March 31, 2008
You know, I think when South Swell Brewing Co. becomes a reality, I’m well on the way to one solid recipe. The Rye Pale Ale has already taken one second-place medal at a brewing competition in San Diego.
Rye Pale Ale — 1st Place in the American Pale Ale category
Light Belgian Ale — 3rd Place in the Belgian & French Ale category
As I’ve mentioned, I re-brewed a tweaked version of the Rye recently, and based on my experience, I’m going to go back to the original recipe. The second attempt was lacking body and could be improved. I’m not sure it’s 100% where I want, but the first iteration of the recipe was better than the second, so I will go back towards that.
The Light Belgian scored well in San Diego, and managed to actually place in this competition. I like the recipe, although may tweak it slightly. I do understand that a 4.5% beer brewed with an idea of being targeted at the slightly above-average beer drinker (not the true beer connoisseur) is not well suited to competition, especially in such a competitive category as a Belgian ale.
But I’m slowly laying the groundwork for recipes that I hope will one day be winning medals at the Great American Beer Festival or the World Beer Cup, not just local homebrew competitions!
March 29, 2008
Well, the three-week whirlwind of travel has thankfully come to a close. As it stands, I have no travel currently scheduled, and all intents upon not going anywhere for at least 3 weeks.
Pennsylvania was a quick trip, and outside of the Vegas experience and picking up a few nice beers to bring home with me, largely not worth documenting in pictures.
Phoenix was a little bit more fun, got a chance to return to the Four Peaks Brewery, as well as an Irish Pub called Rula Bula. Both places are actually in Tempe, where our manufacturer’s rep have their offices.
Four Peaks Brewery
Four Peaks Beer List
Four Peaks Bar
Rula Bula Bar
Beers I brought back from PA and AZ. Left to right (Southern Tier IPA not pictured – i.e. already consumed)
Southern Tier Mike & Phin’s Extraordinary Ale, Southern Tier Raspberry Porter, Great Divide Titan IPA, Dogfish Head Raison D’Extra, Dogfish Head World Wide Stout, Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA, Breckenridge Agave Wheat, Magic Hat #9
(click on photo for a larger version)
I was very pleased with the Agave Wheat. As previously mentioned, I’ve brewed an agave wheat, and it was atrocious. This one is very tasty. First, they based it off a Hefeweizen style, while mine is an American Wheat. The Hefe uses a much more flavorful yeast, and that adds a lot of beneficial flavors to balance the agave. Mine was a very clean/neutral beer, so the agave overpowered it. In addition, I think they used a MUCH smaller proportion of agave in the recipe than I did, which also helps to keep them from having the same sort of failure that I did.
I’ve got another 3 lbs of agave, so I might just have to add it to a hefeweizen instead, in order to finish off that bottle.
March 24, 2008
On my way out to Pittsburgh, I’m currently enjoying a 2-hour layover in Las Vegas.
I rarely carry much cash on me, and coming to this airport, I only had $2 in my wallet. My intent was to lose that $2 playing Wheel of Fortune, but my plans have gone awry. My first pull on the machine, I hit a spin for $20.
Good times… And I think I have the willpower to stop here, so I’ll call it a good start
March 23, 2008
As I mentioned late last week, the situation in Pennsylvania has deteriorated. I’m headed back there early tomorrow morning. It’s a “rifle shot” trip, and I’ll be coming back to California on Tuesday evening. Unfortunately, I’ll then be headed out to Phoenix early Wednesday morning, coming back Thursday.
March 21, 2008
Definitely an enjoyable trip. I’ve only been to SLC once previously, and that was at 6 AM one December day in 2000 driving through on a cross-country trip. Having driven through from the Midwest at the time, I was struck by the fact that it was my first real experience driving through the Rockies, and it was rather nice to see a city surrounded by snow-capped peaks. My return trip did not disappoint:
From my experience driving around, it appears to be a very interesting city. Visually it’s quite beautiful, and it seems like a city in a state of transition. It’s apparent that there are some older, poor sections of the city, but that business is moving in and salaries are increasing. Excepting the whole 4% beer thing (which is only true of bars/restaurants, the state-owned liquor stores can sell higher), it sounds like a very nice place to live. But, with the beer restrictions, I think I’d be headed to Denver instead!
