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What’s the deal with sours?

The year was 1990. I was a young pup starting the 5th grade playing around on the school yard when I saw something strange. All of the kids were huddled around a lucky boy who looked to be sharing a new treat with the school yard. I wasn’t quite sure what it was, but it seemed like everybody was being give one of these flying saucer shaped candies, popping them in their mouths, making a disgusted look, then laughing as they ran away with distinctly blue tongue, showing anybody that would care to look. My curiosity was peaked so I thought I’d give it a go. I popped one in my mouth and immediately produced the exact face that everybody else had made and immediately spat it out. I’m not sure exactly WHY I thought my reaction would be different, but regardless this was my first introduction to sour candies.

Fast forward to 2014 at one of Dennis’ house parties and our introduction to sour beer was very similar. A friend opened a new beer we hadn’t seen or heard of before so we all huddled around with tasters curious to try it. He didn’t know what it was and picked it specifically because it had a cool looking hawk on it (FYI hawks are cool!) and was made by Driftwood. With all tasters poured we all took a sip and, just like the school yard kids years ago, we all had that look of disgust as we attempted to swallow this new “beer” and some even spat it out into the sink. Jesse quickly grabbed the bottle to read the label. “What the f%ck is a Flanders Red? Is it supposed to taste like this?”. The short answer? Yes. However, unlike the sour candies we’d tried in the past (and this being beer), we decided to stick to it and give it another shot. After having a few more sips we began to appreciate the type of flavor that was being produced. This was our first introduction to Sour Beers and was our first step into a much larger and very interesting world.

So far there are six official styles for Sours (according to BCJP), but many brewers are all ready experimenting and creating soured versions of their regular beers. This can make it difficult for the new comer to find a starting point to ease into the Sour styles and fully appreciate the flavors that are being produced and discover what styles they may or may not enjoy. Rather then give a detailed description of all the styles, we’re going to share a few of the basics so that you can get a better idea of what to look for when you decide you want to dip your toe in. Enjoy!

Berliner Weisse

Berliner Weisse
Berliner Weisse

Love me a good Berliner Weisse! It is light in alcohol, effervescent, and refreshing. Making for a great summer seasonal. While the sourness can be quite sharp, it is actually very clean and has characteristics similar to Champagne. In fact, Napoleon’s troops referred to the style as “The Champagne of the North” all the way back in 1809 (before sour candies). If somebody was to ask me “what style of sour should I start with” this would be your safest bet. Some good local commercial examples we’d recommend can be found at Old Abbey Ales in Abbostford and Four Winds Brewing in Delta.

Flander Red

A Flanders Red Ale
A Flanders Red Ale

While I’ve grown to love the style, it is not for the uninitiated (see paragraph number two). Think of this as a maltier, higher alcohol, and more complex Berliner Weisse. Which, now that I write that out, suggests that it’s not really anything close to a Berliner Weisse at all. So scratch that last statement. It’s much darker, smoother, and has a more substantial fruity character. Very similar to a fine wine but, you know, sour. Depending on the brewer, the sourness can range from balanced to intense and typically has a much higher alcohol level. If somebody offers you one of these you may want to deeply inhale the aroma first to properly prepare you for what lies ahead. Some tasty local examples can be found at Yellow Dog Brewing in Port Moody and Storm Brewing in Vancouver.

What about Wild Ales?

Wild or not this is a delicious IPA!
Wild or not this is a delicious IPA!

Sours are really popular right now, but Wild Ales are also all the rage. These are NOT to be confused with Sours, but some may have sour or tart characteristics, these do not necessarily mean they are categorized as “sour beers”. The most common ingredient with these beers is a microbe called “Brett” (short for Brettanomyces) that can create a broad range of different flavors and aromas. This is added during fermentation and typically creates a musky “horse blanket” funk to the aroma, while also introducing tropical fruit and earthy farmhouse characters to the flavor. Sounds weird? Yeah, kinda. However, when you consider that those microbes are typically found in farmhouses and barnyards where farmers used to brew their own beer it all makes perfect sense. Traditionally speaking Brett can be found in Saisons and other Belgian beers, but lately brewers have been experimenting with its use in non-traditional styles. Brett IPA’s, Brett Browns, Brett Blondes…throw out a beer style and there’s a good chance that they’re adding Brett to it (and yes, Sours can be thrown in with those styles). It’s hard to give proper commercial examples, but if you’re about to try a “Wild Ale” from a local brewer, then you may want to inquire on how it came to be. Some may have a mixed fermentation using a combination of  Lacto (short for Lactobacillus and is the key to souring beer) and Brett to create something very complex and different from traditional Sours. If those types of questions go over the bartenders head, then fear not! For, if it is sour, there’s a good chance that Lacto is in there somewhere making it some kinda weirdo Sour-ish, Brett, Wild Ale monstrosity. The likes of which mere mortals have never seen!….Or not…Most likely not….okay forget I ever said that. Just drink it, I’m sure it’s tasty. Four Winds are actually become widely renowned for their Wild Ales. Here’s hoping they come up with a few more sour styles in the near future as well!

