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Drinking: Bonfire Brewing, En Garde


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Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Seasonal Shenanigans

Last month on August 8, 2015 Pateros Creek released its Mexican Lager “Pancho Lefty” in celebration of Cinco De Mayo.  We will have it available until November, when we will release City Park Lager in honor of Independence Day.  Coincidently, we still have City Park available from the 7/4/2015 celebration, which was released Dec. 25, 2014.  Also, don’t forget about Owl Canyon.  It’s our tri-annual pumpkin ale, which we release three times per year, but all those releases fall on the same day, Nov. 1, to capitalize on the early market demand for the latest seasonal something-or-other. 

Here’s a few other beers you might want to know about
Oktoberfest beers in August.  Pumpkin beers in July.  Christmas Ale in October.  Summer ale on St. Patrick’s Day?  Peach Ale in JANUARY 1!!! 

……………………………………(sigh) .....…………………………………………………(burp)

I write this blog….occasionally….to be fun and witty.  It’s an opportunity for you to stop looking at porn and get a glimpse into my porn world. I promise that I won’t turn my shitty blog into a bitchy outlet for drunken, disgruntled emotions, but I felt I had to throw a few pennies on top of the thousands of others that complain about the increasingly earlier releases of what should be seasonal beers.  In that respect I hope that I can shed a little light on what it means for the industry, how we got to this situation, and what we can do about it. 

My background, before brewing, was cooking.  I worked in a handful of very high end restaurants.  Places that wouldn’t have let me in the door if I they weren’t paying me to work for them. (Kinda like a $5 hooker)  Now, I’m a great cook.  Not the best in the country, but firmly in the top 90th percentile….I mean, at least 85th.  75th at the lowest, that’s my final offer.  Anyway, I’m better than 94.625 % of people that might read this.  One of the things I loved most was walking through the farmer’s market on 14th st. in NYC at 6 in the morning.  A lot of the Sous Chefs, some Exec. Chefs, and a handful of ass-kissing cooks would be queuing up around the tomato guy or the pepper chick (she was hot…get it?).  We would rip through their tables looking for the best of the best produce.  These were veggies that were still warm from being picked that morning, had never met a refrigerator, and would often leave us with our hands covered in dirt and the occasional worm or ladybug hanging on for dear life.  There’s something a little awe inspiring about watching a ladybug crawl up your chef whites and fly away as the sun comes up over the Manhattan skyline and glints off the empty Old Crow whiskey bottle shattered beneath the bum sleeping it off on the bench at the edge of the market.  (Hemingway would love that sentence)  My point is…
…oh yeah, that shit was fresh, yo!

We would often make up recipes on the spot.  These Collard greens are getting braised in bourbon and piled under the 2 bone, Nyman ranch, 12 oz pork chop, with a few grilled peaches thrown over it for good measure and sauced with a cranberry demi.  (90th percentile, definitely)  I guess what I’m trying to convey, is that the goal of cooking like that was to create the best possible dish right now!  We weren’t trying to capitalize on the consumer’s idea of when to eat pumpkins, we were dictating to them that pumpkin season was when the pumpkins were fucking ready.  We were like Mother Nature, with a big ass knife.  You eat what I tell you to eat, when I fucking say so.