We did end up making it out to a brewpub called Hoppers:
I had 4 beers (easy to do when they’re so weak). Three of them were fairly good. I had a pilsner, a hefeweizen, and a stout, all of which were good representations of the style, and cleanly-brewed. I also had a pale ale, which failed to impress. I am not even sure I can put my finger on what was wrong with it, but my coworker also found it lacking. I think there may have been too much of a Munich malt bill, and not enough Crystal malt, which is more typical of a pale. Added to that, it seemed to have enough bittering hops, but was lacking hop flavor/aroma. Either way, I was impressed. It just goes to show that you don’t need to make beers strong to make them tasty. I’ve had badly-brewed strong beers in brewpubs, and if I had a choice between a badly-brewed 6% ale and a well-brewed 4% ale, I’ll take the 4%.
The strangest thing I saw, though, was in the airport on my way back. Dressed as a business traveler, carrying only a boarding pass and a laptop, the lady at the security checkpoint directed me to the “Expert Lane”. I was in so much shock that I didn’t think to take a picture of it. SLC’s airport actually has a sign and screeners devoted to an expert security lane, for frequent travelers. This is very useful for me, as I regularly scan the people in front of me in line at the airport, to ensure I’m not behind any families or anyone who looks like a tourist or infrequent traveler. Those of us who spend a lot of time in airports are able to quickly get all of our bags / metal items / laptop / shoes / etc organized and through the x-ray rather quickly. Those who don’t know the rules or don’t do it often can slow the line down immensely. It appears that at least one airport understands this, and is trying to help out those of us that know our way around.
It’s nice to be home… Of course, the situation in PA hasn’t sufficiently improved, so I may be flying back there on Monday… Then coming back home Tuesday evening, only to fly out to Phoenix for Wed/Thurs… I think I’m going to have to use all my frequent-flyer miles and hotel points to take my wife somewhere nice, and soon!
March 18, 2008
In the South, a trend over the past few years has been for states to “pop the cap”, or vote to end their restrictions limiting beer to 6% ABV. These states allow wine above that limit, as well as distilled alcohol far above that limit, but they kept the cap for years. Often it would be prefaced as a way to stop alcoholics from getting their fix easily, or to “protect our children”, despite the fact that most of the beers in that marketspace are expensive and strongly-flavored – not suited towards teenagers looking to get hammered.
Alabama, though, is still a holdout. A local group known as Free The Hops is intent on changing that. Their bill has recently passed the state House, and will soon be coming up in the Senate. This is a watershed moment for Alabama beer connoisseurs, who quite literally would make road trips to Atlanta or Tennessee to obtain the beers unavailable in their home state.
Congratulations to Alabama’s House for coming to their senses… At least a little bit.
If you listen to the debate, what sort of impression are you left with about both the supporters and the opponents?
March 17, 2008
Well, I just arrived here in Salt Lake City. From the little I could see in the dark, it appears that I’m well surrounded by snow-cap peaks, so I’ll try to snap some pictures when I get a chance, and hopefully head out to a local brewpub tomorrow for dinner.
I’ve got a bit of nervous apprehension/excitement about this brewpub, though. These silly Mormons (no offense to my 2 Mormon readers, but seriously folks, let me enjoy my beer in peace!) in Utah have strict laws about beer, and thus there’s a 4% limit on alcohol in the beer served at this pub. A portion of me simply thinks that they’re going to be lifeless, flavorless beers. But then, I wonder. When you tell an artist that he can only paint with shades of blue, the artificial constraint forces him to try to raise his craft to make the best damn blue painting that’s ever been painted. I wonder if they’re doing the same here. If they can’t brew over 4%, maybe they’re producing some of the most flavorful session beers ever seen.
Either way, we’ll find out soon!
Looking forward to being back in California on Wednesday evening, as the constant travel pace has been a bit taxing.