So that’s it for now. Again, these are just some basics and are generally pretty easy to find locally. Oud Bruins, Lambics, Geuzes, and Fruit Lambics are other traditional styles to keep an eye out for, but may be harder to find since they usually require longer aging, the blending of older batches, or are just a little too sour for most peoples palettes. Keep in mind that Sours are not for everybody. If you try a few and don’t like them then it doesn’t mean you’re a bad person, it just means that your taste buds may be extra sensitive to sour flavors or you may not have found one that you like. So best not to commit to filling a 64oz growler or a bottle until you’ve figured that out. Sours can also be more costly to produce which means you may be spending more money on something that you may not even like. I’d encourage you to visit the tasting rooms and stick with tasters until you find something that works for you. Enjoy!

Cheers!

SVB

The Business of Craft Beer: A first person account

Last week we were fortunate enough to get tickets to the annual “Business of Craft Beer” event in Vancouver. This is the second year that we’ve attended this event and, mirroring the industry, it’s grown significantly. Compared to last year this was less about celebrating the industry and more focused on the business aspects, and realities of today’s craft beer market place. The number of merchants displaying their products had increased, while the number of local breweries sharing their product drastically decreased. Not ideal for the beer nerds, but since this is a business event it’s good to see that shift in floor space. The number of panels had also grown drastically from two to six. These panels ranged from talks about supply chains, legal and accounting, accounting for growth, and dealing with Provincial Liquor Distribution Board. All and all a well put together event.

Learning is hard!
Learning is hard!

So what did we get out of it? Information. Lots and lots of information. We’re talking “I probably should have brought my laptop” amounts of information. The thing that we’ve quickly learned about starting a craft brewery is that as much as the industry in BC is growing like crazy, the in depth answers to important questions are still not that easy to come by. There are stacks of great books to read, but so far some of the most important questions have been answered by brewers working in the industry. Luckily the panels were full of successful brewers who were more then happy to talk about their own struggles with opening their breweries and offering great advice along the way.

The highlight of the entire event though was definitely the final panel which consisted of Matt Phillips (Phillips Brewing), Gary Lohin (Central City Brewing), Paul Hadfield (Spinnakers), and John Mitchell (craft beer legend). While all of these pioneers had great stories and advice to share, John Mitchell definitely stole the show. If you’re not familiar with who John Mitchell is, then a quick google search on Horseshoe Bay Brewing will tell you all you need to know. The long and short of it is that he’s widely credited for bringing the craft beer experience to, not just BC, but Canada and the northern states as well. He’s now 85 years young, has great stories to tell, doesn’t mind giving an honest opinion, and carries a thermometer in his front pocket to make sure his beer is a perfect 50 degrees Fahrenheit before he takes a sip. Basically he’s awesome, and when he started talking Joe Wiebe (the MC for the panel) did the right thing by putting the microphone down and waiting until he was done. Did we have any notes from this panel? Nope. Did we care? Nope! This was more of a “sit back and enjoy” type of experience and it was glorious. That, and the free caramel popcorn waiting for us outside, was the perfect way to end the day.

Would we recommend going next year? If you’re looking to start a brewery or just interested in getting into the industry, then absolutely. It’s becoming a great event and has made some great strides over last year. So what’s next for us? Vancouver Craft Beer Week. Stay tuned!

Cheers!