 I guess I thought that the brewing industry I work in, with its high and mighty ideal of being “craft”, would follow a similar path.  I still think some if it does.  However, I think the larger breweries have gone the Starbucks route and look at the maximum possible profits from releasing Pumpkin Latte as soon as the Fourth of July fireworks die down.  I can piss and moan about it, but it does make some sense from a fiscal perspective.  A business isn’t in business to be your friend.  It’s there to make money, provide a stable income for its employees, and make a return for the investors.  If you’re stupid enough to pay $10 for a 4-pack of Pumpking in July, well….a fool and his money, dot, dot, dot.  I guess that my concern is that I believe that my beer should be held to the highest standard of perfection.  That’s how I learned to cook.  Perfect was never perfect enough, fresh was never fresh enough, and it wasn’t really seasonal unless you grew it yourself, picked it 10 minutes before it hit the sauté pan, and served it to some rich asshole for $65 a plate.  A little hyperbole, but not really that much.  I thought that would be a staple of craft beer too.  What I found is that we all need to make $$$.  And if I can put a pumpkin beer on the shelves in July, made with real pumpkin spices, and you’ll buy it, well why the fuck wouldn’t I do it?  But,what do I lose when I do that.  Integrity I guess.  It’s the start of that long slippery slope that leads to putting so much rice in a light lager that it can’t legally be called beer in Germany and suing a small company over the name “Queen of Beers”. 

The problem is that this isn’t a new trend.  It’s been going on for over one hundred years.  Beginning with the discovery and industrialization of cellaring, and the popularization of refrigeration, people have been altering when beers are available.  In the beginning you could only brew when the weather permitted, specifically spring and fall, but also winter, depending on the climate.  These limitations helped develop certain styles like saisons, which would be brewed in the spring when the weather would cooperate and be served in the summer when you couldn’t brew.   The industrial revolution brought us cold storage on a mass scale and allowed for brewing year round.  There are breweries now that are dedicated to brewing primarily saisons.  All beers, due to the limitations of the maltsters, used to be smoky until the technology was invented to remove wood as a necessary ingredient in fire.  A good maltster would manipulate what type or blend of wood he would roast the barley over, to produce specific flavors.  Sour beers were a staple until the techniques for sanitation were introduced.  Technology has always been an influence in the trends in brewing, but does that mean we should tolerate companies producing a beer made with canned pumpkin in July?  (I actually wanted to say May or April there to emphasize the absurdity, but seriously…July is fucking ridiculous.) 

So what can you do about it?  Just stop drinking that shit!  That’s it.  Consumers are like voters, the smarter and more informed you are the more effective you can be in influencing the world around you.  Drinking pumpkin beer in July is like voting for Trump because you keep hearing his name on the radio.  Just fucking ignorant.  (sigh)

Well, it took me two beers to write this, and I used that shitty toupee wearing asshat in an analogy.  I’m going to have another and I’ll leave you with this.  Drinking out of season beers is something I believe depreciates the values that the craft beer movement grew up on.  It’s capitalism at in its most basic form, trying to see how much money they can fleece you for.  It also numbs your palate and your appreciation for some of the amazing beers that are true to the ebbs and flows of the seasons.  I’d like to believe that we’re better than that. 

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Fuckin-a man

I named a new beer today.

Actually, I didn't name it, it kind of named itself.

I have a pretty standard method for naming all the new beers that come out of Pateros.  It's relatively simple, but I feel it's really important to the whole process of presenting a beer to the public that they can connect with.  My process....I drink.

Actually, it's not just me who drinks.  When I need to name something I grab everyone I can and make them sit and drink with me.  For my own unique creative process, I want to sit down, hang out, and talk with everyone around me about what the name should be.  Most of the time the conversations drift in and out of focus, from topics as amiable as darts to contentious issues like the proposal for CSU's new stadium or J-Low's cellulite (I'd still hit it).  It doesn't really matter where the conversation drifts, it's more about getting to know the people you're drinking with and making a connection with them. Eventually, someone will have an idea that resonates with everyone.  It's that one perfect moment in a conversation where everyone is on the same level, laughing in the same way, and really enjoying the people, atmosphere, and life in general.  That is where the name comes from.

Today it took the better part of 2 hours.  But in the end we found a name that compliments the beer, matches the character of the brewery, and helps the customer bridge the gap between Pateros as a company, and Pateros where their friends are.