March 16, 2008
Over the past weekend, we brewed 15 gallons of our milk stout, and 10 gallons of a simple hefeweizen. Since we keg, of course, we need a new way to serve these beers. Below is the first step in increasing my serving capacity, the transition from a 1-tap kegerator to a 2-tap kegerator. I think a third tap should be ready to go within the next few weeks, as I have most of the basics covered to make the switch.
Below is a mostly empty keg of the amber ale, and a mostly full keg of the Rye Pale Ale. Kegging rules
March 14, 2008
So, I sit today in TGI Friday’s at the Pittsburgh airport. Readers might ask “Brad, we thought you were supposed to be in Iowa at the end of the week. What are you still doing in Pittsburgh?”
Well, that’s a long story. Luckily, I’ve got time!
On Monday, just as myself and the regional sales manager (RSM) were arriving into town, we had gotten calls that one of our key accounts was having issues. Not good, and it was definitely a high-priority issue. But it seemed to be okay… We were already planning to visit another group at that customer on Tuesday, and the issue they were having appeared to be similar to something we’ve seen before (and had a known fix). So we scheduled a meeting with the 2nd group, went up there, and got a plan.
It was simple: get them a sample of the fixed part, so they could test it, and get their stock sent back to our factory for updating (pending their validation of the fix). We got all this done in record time, and we flew out of Pittsburgh on Wednesday while HQ was working hard to get things taken care of. Wednesday night we found our way to Iowa, and Thursday we went visiting all the other customers we needed to talk to.
Well, on Thursday, the fit hit the shan! It turns out that when the fixed drive arrived, it didn’t fix the problem. And the problem was about to get pushed right up the chain of the command. We’re talking CEO-level here. Tell someone that a part comprising 0.0005% of the cost of their multi-million dollar piece of equipment may stop them from delivering to their customer, and they get a little bit upset. So we were in a bind.
The original plan was to have more account visits in Iowa today (Friday). Then to drive to Chicago (where the RSM lives) so that I could fly back home to California. That didn’t happen. Instead, the RSM and I left Iowa, to drive to Pennsylvania. We would have loved to fly, but the cost was prohibitive and the flight schedules simply didn’t work. So we drove through the night, arriving at the customer’s site by 7:45 AM (surprising a few of them, I’m sure!) ready to get down to business. In a matter of a few hours, we managed to defuse the situation, although it’s still not perfect. We have a plan in place, some things to test on our own end as well as for the customer to try. Better yet, our CEO didn’t get an angry phone call! And best of all, I’m still on my way back to California this evening!
Driving 11 hours overnight, frantically altering flight schedules and plans; some people might call us crazy. But when you’re stuck between a rock and a hard place, you wedge yourself between them and start pushing. At the end of the day, we did what had to be done, and we’re doing right by our customer. Sleep be damned!
March 12, 2008
My old camera is a piece of junk, so I might need to be buying myself a new one. Yet, I managed to get two decent pictures so far. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the camera ready for the World’s Biggest Truckstop, but I’ll try to get that one on my way back on Friday.
What I did get to do is visit a pretty phenomenal brewpub. I had to swing by anyway to drop off some beer for a homebrew competition, and because my hotel was only a mile from the brewpub, we decided to have dinner there on Monday. The food was great and the beer was awesome. The place is a steakhouse; my coworker had some prime rib and loved it. I had a salmon dish, and while I thought the salmon was slightly overcooked, the meal was still pleasant. And the beer… The beer was great. I had samples of about 5 different brews, and all were very well-brewed, very tasty samples. The only complaint I’d have is that the beer they market as an “American Amber” ale is quite clearly an American Pale. But however you classify it, it’s delicious, so I’m not going to nit-pick. The brewpub is Hereford & Hops, and I highly recommend it.
The next night, we went over to Primanti Bros, which was right next door to the hotel. I had seen the restaurant on the food network, and was sorely disappointed in the meal. Quite frankly, their “famous” sandwich seemed bland and tasteless. They did make a good spicy deep-fried pickle appetizer, but when the main attraction of the restaurant needs to be drowned in ketchup just to be palatable, it’s not a good sign. I can only hope the the location I visited (Cranberry Twp, PA) was an outlier, because there is no reason a restaurant that puts out food like what I had last night should be celebrated.
