Good people drink good beer

Good people drink good beer – Hunter S. Thompson

This is one of those “good news, bad news” sorts of things. The good news is that the number of craft breweries in the United States has hit a 125-year high,  and mega-breweries continue to lose market share. The bad new is the consumption of beer (and beer-like substances) is dropping. (see graph at bottom of post)

Still California is part of the boom, according to beerinsight.com; California “saw a full 43 openings recently: 27 microbreweries, 11 brewpubs and 5 contract breweries.”

The California Craft Brewers Association says California’s craft breweries produced “more craft beer than any other state, brewing more than 2.4 million barrels (32 gallons per barrel),” meaning that “one in five craft beers brewed in the United States” is produced in California. Also, “California has more craft breweries and had more breweries open in 2012 (56) than any other state.” What can I tell you? We Californians are good people and we like good beer.

Beer trend 2000-2011 for total industry shipments. (All figures in Bbls-000. Source: http://www.beerinsights.com/popups/trendshipments.html)

The Beer Brewing Process Infographic

I like this infographic showing “The Process of Brewing Beer” (hat tip to Jay Brooks at the Brookston Beer Bulletin). The graphic provides three steps that do not need to happen (but can, and often do, at the craft brewery and mega-brewery level): whirlpool, hopback, and filtering. Those three steps do not have to happen to make beer.

Does AB InBev want all “beer” to taste alike?

Haake-Beck bottles

Why does this taste like Antarctica beer?

It takes some real work to make me feel sorry for Budweiser, but it seems that I am a little nostalgic for the days when it was run by the Busch family.

I am not against large corporations, per se, but an article in articleBusinessWeek.com, “The Plot to Destroy America’s Beer,” paints a picture of a corporate leader, Carlos Brito, the CEO of AB InBev, as someone who knows nothing about beer and everything about corporate takeovers. AbInBev has seemingly taken over every name brand beer on the planet: Beck’s, Stella Artois, Budweiser, Corona, Spaten, and many others.

Here’s an excerpt:

“[Ab InBev is] hurting these brands,” says Gerard Rijk, a beverage analyst at ING (ING).

Rijk gives Beck’s as an example:

“The authenticity of Beck’s is that it is a German brand with German water, with German malt, with German hops. This isn’t about brand building. It’s about costs. Full stop. Heineken (HEIA) would never do such a thing.”

I am reminded of the takeover of Pacific Lumber by Texas financier Charles Hurwitz. And with good reason…

[Brito’s] been running AB InBev’s business in the U.S. like a private equity investor. He has increased revenue and profit, but he has done so almost entirely by raising prices and cutting the cost of making the product….

What will Mr. Brito do when he runs out of companies to acquire and actually has to brew decent beer? Something he apparently doesn’t have a clue how to do.

The Plot to Destroy America’s Beer” is well worth a look.

Observations from the 15th Northern California Homebewers’ Festival

NCHF 15 logo and theme, “Our Founding Fathers.” From left to right: Ken Grossman, Charlie Papazian, Michael Jackson, and Fritz Maytag

It’s ninety degrees in the shade, if there were any shade, and I’m carrying a four-ounce taste of beer and a paper hot dog carrier filled with pulled pork up a hill toward a wooden picnic table underneath some live oaks. There’s reggae music playing in the background behind me, and as I walk, on my right a guy wearing a kilt is talking on a smartphone, “Have you ever strapped on a kilt?” he calls into the phone; as though wearing a kilt is completely new to him and wants to know if someone else has had the same feeling that he is experiencing now.

I’m at the 15th annual Northern California Homebrewers’ Festival and the first I have ever attended. Though the first festival was held in Skyline Park in Napa in 1998,

it is now held yearly at the Francis Lake Resort in Dobbins, California on the autumnal equinox—a religious event, of sorts (that goes a long way toward explaining the chanting and drumming later on at midnight). The festival registrar, Paul Keefer, tells me this year’s attendance is around 500. There are 36 homebrew clubs, under an assortment of canopies, pouring homebrew and handing out food.

“Mary, the Queen of Beers” tells me, “If you can’t find something you like here, you may as well pack up your tent and hit the road.” She is of indeterminate age, somewhere between 50 and death. She wears bangles on her wrists and bottle caps serve as earrings. She is to this beer event what the Annie Savoy is to the movie Bull Durham—a true believer in beer. She has tried them all and the only one that satisfies her is the Church of Beer.