Without further ado, I proudly present: Bearshark Barleywine

That's right, we named a beer after a old internet meme.  But trust me, by the time you finish a pint, this picture will be fucking hilarious.  THE BEAR'S WEARING AN ANKLE STRAP!  Think about that for a minute.  Really.  He (She? I'm not good with bear anatomy) is seriously concerned about losing that shark to a knarly wave.  

But I digest,  The name is a representation of all of the people I was drinking with, the atmosphere we were drinking in, and the spirit of the beer.  There is so much unseen effort that goes into creating a beer, the owners dreams, the brewers labors, the bartenders smile, attitude, hell, their knowledge of beer styles, serving temps...   What you get in a glass is the culmination of so many peoples tireless efforts to create that perfect pint for you.  I think the name should encompass all of those people and how they came together in that one perfect, slightly intoxicated, moment.  

A random guy on the internet said this quote about bourbon.  And, while I don't disagree, I altered it to include beer, but the spirit is still the same.  

"I think this should be America's pastime.  Fuck baseball. Just grab yourself a pint of beer, and sit down and talk.  I think this is the problem with America - we don't drink enough."

Fuckin-a man

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

One day of clarity after 5 months of ???

Wow (hic) Hi.

I'm a brewer....weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!

So, I haven't updated this in a while.  To the both of you who read this (Mom, Logan) here's how this is going to happen.  A short overview of each month, followed by yet another promise to maintain a larger presence on the interwebz.

Started canning.  Only doing two beers right now, a Kolsh and a Porter.  The first canning run was a disaster.  We lost a shitload of beer.  By a shitload I mean several thousand $$$.  Apparently the beer needs to be extremely cold and carbonated to a certain degree to go into the cans easily.  Otherwise it foams like crazy and the cans are filled unevenly.  It was fun anyway just to shotgun that first canned beer.  I picked up my share of the Barrel Aged Imperial Porter.  It's drunklicious.  I tossed a few bottles in my wine cooler to age and marinated my liver in the rest.  The next day, hungover and happy, was Beerlympics.  The Fort Collins Brewery hosted the first annual Brewery Olympics.  We fielded a team of four beautiful bastards to compete in barrel slaloms, pitcher lifts, beer pictionary, grain stacking, and yeast filled water balloon toss.  The grand finale was a chugging contest that involved a short race followed by filling your shoe with trub (the nasty, yeasty, hoppy shit we filter out of brewing) and chugging it.  We took second place.  We should have taken first, but....beer.  The end of August brought our second canning run.   The results were less than stellar.  There were temperature issues, pressure issues, beer on floor issues.  We're getting really close to Nick punching people issues.  We're also finishing all of our brewing for the Great American Beer Festival.  Our entries for the judging are due in early September.

Through out September we brewed a little more.  Because we're canning every few weeks I haven't been able to keep up with our other standard beers.  Add on top of that the bottling for the GABF, and maintaining a selection of rotating specialty brews and I'm starting to realize that brewing may actually be a serious job.  But, it is not without its rewards.  September 22 brings the 5 year anniversary of my marriage to my beautiful wife.  We made plans for a romantic evening, dining, dancing, wine.....then we scraped that plan  dressed up in lederhosen and dirndls (I'll leave it to you to figure out who was it which) and went to a Oktoberfest party instead.  Steve's birthday lands on the 22nd.  His wife has taken it upon herself to throw him a Oktoberfest party every year.  Now that he owns a brewery, well, the party got huge.   We brewed a Marzen (mart-zen) and released it at Stevetoberfest!.  It was delicious, and gone within 2 weeks.