Tonight, we went for a true celebration of globalization. We went to a Japanese/Chinese restaurant, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. At that restaurant I drank beer from Colorado and Oregon, while my Midwestern cohort downed some Sapporo. I wasn’t ready to eat sushi in Cedar Rapids, but apparently there’s decent turnover of the stock, due to a large number of out-of-towners who eat here. But if they’re surviving in the area, they must be doing something right.
The Unrepentant Individual linked with Chalk Another One Up For South Swell
March 7, 2008
One thing that I’ve struggled with since moving most of my political blogging to The Liberty Papers has been a lack of focus about what I write about here, and often a lack of content. I dabbled in college football for a while, post about brewing and Wyatt, but still have no clue what I’m supposed to be doing here.
So I’ve decided to muddy the waters even further. With my new job, I tend to travel a heck of a lot more than I used to. I’m often traveling twice a month, maybe 35% of the monthly work days. At the moment, I think I’ll be out 10 of the next 15 work days on actual travel requiring flying somewhere, and doing local Los Angeles, Orange County, and San Diego travel another 3 days of that time. If I keep this up, people at the office might forget who I am, particularly if I keep losing weight!
Since I’m on the road so much, I think it might be worth carrying a camera along with me and trying to document some of it. I try to keep a clear line between work and blogging, despite the fact that some of the customers I work with are doing really cool and interesting things I’d love to post about. But I spend plenty of time on these business trips trying to scope out new restaurants and brewpubs, seeing cities and parts of the US that I rarely see, and generally trying to do something more with my time than simply follow the airport-hotel-customer-airport routine. In addition, while I often find myself rather busy, I sometimes get stuck in a city with nothing to do and nobody I know in the area.
So I’ll be doing some travel blogging. Part of this will be reporting on where I’ve been and what I’ve done, but another part will be letting folks know where I’m going. If you live in or near the city that I’m traveling to, drop me an email (I get email on my phone, so I’ll be able to get it anywhere). If I have time in a city and nothing to do, I just might be interested in heading out for a beer to discuss parenting, politics, beer, Purdue, or just about any other subject under the sun. Or, if you simply have any particular knowledge or recommendations for the city I’m visiting, let me know, as I’m always looking for the local specialties.
This coming week I’ll be getting into Pittsburgh on Monday afternoon, and leaving there on Wednesday afternoon. I head from there to the Cedar Rapids, Iowa area, sticking around until Friday when I fly back to California. I’ll be dropping off some beer for a local homebrew competition in Pittsburgh and sampling the food and brews of Hereford & Hops, but still have no good leads on where to dine and drink in Cedar Rapids.
March 5, 2008
Being a homebrewer is a great hobby. As I often point out, what other hobby allows you to sit around with your friends, drink beer, smoke cigars, and end up with more beer at the end of the day than you started? In addition to the end product, though, it is a very satisfying creative process.
But I’ve noticed that as I understand more about beer, it helps me to improve my own personal taste palate. I find myself able to recognize and determine the cause of flaws and imperfections in a beer that I may never have even tasted a few years ago. I am better able to analyze a beer and understand what ingredients were used to create it, and when I am attempting to clone a beer, I am able to both get close to their taste and then understand with the final beer why I missed the target.
For example, my amber ale was brewed with the intent of being loosely based on Fat Tire. Thus, I intentionally put a heavy “biscuit” character into the recipe. After having brewed it and tasted it, though, I’ve realized two things. First, that I don’t like that much biscuit character in an amber. Second, that while I got the “biscuit” character of Fat Tire covered, I created a beer with less body, which then over-emphasized the biscuit and hop characteristics of the beer. I’ve decided from what I’ve learned to completely re-tool the recipe if I want to keep this beer as an amber, or modify the recipe if I want to tend more towards a brown ale.