Mary is right. While many of the beers are styles that just don’t appeal to me–meads, bretts, sours, and the like–I found a lot to taste: American Pale Ales, India Pale Ales, lagers, etc.

We are an eclectic mix of geeks (the male/female ratio is about 60/40), who probably enjoy talking about beer and beer making as much as we do drinking our product. And, there is a lot of product. According to Mary, Queen of Beers, there are “278 different tastes on tap here.” She knows because she went around and counted them. One booth had a couple of low-alcohol session beers. The 2.8% ABV one tasted like a liquid pretzel, bready and delicious.  A friend loved the Kölschs and Milds and he said Berliner Weiss beers both straight as well as with the raspberry and woodruff syrups were delicious.

Tossing the keg competition

Tossing the keg competition

From the picnic table on the hill, I see a knot of people at the rustic resort’s baseball field. At first I think it could be a pickup game of softball but the spectators are ringed around the infield. I wander down to the field, stopping only to sample a few more beers and finger foods, to find that it is the brewers’ version of a caber toss from the highland games. Mostly guys, but some women too, are testing their strength and skill at tossing an empty 15-gallon beer keg as far as they can. At the time I checked, the farthest toss was 29 feet.

In addition to the keg toss there are other competitions. There is the club competition for historical beers (one of them used molasses and sunflower and pumpkin seeds) and one for beers using brown malt. A chalice filled with samples of all 278 beers sat on top of the trophy. After the finalists were announced someone was going to have to drink from it–whether that was the winner or the losers was not clear to me.

If you were at this or other NCHFs please leave a comment below. As always, regardless or whether you have experienced any NCHFs, your comments are appreciated.

For more on the Northern California Homebrewers’ Festival see their website (http://nchfinfo.org/)

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Making your own beer for fun not profit

One of Papazian's homebrewing books

One of Papazian’s homebrewing books (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I sent this to the Lake County Record-Bee in hopes of it becoming a regular feature called The Brew Note.

Making Your Own Beer for Fun not Profit

Hello ladies, how are you? Fantastic. Does your man look like me? No. Can he make beer like me? Yes. If your guy can make instant oatmeal, he can make you a beer with more flavor than chocolate. In fact, he can make you a beer with chocolate in it. Or, if you like, you can do it yourself and not break the bank.

If you are tired of the same-old same-old beer, you know what I mean: beer whose only taste is “fizzy.” Then you are ready for craft beer. And, one of the best things about craft beer is you can make great tasting handcrafted beer yourself. And you will gather friends to help you drink your beer.

Here are some reasons to brew your own beer:

  1. You can be creative. If you want chocolate and habañero chiles in your beer, you can make your beer with chocolate and habañero chiles. You can make light or dark…or pink beer, if that lights your candle.
  2. You will know exactly what is in your beer because you made it. Nothing you want left out is in and nothing you want in is left out.
  3. It is simple to do. We humans have been making beer for as long as we have been growing grains. When you brew, you connect with a tradition that is thousands of years old. That’s downright ennobling, ain’t it?
  4. It’s pretty cheap to make. No expensive high-tech equipment is needed. You need a pot to boil in and a container (such as a food-grade bucket with airtight lid and airlock) to ferment in.
  5. Beer is honest. Beer doesn’t lie to you (unless you drink too many—then it lies like a cheap rug). If your beer has a problem, it tells you (it never says, “If you don’t know what the problem is then I’m not going to tell you either!”). Homebrewed beer gives you honest feedback as to whether you did it correctly.
  6. When you homebrew, you will learn the secret handshake that all homebrewers around the world know that gets them free beer at all places that serve good beer. [Okay, I made that one up. But, I have told a brewpub’s waitstaff that I’m a homebrewer and have been invited back to see the brewing equipment and have been given samples to try.]
  7. Good people drink good beer. If you are interested in trying, there is help available for brewing. There is a club dedicated to brewing good beer here in Lake County that meets at 6pm on the third Monday of each month at Guido’s Pizza in Kelseyville. They love talking about beer and how to make it and how to make it better. They don’t talk politics, religion, gossip, or current events; it is all about the beer.

What does it take to get started brewing beer? That’s for next time. For now, “Relax,” as the Godfather of homebrewing, Charlie Papazian advises, “don’t worry, have a homebrew” (or a store-bought craft beer if there’s no homebrew around).

Demonstrating how to make beer without taste

Or, at least, demonstrating how to make beer without tastings of already-made home-brewed beer.