SVB

Getting back to the basics

It wasn’t long ago when we were talking about how much we were about to “ramp things up” and all the contests we were about to enter with our “dialed in recipes”. Since then you may have noticed an absence in posts and not as much going on with our Facebook page. There are a few reasons for this, but the long and short of it is “life happened” and as a result much of the forward momentum we had needed to reigned in for a bit while more important things were attended to. Yes there are more important things in our lives then brewing beer. Not many, but they do exist.

So what’s been going on? Well things did ramp up considerably in the brewing department. Last weekend we have over 30 gallons of beer kegged and ready to be bottled/consumed. However, only 10 of that 30 gallons got bottled and or saved for later. What happened to the rest? DUMPED! If you’ve never dumped a batch of beer (which we hope you never have to do, but it’ll probably still happen) it’s one of the more soul crushing things that you can do or witness. It’s not really the monetary loss, but rather the amount of effort that went into all aspects of the brewing process. All of those things go through your head while you witness your frothy, handcrafted creation pour down the drain.

Minutes before everything went wrong. Look how blissfully happy we were!
Minutes before everything went wrong. Look how blissfully happy we were!

It was the crescendo to what has been a string of weird and not so great results from our last bunch of brews. Version 2 of our Black IPA? Some how it managed to taste more like a porter with hardly any hop or dry hop characteristics at all. The new ESB? Not bad, but also missing the dry hop character. Version 3 of our Porter? Sour. Version 2 of our Cream Ale? Also Sour! What the frick is going on here? Did somebody open our fermenters and hock a loogie in them or did we fly too close to the sun? Luckily it appears to be neither of those and more about what we changed.

Luckily with all of those brews we know (because of our relentless note taking) that each one of them involved a new part or a change to our normal brewing routine. Black IPA? Fermentation stalled and we re-pitch the yeast. Also we bagged the dry hops rather then just dumping them in. ESB? It was a 10 gallon batch so we used a different fermenter as well as bagging our dry hops. Porter? Also had to re-pitch, but we took a lot more gravity readings before racking which could lead to a higher chance of infection. We also waited until the yeast was completely done before racking which means there’s not even a small amount of CO2 protecting the beer in the secondary. This increases the chance of infection even more. Given that we carried that habit over to the Cream Ale, we can start painting a picture of what could have happened and how we might be able to prevent it next time around.

Unfortunately “could” and “might” don’t really fill us with enough confidence to go ahead and simply brew the same beers with the same new equipment, using the same new processes. The chances that one of those changes affected the results are still too high for our liking. This means that for our next brew day we’ll be “kicking it old school”. No more fancy shmancy keg turned fermenter for the primary. No more waiting until the final gravity is hit before racking to the secondary. For this brew we will be going back to our more laid back (and slightly impatient) fermentation schedule using our tried and true equipment. Will we still make changes to our brewing setup and process down the road? Absolutely! However, from here on in we’ll be adjusting our brewing process and equipment just like we adjust our recipes. One change at a time.

Cheers!

SVB

Dialing in your recipes

We love experimenting as much as possible. Especially if one of us comes up with a wild and wacky idea. In rare cases we’ve lucked out and nailed the recipe on the first batch, but more often then not we’ve found that the results are generally “good”, but need some tweaking here and there. These tweaks are usually made because it either doesn’t quite meet the vision we had in our head or it just didn’t go over well with others (we are trying to appeal to the masses after all). So here’s some quick pieces of advice that have worked well for us when perfecting our ever evolving line up.

Make one change at a time

This is probably one of the best pieces of advice we’ve received and was given to us by a friend and fellow club member. Whether it’s the combination of grains, hops, yeast, or even the temperatures used, all these factor into the resulting beer. It’s important to remember that there’s a lot of different things that happen on the chemical level when brewing beer. One small tweak to any one of those details could drastically change the overall flavor. Limiting your changes will help you get a better handle on what works and what doesn’t. It may take more time, but the results will be worth it.

Be a scientist

Even if you’re only making one tweak at a time, keep a journal of all of your brew days and approach your brewing scientifically. This is particularly important when a brew doesn’t go as planned and events transpire that may affect your beer. More often then not the results from these mishaps are not ideal, but on occasion they may be beneficial. Best to write it down so that it can be replicated in the future.