OMGOMGOMGOMGOMGOMG!!!!  It's time for my first ever GABF.  The countries largest beer festival.  I get to go as a brewer.  I can cut the lines, sample more beer than is generally considered sane, and possibly win a gold medal for our beers.  But that didn't happen.  Don't get me wrong, I drank like a stewed asshole (what?) but we didn't win any medals. It was heart wrenching.  The award ceremony last several hours.  There are 84ish categories with 3 winners each.  Every medal means everything to the winners.  You can watch a little, unknown brewery win a medal and know that their brewery just made it.  We entered 8 beers.  I wasn't expecting to win with each one, but there were several that I thought would win something.  It really sucks to sit there and realize that you won nothing when it could mean so much.  There were 4 Fort Collins breweries that won medals this year, including Funkwerks which took two medals and won Small Brewery of the Year.  It's awesome to live in a town where all the beer is so amazing.  It's also a gut check to realize how stiff the competition is for craft beer customers.  It's an awesome community that is willing to help and offer advice any time, but it is still me brewing and ultimately my responsibility to make great beer.  Steve and I constantly evaluate our systems and improve the process, we taste and adjust the recipes if they need it.  I believe the quality and consistency of the beer has improved, but we are a long way from being perfect.  During GABF week we released 8 new beers.  One a day for the entire week leading up to, and through GABF; 2 IPAs, a Vanilla Porter, a Pumpkin Ale, an Earl Grey Best Bitter, a Peach Porter, an Oatmeal Raisin Stout, and a Dry Hopped Pumpkin Ale.  Our first batch of Pumpkin Ale lasted only a week. So we brewed another.  We released it on Halloween and served it out of a hallowed out pumpkin.  It was awesome.

November was a little crazy.  The canning has improved a little and we installed a new 20 bbl. fermenter to keep up with demand. We now have to brew 2 batches on consecutive days to fill it.  It involves a little bit of planning but works great. We have also been falling behind on our other beers.  I have had to schedule a ridiculous amount of brews to keep up.  We used to average one batch a week.  We are now brewing 2-3 times a week, with one week of 4 brews.  We started brewing our winter seasonals.  We brewed a winter warmer that Steve had also brewed last year.  He saved a 1/4 bbl and later on we will do a vertical tasting of both batches.  I also brewed a 5 bbl batch of Oatmeal Raisin Stout.  This was the first recipe that I've written that we brewed on the big system.  Hopefully it works out alright.  We tested this beer in October.  I made a small batch that we released during GABF.  We tweaked it little and brewed it on the big system.  I also got to go back to Ohio for a few days and see my nephews....and the rest of the family.  I also stopped by the Hopping Frog Brewery and snagged a few bottles.  Barrel Aged Christmas Ale, 1 Yr, Barrel Aged Christmas Ale, and Barrel Aged Pumpkin Ale.  Mmmmmm...barrel-ly!!!!   Oh yeah.  GREAT LAKES CHRISTMAS ALE!!!  Holy shit is that good.  I talked to some of the reps at GABF and that single beer makes up over 60% of their sales.  Every year they double how much they make and they still run out.  I need to make a beer like that.

Well I'm bored.  All that brewing that I did in November was too much.  We have more beer then we can sell. I only brewed twice this month.  Instead I cleaned, and cleaned, and made Dave clean.  Oh yeah, we have a cellarman.  His name is Dave.  He's Amish, or at least that's what we named him based on his glorious beard.  He has picked up all the keg cleaning, beer transferring, yeast harvesting, kegging duties.  He actually started in July.  He stepped up when our "interns" started sucking ass.  So now we spend our days cleaning and organizing the brewery.  It's actually kind of nice to be able to slow down and re-organize everything.  Steve says that winter is always the slowest time so I plan on using these months to plan ahead for the spring and summer festivals.

Well, we're still slow.  Cara and I went to New York for a week to see her family.  She stayed for a second week and I came home to brew beer.  We released the Oatmeal Raisin Stout.  Everyone seems to like it, so I guess I'm happy.  We're releasing an Imperial Maple Brown Ale on Thursday that I;m excited about too. I feel like the brewery is very close to turning that corner and becoming really successful.  I've even started taking a free online course from the University of Virginia on how to help a business take the next step in growing after the initial start up phase.  That's all I got for now.  