Two weekends ago my friend (and prez of the Lake County Homebrewers) Paul and I manned a booth for our homebrewing club at the  Lake County Home Wine Makers Festival in Lakeport, CA. It was the first time in at least five years that the booth for the Lake County Homebrewers’ group did not provide tastings of home-brewed beers. We decided to not pour our beers due to an opinion given to us by local officials of the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (CABC) that pouring any of our homebrew at public events violates State law (at least as the local CABC interprets their regulations–regulations transform squishy language found in legislation to more concrete, hence more quantifiable language, then officials charged with enforcing the regulations interpret what the regulation’s language actually means). So, our group decided, we just could not risk losing our equipment to a CABC raid of our homes. Some of our group are going pro and will be opening nano-breweries soon and cannot risk pissing off the people reviewing their liquor licenses.

Consequently, Paul and I demonstrated the steps necessary to make an all-grain batch of India Pale Ale called Hoppiness is an IPA. Its (10 gallon) recipe is available here as a PDF.

Technically, we did not have beer until we added yeast. We split the 10-gallons of wort into two 5-gallon fermenters and took our half home where we added White Labs WP005 British Ale Yeast to the cooled wort.

I bottled my portion today (two weeks later). The starting original gravity was 1.061. The final gravity was 1.014 SG. That calculates to an attenuation of 76.5% and an ABV of 6.3% (almost a session beer by today’s IPA standards). It has ample piney bitterness and not citrusy.

Lake County Homebrew Club to Meet 6 PM June 18, 2012 at Guido’s Pizza

Are you in Lake County and want to learn how to make your own beer? We can help.

Our next scheduled Lake County Homebrew Club (visit our Facebook page here) meeting is set for Monday June 18th, 2012 at 6 PM at at Guido’s Pizza in Kelseyville.

We do not have an agenda, but I would bet we will be talking about the Lake County Home Wine Makers Festival, which will take place in Lakeport, CA on June 23rd from 1:00-5:00 pm.

In the past we have poured samples of our homebrew at this event. This year, sadly, we will not be pouring samples. While the California Dept. of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) may issue a special daily license to a group conducting a picnic, social, or similar gathering, the local ABC officials interpret this as applying only to commercially made beer and wine.

According to the American Homebrewers Association page on statutes:

California represents one of the most comprehensive state statutes. §23356.2 also provides for the removal of beer manufactured in the home for use in competitions, tastings, or judgings.

It seems ABC interprets these tastings to be between others who are also homebrewers. And, they can, without a warrant, confiscate brewing equipment.

Related articles

Upcoming Lake County Homebrew Club Meeting May 21, 2012 at Guido’s Pizza

Live in Lake County, Calif and make or want to learn how to make your own beer? Join us.

Our next scheduled Lake County Homebrew Club (visit our Facebook page here) meeting is set for Monday May 21, 2012 at 6 PM at at Guido’s Pizza in Kelseyville.

Among other things, we will talk about the Big Brew we had on May 5, the upcoming Lake County Winemakers Fest, taste and evaluate each others beers, and we will be tasting spices, fruits, and whatever we might want to try to steep in beers using French presses.

Bring a glass (wineglasses work well) for tasting, and (if you are a homebrewer) bring some of your homebrew to share.

For more information, contact Paul at coachpaul707@gmail.com

Cheers!

Kegdroid demo. Can Apple iKeg be far behind?

I am more of an Apple lover. But you have to admit that Google’s Droid seems to be out in front in the cold beer dispensing software. [At ~4 minutes in on the video the creator demonstrates how to pour a very foamy beer] Can an Apple iKeg be far behind?

Lake County Homebrew Club Meeting April 23, 2012 at Guido’s Pizza

Live in Lake County and want to learn how to make your own beer? We can help.

Our next scheduled Lake County Homebrew Club (visit our Facebook page here) meeting is set for Monday April 23rd, 2012 at 6 PM at at Guido’s Pizza in Kelseyville. For the Big Brew on National Homebrew Day (Saturday, May 5, 2012) the tentative plan is to brew a New Holland Dragon’s Milk clone and hopefully procure a 55-60 gallon bourbon barrel to age it in although this is not set in stone.  Leave a comment if you have other ideas.

And, leave a comment if you are  interested in brewing at Big Brew Day, and whether you want to brew 5 or 10 gallons.  We may have extra equipment for mashing.

Anyone out there with a 55-60 gallon bourbon barrel that will loan it (for 6 months) or sell it for a song? Let me know in the comments.
Cheers!