Camera- Chris Steltz and Beer Geek Nation

What comes about when a person is a beer and techno geek? Beer Geek Nation!

Chris Steltz is one of the hosts of the YouTube channel and for anyone watching it becomes immediately clear that the man knows of what he speaks.

Steltz has over six thousand subscribers and over 850,000 video views and of the time of this post, so with numbers like that one has to come to the conclusion that he (and those who occasionally appear with him) have been a part of the craft beer community for long enough to have a real knowledge of craft beer and home brewing.

Chris and beer reviews:

He presents his beer reviews in the standard appearance/aroma/taste format but where he sets himself apart from others is his ability to distinguish subtle flavors and put those into words on the fly. I with I could do that, but not being able to leads me to writing and not having a video blog. Meh, oh well.

He reviews beers from all over the nation and beers from all styles and price levels. He seems to leave nothing untouched. And he does this in a way that is entertaining and never pedantic or arrogant. Well done, Chris.

Chris and how-to:

His how-to videos are a must watch for anyone starting out in the hobby of homebrewing.  His instructions and suggestions are clear and he adds the why with the how-to so a person gets a better understanding of the process.

When he recommends a product it is out of person use and I get the feeling in most cases he has tried competition before he gives a recommendation. There’s nothing better than an honest beer geek.

Occasionally Chris hosts a live cast with his contributors and the latest one I found informative and fun, even at nearly two and a half hours.

BGN has a handful of other contributors and these geeks are well worth following as well, but more on them later. But for now a huge “thank you” to Chris Steltz for the entertainment and the insights into the craft beer scene and long may your tankard be full.

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The Economics of Brew Culture

When I was in college I had the chance to take a couple of economics classes and of course the common thread of them was the law of supply and demand. Last week I was walking through my local grocery store’s beer section and I was struck by a couple of thoughts; first that there was an explosion in the number of choices of both brewers and styles available and second; the number of brewers that are making similar styles. Along with that I have seen the sheer size of beer departments grow over the past ten years. What’s going on? Not that I mind…

This leads me back to the idea of economics. There must be an established and perhaps even growing demand for craft brews and the competition is growing with the demand. In my hometown of Fond du Lac, Wisconsin we have no brewpub, no microbrewery and no beer specialty store. What we do have In Fond du Lac and Oshkosh is a fairly small but growing homebrewing community and a very good home brew supply store. This along with with our better craft beer choices in local stores helps to move us in the direction of a more robust beer culture.

beer tasting

In my own experience what drives the expansion of craft beer culture in areas like the one I live is personal evangelizing. Yep that’s it. My best friend growing up was Steve B. We’re still great mates but while I was trying beers from craft breweries large and small he was still stuck on one beer, Miller High Life. *shudder* I would come over and give him some of my home brews or beers from craft breweries that I would pick up and tell him that he would like these better. That was my mistake. He would almost always reject my offerings.

What changes was my approach. I would still bring home brews and products from the craft people but my tactic changed. I would ask him what he liked or didn’t like abut what he was drinking. In other words I started Steve thinking about the complexities of craft beer and that there was a lot more to be appreciated. I finally converted him one afternoon when I took over a mixed six of bottles from different brewers, three different beers. What we talked about was the beers we were enjoying along with the flavor characteristics. When we had finished he offered to do a beer run. More corporate swill, I thought, but no! What he came back with was another mixed six including two that I hadn’t had. Score one for the soft conversion.

What does this have to do with economics? Slowly more and more people are discovering the joy of real craft beer and they are demanding a broader selection from retailers. More people consuming, more choice demanded. Who knows? Someday Fond du Lac might just wind up with a beer specialty store or even a brewpub. Wouldn’t both be great though?

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Relaunch!! Fond du Kosh v. 2.0

So I have been slacking on the blog the last number of weeks.

Not so much slacking as it were but rather trying to find a more focused direction for this creative/journalistic outlet. The problem is that there are so many great blogs that focus on my favorite beverage that all at once I feel self-pressured to produce professional quality writing right out of the gate and an admittedly false sense that I am somehow in competition with these well established and amazingly well written blogs.

I have to to a few conclusions about this for myself and here they are:

1, I need to find a focus. I’m leaning toward the sub-culture of us beer geeks. That’s not to say I can’t stray occasionally but mainly I need to stick to the focus.

2, I need to get it though my head that I’m not in competition with my fellow bloggers. This is a hard one for me. I always seem to be comparing what I produce  to  those around me and whose work/writing I admire. True story; as a photojournalism student I would often compare my work to the likes of James Nachtwey, Robert Capa and Dorothea Lange and always would be my own harshest critic because of it. Now I find myself trying to avoid  comparing my bit-o-blogosphere to the likes of  Brewpublic, Drink With the Wench, pdxbeergeeks and beervanabuzz. Alas.

3, HAVE FUN!! While I need to take seriously all the mechanics of good, solid writing, I need to keep in mind that this is a creative outlet and should be enjoyable. This kinda goes back to number 2.

4, Followers will come if I keep the other conclusions in mind. If Fond du Kosh isn’t forced, i.e. I keep my ideas and writing organic, I will find this fun and in the process others will too.

I hope all of you enjoy reading what I present here and I promise that I will keep it as fun as possible. So cheers! Let’s raise a glass to our favorite beverage.

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Tinkering…

So I have been working with a couple of dark styles of late namely Irish stout and Scotch wee heavy. Now to be fair I realize that a couple of things; firstly, it’s not exactly the time of year to be brewing these heavier styles and two, the focus of my brewing might becoming a little too narrow of late.

In answer to both of these I came to the deeply philosophical conclusion, “What the hell, it’s my brewery.”

So turning attention to my wee heavy…

After trying said brew i was thinking to myself, “Almost but not quite.” But what to change; what were those little things that seemed to be off. I found that what I wanted from my Scotch Ale was a bit more malty-ness with perhaps a little more smokey undertones. Also I was thinking that I would want a touch more fruity/estery flavor, not much just enough to compliment the desired smoky trait.

So the thing to do would be brew another batch, add some Rauch Malt, raise the fermentation temperature a few degrees and switch yeasts from Wyeast 1728-Scotch Ale to a  yeast strain that produces more esters like Wyeast 3711-French Saison, Yes?

Umm… no.

For a homebrewer moving from kits to recipes, making multiple changes might seem like the thing to do but hold on. Just like a computer programmer won’t change several blocks of code to fix a dysfunctional program a brewer shouldn’t change more that one variable at a time. Not only would one not know what fixed the problem but what’s worse it could lead to a whole slew of problems leading back to square one.

This is where notebooks with detailed changes  to brewing procedures and tasting note will become your best friend.

Where I can’t easily change the fermentation temperature, I’m lucky enough to have a basement that is nearly a constant 65 degrees, I may add a bit of smoked malt and make no other changes. When I get the malty-ness where I want it, then I will consider changing the yeast strain. I’m willing to bet that that changing the malt profile alone will affect the ester profile. After that I will again taste taking notes and then see what changes I’d like to make, repeating the process as many times as necessary.

Well, Tom that sounds like a long drawn-out process.Yes, it is. And many, even most homebrewers don’t want to “recipe tinker” in this way but if one is looking for their own interpretation of the perfect style whether for competition or for one’s own satisfaction this really is the only way.

Is it really worth it, playing with a recipe for a year or two or even longer to make the perfect Wee Heavy? For me it is. That’s the beauty of the homebrewing hobby; we come in many different levels of involvement (read obsession). But we all have the common interest in delicious beer.

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