Later dudes.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Brewing it, and brewing it, and brewing it well!

So I've been a professional brewer for three months now.  I've dropped kegs on my feet, spilled gallons upon gallons of beer, almost lost a fingernail, and made a beer SO bad that we had to replace the tap line to keep it from ruining any other beers.  So, what have you done lately?


I was hired on in early April.  Steve spent the next several weeks teaching me how to brew on the system.  I already knew the basics from volunteering for the last several months, but there are a lot of little details, some of which I still forget.  Fortunately, Steve is a forgiving teacher, responding to most of my mistakes with "Yeah, I've done that too."  My very first solo brew was the Stimulator Rye Pale Ale.  It's a great pale ale that has a little spiciness from the rye, and is dry hopped with lots of cascade hops.  It's also a bitch to brew.  The rye completely dissolves when it's mashed.  It turns into a sticky paste and will clog up the mash when you try to sparge.  We add some rice hulls to help separate everything, but there's still a lot of technique to getting this brew to go right.  I did not have that technique.  I started sparging a little too fast and my mash got stuck.  This means that the grain bed collapsed on itself and was too tight to let any water through.  It meant that I had to spend 20 minutes stirring the grain and resetting the grain bed and then, very, very slowly, sparging again.  A average brew takes me about 7 hours.  This took over 9.  But it was a good learning experience, and taught me how to deal with problems without losing the entire brew.  In the end, the beer came out great.  We even changed our process a little to emphasize the hop flavor.  I've been told that the beer a much better than some of the previous batches.  Coincidentally, yesterday I brewed the Stimulator again.  It went much better this time.  A lot has happened between then and now, so lets get through this so you can go back to your porn.

Still not as creepy as your homemade stuff

Brewing involves a lot of cleaning, most of my week is cleaning kegs, cleaning fermenters, cleaning bright tanks,  general brewhouse cleaning, cleaning Steve's clothes (I don't know why this is a part of brewing, but Steve knows more than I do so...?), cleaning tap lines.  You get the point.  On top of all the cleaning there is all of the cellaring duties; transferring beer to bright tanks to clarify, harvesting and propagating yeast, kegging the finished beer, crushing grain for brewing, and general organizing of the brewhouse.  One of the perks of working in a small brewery is that I get to learn all of this.  There are people in larger breweries who only do one specific job, granted they do it very well, but I feel that I am learning more this way.  Also, because we are small, and growing very slowly, there's less pressure then there would be at a larger place.  We have limited equipment and we do our best with it.
P.S.  Our best is pretty fucking good!

Aside from the daily brewing stuff, we also do the occasional festivals.  We attended the Colorado Brew Fest.  This was the first festival that I went to (as a brewer).  It's much different than going as a patron.  I've been kicked out as a patron (I'm looking at you Logan).  As a brewer, I get free beer from everyone.  I also met a lot of other brewers, owners, and drunks.  There was a lot of crossover between those categories.  Most recently we attended the Gnarly Barley Brew Fest. This was a collection of mostly northern Colorado brewers.  There were a couple new breweries that were cool to try.  There are a lot of other cool events too; brewers dinners, special release parties, and tomorrow is a city vs city beer pairing contest where two breweries go head to head over a five course cheese pairing.  Guess which former chef set up our pairings.

One of the only complaints I've ever heard is that we don't make a IPA.  They are ubiquitous in this country now.  There are a lot of bad ones, a million more mediocre ones, and very few great ones.  As a retort, Steve decided to release a series of IPA, 14 in all, named after the 14,000 ft mountains in Colorado.  There will be an American IPA, English IPA, Black, White, Red, Session, SMaSH, Barrel Aged, Wet Hop, Colorado based, and a few others I don't remember right now.  I haven't brewed too many IPA's yet so it's a fun experience learning how to extract the best flavor and aroma from the hops.  They haven't all been great, but they are fun to make and drink.  Most of the recipes were drafted before I started, but I did get to create two of my own, the session IPA (low alcohol, high hops) and the SMaSH (Single Malt and Single Hops).

