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….and another thing…

It seems that the American craft brewer is very focused on big beers. From the biggest beer ever, utopia from Boston Brewing, to the porters and IPAs presented by left hand, rogue, etc. It seems that it is an attempt to balance the smallness of the classic American light pilsner. And if it’s not a really big beer, then it better be a really hopped beer… Anything I’ve tried from Troeg’s, some of Victory’s stuff…etc (I wonder how the shortage impacts their bottom line).

I believe that they all have their place.  That said, I’m hoping to see a better selection of more middle of the road beers… not middle in quality, but middle in gravity and hop flavor.

 One of the most annoying things is the alteration of European brands for American consumption (see Heinekin, Becks) . I would think that there is a huge gap in the market, where some true full bodied beers would fit in.  I love German pils, (best on tap), but it’s challenging to find one here… though I have on occasion. But, even harder to find are ales that aren’t supercharged with cascade and high alpha hops, or are the english style, nearly devoid of hops (like musty old Newcastle).

 I just want a malty, slightly bitter, beer.

 By the way, I love just about any beer, just some more than others. Long Trail Ale and Sierra Nevada Pale Ale are at the absolute top, but one beer stands out. I haven’t had one in almost 20 years… but in the German Alps, within the Ettal Monastery, the Monks brew a beer that is just unbelievable (at least if memory serves)… This beer was served to me in a half liter plastic cup, and was by far the best thing I’d ever tasted, this remains true today. I haven’t found a place that sells it here, so I will keep looking…

 Until then, I’ll keep brewing the beer I like.

To Brew….

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about beer brewing.

This weekend I brewed a Hefeweizen of sorts… I am low on malt, so I took a look at what I had, and whipped up something… I used 6lb Maris Otter, 5 lb wheat malt, 2 Oz Tetnang, and 1.5 Oz. sweet orange peel… Yeast was WL Hefe.

 I think it’s going to be delicious. Though it was a suprisingly smooth brew session, almost too smooth. For the first time ever I ended up with just over 5 gallons after boil… either I’m getting pretty good at this, or I missed something… we’ll see in a month or so…

 In other malty goodness news…. I tried a couple micro brews this weekend… Cricket Hill American Ale and Rogue Dead Guy Ale… Both are suprisingly similar in some ways… the rating for the dead guy is 98 or something like that. I think it’s pretty good. However both beers had a “porter-like” charactaristic, which seems to be favored by the craft brewing community… I’m going to have to take a beer tasting class to learn how to describe it properly. I think it can be attributed to a very full body and high alcohol. More on that later….

I am slowly working my way through the craft brews to see if there is a commercial brew that is as tasty as my best batch of Amber Ale… (I haven’t been able to replicate it exactly yet, but I’ll keep trying, and the second best batches aren’t half bad). Which has me thinking about going pro….

 There are so many reasons why this would be a great job for me, and a couple why it might not.

 1. duh… beer.

2. Manufacturing process

3. Controls, pumps, boilers, fun mechanical stuff…

4. Science, quality control, predictiability.

 Possible Cons:

1. Business stuff – I have no working knowledge of industry regulations, marketing, or finance… maybe I can learn this stuff pretty quick.

2. Market volitility – recent hops shortages impacted the bottom line for a lot of breweries, changes in government policy may make it much better for farmers to grow corn and other crops for ethanol, which could translate to less barley…. I’m not sure what the equation is, or if the barley fields are in places that make sense for corn to grow….

 Summary of Cons: the unknown… I have to do a lot of research… One thing that is a major concern, of course, is consistency. But, I know how to approach consistency, and I’ve been through the meat grinder trying to nail down the critical control parameters for a process I didn’t know anything about to start with, so I have an advantage with this one.

There are a few options for going pro that I know of:

1. Open a Brewery: I’d have to find a site in a State with favorable laws, good water, and reasonable proximity to market (especially with current fuel costs).

2. Open a Brew Pub: I generally shy away from this, as the business model is generally food service first with these places. In NJ, by law, you have to get more revenue from food than beer. I wouldn’t mind having a brew pub attached to a microbrewery (illegal in NJ). Serving up burgers and fries at the brewery would be cool… a good place to cultivate customers.

 3. Contract Brewing: this gets poo-pood a lot by the craft brewing peanut gallery. But, I’m uder the impression, that some real quality brews were brought to market this way. Specifically, Magic Hat and Sam Adams. I believe Brooklyn brand beers are contract brewed upstate NY at Saranac. While it isn’t ideal for me, as it would remove me from the half of the business that I am most drawn to (brewing vs. marketing), it may be a risk adverse and/or feasible option since there would be no outlay for equipment, and no learning curve for commercial brewing, allowing me to concentrate on the critical learning curve of marketing.

 4. Sell my recipes: not an option I would persue unless it would raise the captial necessary to fund all future brewing enterprises… Maybe I’d lease recipes for 5 years or something…

 Along with that stuff, I’ve been thinking about improvements to my brewing setup. I’d really like to have automatic temperature control for my HLT… If I could set it and forget it, it would really free up some time on brew day… I could go out and set the temp to Mash temp and then have breakfast. Then when I’m ready to start, I’d just start… then I could switch to sparge, and same deal… this is slightly less of a big deal since I have the whole hour to get the sparge temp right, but still I could be mowing my lawn, or relaxing.

 I’m also thinking about a recirculating system. It is reasoned that there is more consistent, more efficient, starch conversion, and the added benefit of no vorlauf (shorter sparge time).

 This would be a major mod… but one that I think may be worthwhile…

 I also want to trade in my ramshackle brewing stand (a couple sawhorses, piece of plywood, and a makshift raised platform), for something a bit cleaner, and more professional looking.

so I’ve been thinking a lot about brewing….