As a second example, I created a beer loosely based upon the Left Hand Milk Stout. I enjoy the original beer, and wanted to create something similar but still mine. Based on what I’ve learned from a side-by-side tasting, though, the Left Hand version seemed to be both more roasty and more sweet than mine. I deduced that this was due to two reasons. First, I deliberately tried to keep the roast character in check, as it was only my second attempt at a stout and I didn’t want to overdo it. Second, I used a more attenuative yeast than I probably needed, and dried the beer out more than intended. My re-mix of the recipe to be brewed next weekend will include heavier roast character, heavier use of chocolate malt, but at the same time use slightly more sweet ingredients and a less-attenuative yeast. So the roast character should be increased, the sweetness should be increased, and I’ll have a corresponding increase in bitterness to keep that sweetness in check. I think the beer will be both more flavorful and more balanced.
All this coincides with improvements in my brewing process, which are helping to ensure that I’m trying to pick out small flaws in a beer, instead of having glaring flaws which mask the subtleties. And as such, I’m even more able to understand the complexities of a beer because they’re not drowned out by things I’ve screwed up.
All this is making me a better brewer, as well as making me a better drinker. Hopefully someday I’ll be able to put all this to use at South Swell Brewing Company
For me, I was really worried about my weight loss total this week. I lost over 7 pounds the previous week, but was rather dehydrated on weigh-in day, so I thought it might simply be a localized minimum weight. I then proceeded to drink a few litres of water today at work, so I knew I was more than fully hydrated.
But all that, and I still lost 2 pounds, raising my total weight loss to over 25 lbs (since Jan 1). So, I’m finally under 240, at 239.8. The 0.2 pound difference means that I now have to subtract 1 point from my Weight Watchers total, so I’m down to 37 points per day from 38. As I said previously, my “soft” goal is to get under 230, so I’m actually quite close. I could see myself reaching that before May. The hard part will be getting under 220, though, as it’s getting very near to the minimum weight that I really feel comfortable with.
My wife did quite well this week, losing 1.8 lbs. So she cracked the 15 lb weight loss mark this week, and is rather happy about that.
March 3, 2008
Last weekend, my wife and her parents were out looking at new rentals, since we’re bursting at the seams of our apartment. My mother-in-law is a realtor, so she had access to all the listings available in the MLS system. We ended up finding an absolutely beautiful condo for rent, close to my work. Even better, the lady who owns it isn’t looking to move out until late April or early May, which works perfectly for us, as we’re locked into our apartment lease until the end of April. Even better, our apartment company is looking to raise our rent, and we currently rent our appliances, so while our total rent will go up in the new place, it’s going to be a much better deal for us, and a much nicer place.
We finished up our rental search, and my wife wanted to take her parents to a new church we were looking at. It’s one of those mega-churches, similar to the church we attended in Georgia, where they offer things like child care, etc. Given that we’d never been there, we weren’t about to hand Wyatt over to a caretaker, so my wife and her mother went into the main auditorium, while Wyatt, my father-in-law, and I stayed out in the foyer (where they had speakers/monitors showing what occurred).
That’s when it started to get interesting.
I’m a hands-on father, so I don’t run away from taking care of the messier portions (although I’ll gladly pawn it off on others when I can!) of child-rearing. Thus, when I saw Wyatt get “the look” on his face, and heard him start making grunting noises, I realized #2 was coming. I knew it was either my father-in-law or I that would have to take care of it, and diaper duty isn’t Grandpa’s job*. So it was me.
I took Wyatt into the bathroom, got the changing table all set up, and got ready to get to work. The changing table was obviously uncomfortable, and they had speakers in the bathroom area (they were still playing music) and Wyatt was not at all happy. He’s screaming, and I’m rifling through the diaper bag looking for a diaper. I can’t find any. Zip. Zilch. Nada. I nearly tried prayer!
Knowing that I had to get the job done, I ended up getting him cleaned up (thankfully we had plenty of wipes), wrapped a burp cloth around him, got him clothed, and went back to find my father-in-law. I let him know “We’ve got a problem”. We were about to leave and check the car for more diapers (or even to head to the store), when we thought of the nursery area. We found our way down there, they gave us a couple diapers to get through the crisis, and we ended up with little more than something to complain to the wives about when they emerged at the end of the service.
But that’s one crisis I could have done without!
* I guess there are some advantages to being a Grandpa… You get lots of this:
And I’m the one who gets to clean this up!