Get opinions from others…and not just the nerds

Even the sharpest palettes have short comings and while the more experienced home brewers may be able to pick out more subtleties then most, you may be surprised by the feedback from the casual beer drinker. Even the description of what their tasting can be much more informative since the language they use is often much less technical since they are less familiar with the brewing process. It also helps to gauge the accessibility of your beer, especially if you’re trying to nail down something more sessionable and easy to drink.

Use BJCP guidelines

Just because your beer may not fit into a BJCP category doesn’t mean it’s a bad beer, but if you are trying to dial in a particular style of beer then reading through the guidelines for that style could provide some clues as to what’s missing or needs adjustment. We’ve found the “Vital Statistics” section particularly useful when first designing a recipe. Sometimes the “Ingredients” section will even provide you with a shopping list if you want something more authentic.

Clone recipes are useful

Personally, we’ve never had much interest in cloning or brewing a clone recipe. That being said, if you really like a certain character of a commercial beer, they can provide good insight into achieving similar results. Finding a good clone recipe can also give you a good starting point to put your own spin on a recipe or may provide you with the last piece of the puzzle with a beer you’ve been developing.

 

Hope these help.

 

Cheers!

Kevin

The State of the Union and looking forward to 2015

If you’ve been following our blog posts up until now (THANK YOU!) then you probably already know that we’ve been in the planning phase to open our own brewery for some time now. Other then experimenting with different recipes there’s been a lot of work put into turning this goal into a reality. Logistics, financials, strengths, weaknesses, marketing, legalities, all of these either have been, or are about to be analysed and developed to make sure our future brewery is as successful as possible. As you’ve probably guessed there is a ton of information that needs to be sifted through before we can even start building a business plan. Luckily we’ve had a lot of help. Here’s a look at where we’re at so far and what we have planned for the near future.

The Business Plan

This is probably the longest, tedious, and least exciting part of the process (at least at first). Everything gets analysed and picked apart, statements need to be supported with sources that use something called “facts”, and long term goals are broken down into medium term goals, which are then broken down into short term goals. That’s all on top of figuring out how much cash is needed, who’s going to get it, what they going to use it for, and when the person lending the money can expect to get it all back. Right now we have a good chunk of this process done with a lot of help from some friends in the industry and a lovely, intelligent lady whom I’ll be marrying come September (I asked before she helped with the plan, but if I hadn’t this pretty much sealed the deal).

The good news is that once you get most of the plan done, things do start to get exciting. If you’ve done your research and planned things out properly using these “facts” you start to see the viability of your business fleshed out before you without spending a single dollar. Lucky for us we’re looking to open a business that’s part of a rapidly growing industry. So, needless to say, the outlook so far is pretty good. There’s still plenty to do before we can start shopping our business plan, but the meat of it is close to being done and hopefully we’ll be pitching it to investors later this year.

Education

While this will always be a big part of brewing for us (homebrew or commercial), we try to pursue formal classes whenever possible. Last year we attended classes that brought us all the way back to the very basics of brewing, which did wonders as a refresher while providing us with small bits of new info to stream line our brew day. We also took some classes on off-flavors and hop profiles to sharpen our palettes which were provided by the BC Beer Awards. It’s a good bet that we’ll expand on these smaller education classes this year with offerings from CAMRA Vancouver and our local homebrew clubs. On top of that I will be attending SFU’s new 8 month Craft Brewing Course certificate starting October. It’s not quite as in-depth as other offerings, but will definitely help strengthen our brewing theory as well as providing education on the business side of the brewing industry. Two areas which could really help us in the near future.

Another big change for us this year will be with competitions. Classes and such have been good for helping our brewing processes, but getting feedback from trained judges has worked wonders for perfecting our recipes. Last year our scores averaged between 30-37 points (Very Good). This year our goal is to push that average to the “Excellent” category (38-44 points) and maybe even place. The number of competitions we’ll be entering will also dramatically increase. Last year we entered three, while this year it’ll be more like ten or more. The more competitions we enter, the more feedback we get, which means our beer just keeps getting better.

Marketing and Branding

Up until now our branding and labels have more been about having fun and being creative. It’s always satisfying to have your homebrew mistaken for a commercial beer. However, lately these fun little art projects have turned into full blown market research to see how our branding measures up. Practicality has also moved into the conversation and has forced us to rethink the size and shape of our labels as well as how to to streamline the labeling process. The neck labels look really cool, but after labeling a single case of bottles we’d most likely look at the 20-30 remaining cases and let the explicits fly. In the coming weeks you’ll start seeing the fruits of our labor as we begin revealing new beers.