Speaking of my own brews. That is what this blog is about after all.  I home brewed the Session IPA and it took second place at a competition.  It won me two tickets to the Steamboat Wine Festival.  I know that sounds odd, but who am I to turn down free booze a romantic weekend with the wife.  I also have a robust porter that the Liquid Poets chose to represent the club in the national AHA club competition.  I just mailed the bottles out today.  Provided they get to Idaho intact (where the judging is), I think I have a good chance at placing.  I'm also setting up a mead making class. Not that I know shit about making mead.  But I have a friend that does, and he will be walking everyone through it and then teaching another class in three months once our first mead is finished, on teach-a-friend-to-brew-day.  I have also been aging some of my brews.  I have a dry stout, a chocolate/fennel porter, and a spruce tip IPA waiting to be sampled.  Lastly, Steve has offered to let me create the recipe for the next 5 bbl batch.  I've decided to create a oatmeal/raisin stout. I'm really excited about this, and it's something I will practice before I actually brew it.  Anyway, that's what my last three months have been.

Oh yeah.  Tomorrow, for the first time ever, we will be putting our beers in cans!!!!!!!!!!  TALLS MOTHER FUCKER!!!!!!!!!!  So if a pic arises of me shotgunning a beer at 9 a.m. don't be shocked....be proud.

It's like the Blues Brothers and Flock of Seagulls had fat drunk babies.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

To beer, the cause of, and solution to, all of life's problems.

It's been a while since I last posted. (I'm getting really tired of starting my posts that way)  In my defense...fuck you! ... I've been very busy.  hings hae been happening realy fast.  So fast that I had to leave some letters out of that last sentence. 

If you didn't know, when we moved out here I had absolutely no job prospects.  I spent every day scouring the brewery websites praying for some hint of an opportunity.  I was lucky enough to find a brewery that would let me "volunteer" and learn a little about brewing while searching for a permanent position.  Things progressed and I was eventually offered a position as the sous chef for the restaurant arm of a local brewery.  It seemed like a good move. I would get to cook and still be a part of the brewery, and maybe get to learn a little about brewing while I was at it.  It would, however, require a lot of time and significantly impede on my home brewing schedule.  I really wanted to focus on brewing here in Fort Collins.  I know I can cook.  I want to improve my brewing skills, and really enjoy where I'm living, rather than slave away in a hot, cramped kitchen, like I was back in New York Shitty.  So, I hatched a plan.

Pateros Creek Brewing Company has been enjoying steady growth since it's opening last summer.  However, they were  not growing fast enough to hire any employees.  I talked with Steve and managed to convince him that I could be a huge asset to the brewery and manage most of the brew house responsibilities.  After volunteering for the last three months I knew that I understood how the brewery operates and how to brew on that system.  Of course, that still didn't alleviate the problem of the brewery no being able to hire and pay employees.  The entire brewery is staffed by volunteers like me.  So, I threw some money ( half real, half monopoly) at Steve and told him to expand and hire me.     I am now the first paid employee of the Pateros Creek Brewing Company.  I am going to be investing in the company and helping them install a canning line (Talls...of course).  In return I will get shares and a job.  It's only part time for now.  But provided I don't fuck anything up, like drop a keg on Steve (75% probability) or ruin a beer by falling in the mash tun while drunk (96.2 %) then we should be able to grow enough for me to be a full time employee.  So, Screw you mom for not believing in me. (That's not true.  She believes in me no matter what.  One time I laughed at a commercial and she told me I should go into advertising because I knew what was funny and how to make customers laugh.  I think she was just trying to get me out of the house with any kind of job.  Something about a drunk 29 yr old laughing too loudly at a Billy Mays infomercial at 3:45 a.m. really irritates her.  True story)