Our social media efforts have, so far, been paying off. Our efforts have even resulted with us being referred to as the “Silver Valley Guys” by fellow club members. Needless to say it put a big smile on our faces since it meant we were doing something right and had a name that was gaining traction. This year we hope to build on that with our expansion into Twitter and more frequent blog posts. Since there will be a lot more going on this year, there will definitely be a lot more to share. We may also begin offering apparel to those who wish to show their support. Stay tuned for that and many other cool announcements. There will be plenty in the near future.

Brewing and Recipes

Just like our increase in competition entries, 2015 will see us making more beer. A lot more beer! Between our large system and small Brew-In-A-Bag set up we have total of five beers planned already…and that’s just for February. Another brew day is already booked for March as well with more to follow once we get a few of these beers get knocked out. Don’t expect as many weird experimental beers as we’ve done in the past. This year will have a stronger focus on fine tuning recipes that we plan to eventually produce commercially. That doesn’t necessarily mean we won’t mix things up once in a while. After all, 2015 is supposed to be “the year of the sour”. A style we have yet to explore.

So there you have it! Lots of changes and new stuff for 2015. We’re very excited and can’t wait to share it all with you. Many of you reading this are probably already familiar with our Facebook page already, but if you’re more of the Twitter type please follow us @SVbrewing and feel free to ask us questions. We’d love to hear from you!

Cheers!

Kevin

Does Beer Have A Shelf Life?

None of us here have ever had any formal training in the art of home brewing. Most of what we’ve learned is through reading, Youtube, homebrew club meetings, and trial and error. So over the summer I decided to take a “Brewing 101” course a friend was teaching in hopes of learning a little more and giving our brew days a bit more structure. While attending, one of the students asked whether or not the 5 year bottle of Heineken above his fridge would still be good. Needless to say, in this case, the answer was a definite “no”. It’s not the first time I’ve heard questions about the shelf life of beer though. This gentleman’s beer was long past its prime, but does that mean all beer has a shelf life? The answer is a clear and uncomplicated “it kinda depends on a bunch of different factors”.

What kind of beer is it?

This is probably the biggest factor in determining the shelf life of a beer. Typically lighter and lower alcohol beers are best served fresh. Mainly because any kind of flaw is much more noticeable in lighter styles like American Lights and Pilsners. The common flaw that occurs in beer that’s passed its prime is oxidization. This is when oxygen works its way back into the bottle and into the beer.The result is a cardboard taste that’s definitely not complimentary to the beer. This can start being noticeable around the 6 month mark in bottles while cans may give you a few more months.

Hoppy beers like IPA’s or West Coast Pale Ale’s will also start losing that awesome hop aroma over time. We’ve noticed it starts to disappear after 3 months so best to drink them as fresh as possible.

Because of the strength of the darker malts used, Stouts and Porters seem to mask the oxidized off-flavors for longer then lighter styles. It’s still there, just more subtle and less noticeable depending on the style.

Sealing your bottles with wax can help reduced oxidization.
Sealing your bottles with wax can help reduced oxidization.

High gravity (high alcohol) beers like Russian Imperial Stouts, Scotch Ales, and Barleywines are actually ideal for aging. Most high gravity beers can have a strong alcohol or “hot” flavor when served fresh. Aging them for 6 months or more can help mellow out these flavors for a silky smooth finish. Oxygen can and will creep its way into the beer, but since these tend to be complex and rich beers (usually good with desert) it’s barely noticeable. That being said, most brewers will try and fend off oxidization as much as possible by dipping the top of the bottles in wax to help seal it.

What Colour is the bottle?

Clear bottles may have “nothing to hide”, but they are far from ideal when it comes to beer. Exposing your beer to UV (ultra-violet) light is a bad thing. That’s why brown bottles work best since they block most of the UV light. If your bottle is clear or green it can begin taking on a skunky smell and taste less then ideal. It’s this very reason that certain large breweries recommend serving their beer with a lime wedge. The acid from the lime has a way of counteracting the skunky character, turning your beverage into something much more pleasing.