Anyhoo. (sp?)  The Liquid Poets Society is also very cool.  I joined a project with 10+ other people to brew a Imperial Stout.  One of the members appropriated a 55 G bourbon barrel and needed help filling it.  We figured out a recipe and everyone brewed within a week of each other.  My starting gravity was 1.092, which roughly translates into a shitload of alcohol (12%).  The terminal gravity was 1.022 which gave me about 9% booze.  Since we're aging the beer in an oak cask for several months we had to up the IBU's (bitterness/hops) to increase the preservative effect the hops have.  When everyone's beer was done fermenting we brought it to someone's basement and poured it into the barrel.  We then proceeded to get drunk at what was themed a White Trash Party.  I brought some Gennese Cream Ale.  It was a blast...or so I've been told.  I'm also working on putting together a monthly class for any of the home brewers who want to take the BJCP (Beer Judge Certification Program) test next year.  I want to stay really involved in the club, and this also help me improve my palate and general education about beer.

I haven't been brewing as much as I was when we first moved here.  Aside from the brewing job I also started working at a food truck serving Liege Waffles. It's a really cool idea that should be very popular.  The truck, called the Waffle Lab, opened last weekend and is parked in the parking lot of the brewery.  It is extraordinarily convenient for me to have two jobs in the same place that have created a very symbiotic relationship (the brewery needs more food options and the waffles go great with beer.)

So now I have two jobs instead on none, both centered abound beer, and a great home brewing club to help me improve my skills.  Dad...FYI...I got my eye on your liver.  Thanks in advance. 

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Suck my ass life!

Howdy Y'all,
I just wanted to make a quick update about what's been going on here.  Tonight was my second meeting with the Liquid Poets Society.  It is also Dry Stout month as determined by the American Homebrewers Association.  My first beer brewed in Colorado was a dry stout.  Not because of the AHA, but rather to redeem myself from the batch that went bad in NYC.  It came out light, not flavorful enough, and generally underwhelming.  I decided to adjust the recipe and test my skills and knowledge that I could identify the problems and fix them.  I had enough time to finish it before the meeting today, and I entered it in the "club only competition" (the club picks the best interpretation of the style to enter in the national competition) and provided a bottle for a tasting table (which just tastes and talks about the style) All of the reviews and comments were positive.  Very positive.  It came in second in the competition.  So it will not advance to the next round (only 1 beer gets to go) but I got a lot of positive feedback and some great advice for the next time I make it.  I need to adjust the pH of the water.  So I think this recipe is a keeper, especially since this beer is only 4.75% and the average craft beer drinker here doesn't really appreciate the lower alcohol session beers.  So it was a very good day for F.N. Beer. 

Oh...I almost forgot.  My Chocolate/ Fennel Porter...it won "Best In Show" for all the beers at the meeting tonight.


Sunday, February 19, 2012

You lik-a my Cicerone, ay!?

I'm one smart deer brinking mo fo.
Sometime over the summer Logan introduced me to the concept of the Cicerone.  It is a program that promotes knowledge of beer brewing, storage, service, and of course taste.  There are three levels: Certified Beer Server, Certified Cicerone, and Master Cicerone.   Today I completed the first level Certified Beer Server.  I don't know if this will actually help me find a job, but it is a good way to learn more about beer.  I have been studying for this off and on for about six months.  I realized that, between brewing my own beer and drinking a lot of beer in general,  I already knew a lot of the material.  I scored a 91.63%  Yeah me!

I'm actually really happy that I finally did this.  It's been hard finding a good job out here and it's very easy to get depressed about not being able to pursue my dreams in the way I planned.  This is a nice reminder that I don't really need to have all that professional experience.  I can just work my ass off and learn more on my own and still do really well.  So this is my big news for the day. 

In other brewing news, I have been brewing a lot and getting to know some of the other home brewers in Fort Collins.  There is a home brewing club here called "The Liquid Poets Society."  (Fucking classy right?)  They meet once a month and I managed to get a beer finished for my first meeting.  Actually, I had only bottled the beer two days before the meeting so there was very little carbonation.  It also wasn't quite right for the style I was trying to brew.  I meant to brew a dry stout.  I wanted to keep it simple, just pale malt, roasted barley, and flaked barley for body.  The roasted barley didn't impart as deep a color as I thought it would.  I did like the flavor.  Very roasty, lightly bitter, and a nice dry finish.  In my last post I mentioned that I thought it was one of my better beers.  Now, after drinking several gallons of it, I must retract my assessment.  I know that I can brew a better stout.  and I did. 

Since my last post I have brewed 475 Gallons of beer.  (Although only 10 in my apartment)  I brewed a Chocolate Fennel Porter and another Dry Stout.  I just bottled the porter yesterday so it won't be ready to drink for another two weeks.  I plan on bottling the stout on Tuesday.  I brewed the stout again because I wanted to make a better one and because the Liquid Poets have chosen Dry Stout as the style of the month.  They are also selecting one stout to represent the club in a American Homebrewers Association competition.  So, provided I can beat out every other brewer in Fort Collins, my beer might get it's first professional review. 

The other 465 Gallons I brewed were at Pateros Creek.  I helped Steve brew 10 bbl (310 G/ 20 kegs/ a lot of fucking beer) of Cache la Porter.  It's their best selling beer.  It was really cool to see the brew kettle completely filled up and all that wort just boiling away.  Steve also showed me how to clean and fill the kegs.  We filled them with the hoppy wheat beer we brewed on my first visit.  It's now called Snow Melt since the first name (Hoppy  Seconds) was already taken.  We also brewed and English Mild.  It was based on a recipe that another homebrewer made and then aged (read: forgot) for four years.  The aged mild was incredible.  It had lots of tobacco and sherry flavors, almost no hop flavor or bitterness, and very little carbonation.  We were all surprised that it aged so well.  Steve is putting a beer engine in the tap room and thought that a Mild would be a good beer to start with.  A beer engine is a tap that has to be manually pumped to dispense the beer.  It produces a beer that is less carbonated and it allows more of the flavors of the malt and hops to come through.  They really show off the talent of the brewmaster. 

Oh yeah, I forgot about the other 5 Gallons.  It can be hard to keep track of so much beer.  At the Liquid Poets meeting they had a sign-up sheet for anyone who wanted learn how to brew a particular style.  This month it was winter warmer.  It is a very malty beer, usually without a lot of hops.  It is a little higher in alcohol (hence the warmer part).  They are very comforting on a cold blustery day.   The brew day was hosted by a friendly couple, Chris and Janna, at their house.  Cara and I went over at 10 in the morning and we talked, brewed and drank for the next five hours.  The L.P. Vice President, Andrew, made an appearance...and we drank some beer.  It was just me, Cara, Chris, Janna, Andrew, and one other guy (Derrick?)... so we drank.  Chris has a great set up and it was really cool to see how someone else organizes their brew day...and drink their beer.   I stole a few ideas that will make my life easier. 

A few last notes.  The National Homebrew Competition entry deadline is coming up next month.  I plan on making a couple of different styles to submit.  Right now I'm thinking of submitting a Dunkelweizen, a Dry Stout, The Choc/Fennel Porter (as a specialty beer?), and maybe a Spiced Ale.  I also heard that there may be a "hop free" competition (no hops allowed) and I have a idea for that too.

It's really cool to be able to focus on brewing like this and have the support of the club.  There are a lot of BJCP (Beer Judge Certification Program) certified members in the L.P.  so I can get really detailed feedback and advice.  I also plan on getting my BJCP certification as well.  Anything I can do to improve my palate and learn more about beer.  There is so much history in beer and it evolves so rapidly that I don't ever see myself getting bored with it.