The majority of brewers agree that brown bottles are better.
The majority of brewers agree that brown bottles are better.

So how long does it take for UV light to skunkify your beer? Put it this way; if you’re picking up a case of beer that has clear or green bottles, then there’s a high chance they’re already skunky and you’ve just gotten used to the flavor. That being said, if you find a fresh case and want to experiment for yourself then simply put that clear bottled beer next to a window for an hour or two and see what happens. Just make sure you’re within spitting distance of a sink when you try it. This skunky effect can still happen with brown bottles it just takes longer.

What about growlers?

Depending on the type of growler and how it was filled you may get a different longevity, but typically it’s best to open them within a week of filling and consume the contents within 24 hours after opening. This has less to do with possible off-flavors and infections and more to do with the loss of carbonation. Growlers are not designed to store beer for the long term. Having a quick look at the quality of the caps will make that glaringly obvious on most offerings. However, most breweries do offer higher quality options with better seals and insulation that keep your beer fresher and colder for longer. If you’re willing to cough up and extra $50-$80 during your next fill it’s well worth it!

Super fancy growler fillers...from the future!
Super fancy growler fillers…from the future!

Another factor, when dealing with growlers, is how it’s been filled. Most breweries will fill using a counter pressure system that purges the oxygen from the growler using CO2 before filling it right to the top with beer. This is, by far, the best method of filling a growler and will give your beer the longest life span. These systems are easily recognizable since they’ll either look like a filling chamber from the future or they will have some type of seal around the top of the growler when filling.

Filling a growler from the tap does still happen from time to time, but an extension of some kind should be used to prevent too much head. It’s better then nothing, but it’s still best to plan accordingly and drink the contents of your growler sooner rather then later.

That’s it for now! Have more questions about the shelf life of your beer? Do you have an idea for a future post? Comment and let us know!

Cheers!

SVB

The Beer Glass: Does it make a difference?

Yes……..end of post.

Unless you want to find out the how and why. In that case read on and bathe in the science of beer glass awesomeness! We’re not experts in the field by any means, but these are some observations and suggestions we’ve picked up along the way.

One thing that inevitably happens when you’ve been home brewing for a while is you become quite particular as to how beer is presented and served to you. You’ll even start to develop pet peeves and will probably begin bringing your own glass to house parties after you discover that a good glass makes beer taste better. That’s right, just like wine glasses, those fancy beer glasses are designed specifically to enhance your beer so that every bit of hop aroma can be smelt while keeping the head lasting for hours. So what should you be looking for in a beer glass? Good question, but first lets start with what NOT to look for.

The Conical Pint Glass

The Conical Pint Glass.
The Conical Pint Glass.

Two of my biggest gripes when going to a pub is being served beer in a “nice frosty glass” (which kills the flavor of your beer by the way) and having that “nice frosty glass” be a straight, thick walled Conical Pint Glass. They’re cheap, durable, and easy to stack, but unfortunately they do nothing for the craft beer you are paying good money to drink. There are many reasons for this, but the first would be that you’ll notice little to no aroma since there’s no cupping of the glass to trap it. On top of that those thick walls transfer more heat into your beer. This warms it up and causes it to lose it’s carbonation faster and kills the head. Head is key contributor to the aroma of your beer and ,since aroma also effects the perceived taste of the beer, that’s a lot of character to miss out on. If you’re sitting down for a nice well hopped IPA and it’s served in a Conical Pint Glass, you may missing out on some of that beers character.

Drinking from a Conical Pint Glass can also leave something to be desired. Since the walls are straight that means the beer is going pour into your mouth faster and can cause a drowning reaction if you’re not careful. Drowning in beer may be a dream come true for some, but it’s not ideal if you want to actually TASTE the beer you’re being forced to consume.

So what should you look for and why?

Thinner Walls

While thick glass can transfer heat faster, thinner glass will actually reduce this effect and help keep your beer closer to the original serving temperature. Many beers are designed and brewed to be served at certain temperatures so the longer your glass can help maintain that temperature the better.

Curvy Shapes

Funky shaped glassware helps maintain a consistent head on your beer.
Funky shaped glassware helps maintain a consistent head on your beer.

As mentioned above, having a cupped or bowl shaped glass can greatly improve the aroma and head of your beer as well as making it easier to drink. Having a cupped or tapered opening helps trap the aroma. As you go to drink, this shape will cup around your nose and help you take in all the aroma that the beer has to offer. Bowl shaped glasses also encourage agitation. As you drink, the beer swishes around the glass to create a longer lasting head. Some glasses will even have a heavily tapered midsection where the beer splashes from the smaller base into the larger bowl. This will definitely keep your IPA’s fizzy and stouts nice and frothy. Finally a cup or bowl shaped glass will also prevent the “drowning sensation” mentioned earlier as it will let you portion each sip more carefully.

Ribs and Etchings

The glass on the left has etching on the bottom while the one of the right does not.
The glass on the left has etching on the bottom while the one of the right does not.

Bubbles like imperfections in your glassware. If somebody hands you a glass with bubbles surrounding certain spots there’s a good chance that the glass was either not cleaned properly or those spots were designed specifically to promote and maintain the head of your beer. These “imperfections” can take the form of ribs or etchings at the base of the glass. These features will also help your beer maintain a fuller, longer lasting head.

Tall and Narrow

There are some beer styles that benefit from tall and narrow glassware. If you’re drinking a light, delicate beer like a Pilsner you may want to try one of these glasses. Tall narrow shapes help promote head and maintain a healthy carbonation. Just like the beer styles they’re made for, tall and narrow glasses are designed to deliver a crisp and refreshing experience.

Weird Shapes

A thistle glass for the snootiest of the snooty Scotch Ale drinkers.
A thistle glass for the snootiest of the snooty Scotch Ale drinkers.

Boots and Thistles and Flutes ooohhh myyyyyyy! For almost every style of beer there is an appropriate style of glass, if you really want to take things that far. Do they make that much of a difference compared to a more versatile glass? Probably, but it would be unrealistic to scold a pub owner for not serving your Scotch Ale in a Thistle. Specific glassware is always fun to collect for the cool factor, however I don’t feel that many experts would consider them a necessity.

So those are some of the basics! Want to learn more about the impact of glassware on your beer? Check out some of these links below.

http://www.beeradvocate.com/beer/101/glassware/

http://www.popsci.com/article/technology/glasses-make-beer-taste-better

http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/anthropology-in-practice/2011/08/22/does-your-beer-glass-matter/

One year later……

It’s pretty crazy to think that we’ve only been brewing for one year. If we hadn’t been recording it on here we’d definitely be asking ourselves “how the heck did that even happen?”. We’re not going to go into too much detail (if you’ve been following our blog you know most of the story already). That being said, here are five lessons that we’ve learned over this past year that we thought we’d share. There’s a lot to brewing, and we’re far from experts, but these should at least help get you on the right path.

1) A stuck mash sucks. Best to avoid it whenever possible.

2) If you’re brewing for the first time, don’t rely on the instructions you get with your first kit or recipe. They tend to assume that you already know what you’re doing. Instead, pick up a good book (pretty much anything by John Palmer is a good starting point) and learn about the process first. It’ll make everything far less hectic. Don’t worry about getting too technical. That’ll come later if you’re interested in taking it that far.

3) It’s okay to start off with extracts and don’t let anybody tell you different. You’ll eventually move to all-grain, but some of those extract recipes are perfectly fine if you’re looking to get your feet wet.

4) However good you think your first brew is now, in a month or two you’ll realize it’s either mediocre or terrible as your tastes develop…….and that’s okay. You can read every book on home brewing ever written, but nothing can replace experience and the sharper palette that comes as a result. Don’t get discouraged. Things are about to get much, much better.

5) Join a home brewing club. Getting feedback from your friends and family is always fun and rewarding, but if you really want constructive feedback it’s best to get it from experienced home brewers. Not only will they be specific about what they like and don’t like, they will also give you great tips on how to improve your recipe and brewing process. There’s other benefits like bulk buys on hops and grain, as well as yeast banks to help you save on your brew supplies.

Honourable mention: Hot Scotchies! Two parts fresh wort and one part scotch. This simple recipe will help keep you warm on chillier brew days.

So that’s it! Stay tuned for our next post and feel free to stop by our facebook page for a recap of our anniversary brew.

Choosing the starting line up

Just like many home brewers, we have aspirations to one day turn our much loved hobby into a viable business. To work towards that we gave ourselves some milestone goals. The first was solidifying at least two solid recipes that can be offered year round. The second was reading some key books and doing research on the topic of starting a brewery. The third was build a business plan. Fourth? Finding money.

Last night we met up for a couple of pints and dinner at our favorite local watering hole the Billy Miner Pub (try their pizza and thank us later) to discuss where we were at and what the next steps were. It turns out we’re a bit a head of schedule in some areas. Namely our selection of market ready (or nearly ready) recipes. Narrowing down which ones to select for our year round offering was quite the lengthy and in depth conversation. To be honest there were no right or wrong answers when it came to the styles, but finding the perfect balance or variety and accessibility can be tough.

Carboys

Ideally we would want to launch with three beers that are offered year round. The first would be a more accessible beer for the uninitiated. The second would be something a bit hoppier and complex for the beer connoisseurs. Finally, the third would be a darker Stout or Porter for those who enjoy “the black stuff”.  We won’t bore you with all the back and forth discussions we had, but ultimately it was the ingredients that finally determined our starting line up. It was our first real “business decision” that we’ve made that actually effects our products and it was an important moment since it’s an approach that will serve us well down the road.

Choosing beers that shared many of the same ingredients would allow us to purchase them in larger quantities, lowering costs and increasing profits. This is particularly important with yeast since it’s far and away the most costly ingredients in your beer. Not the ideal way to decide on beers, but this isn’t home brewing anymore where an extra $10 is okay. It’s pretty much all about finding ways to cut costs from here on in.

Californication Common Ale
Californication Common Ale

So what’s the starting line up? It looks like the Common, and Porter are going to make it into the mix for sure, but we’re still experimenting on the hoppy beer. Perhaps a west coast style ESB? We’ll keep you posted, but there’s a good chance that the next hoppy beer you see from us that’s around 5-6% alcohol is most likely going to fill that gap in our line up. Stay tuned!

 

Experimentation and why we brew what we brew.

Test Batch

If you’ve ever looked through our brewing history, or kept track of our Facebook page, then you’ve probably discovered our love for English style beers. It’s fair to say that our enthusiasm for a West Coast style IPA is a bit of an anomaly when looking at our catalog. The other thing you’ve probably discovered is that we like to put our own spin on the traditional. Some of these are relatively common tweaks using common brewing ingredients (Rye-Porter) and others are more wild and experimental (Pumpkin Spice Latte anybody?). That being said we try not to stray too far from what makes those styles great in the first place. This is by no means a template or how you should build your own recipes (we still have A LOT to learn). It’s just some insight into how we work.

Our Mocha Stout is a good example of how we like to construct one of our recipes. Naturally we’ll start by deciding what style we want to brew, but it’s not long until we’re racking our brains for a way to throw the drinker a curve ball. Something that makes them say “You put what in your beer? Does that even work?”. We won’t necessarily throw some random object into our for the sake of making it different. What we’re trying to find is something that will complement the style. For the Mocha Stout we had already seen Chocolate Stouts and Porters, as well as Coffee Stouts and Porters, but never a combination of the two using actual coffee and cocoa nibs. It was a suggestion that Dennis came up with after Jesse and I had been going back and forth about whether to go with coffee or chocolate. It was a solid suggestion and one that seemed to be a natural fit for the style.

Barista Mocha Stout
Barista Mocha Stout

Once we figure out what to shoot for we’ll usually start with a standard recipe for the style and make adjustments to help showcase our “wacky” ingredients. For the Mocha we really wanted it to complement the coffee flavor so we upped the Roasted Barley a little, while giving the Chocolate malt a little more love. We also wanted the rich and creamy characteristic you’d get with a real Mocha Latte, so we used Flaked Oats rather then Flaked Barley. All of these small tweaks can drastically change the impact of these new ingredients and how they work together to make a great beer.

By now it’s pretty easy to see how we approach each beer and it’s ingredients. We may have a solid recipe we use for a starting point, but that’s all it really is. Sure we could just take our Porter Recipe and throw cocoa nibs in it, but that’s exactly what it would taste like. Where’s the fun in that? Why not have a beer that stands on it’s own rather then on the shoulders of others?

Stay tuned for our next post!