Update on the BrewJacket Immersion Pro

In March of 2016 I wrote a post, BrewJacket Immersion Pro Fermentation Temp Control, that was sort of an ad for a Kickstarter campaign. It felt a bit scuzzy of me at the time but I felt it was my best hope at getting started in homebrewing if good fermentation temperature control was considered paramount; I believe it is. It turns out I was correct on the “my best hope” business.

The original BrewJacket had been around for a couple of years but was a cooling only device. The Kickstarter campaign was for a redesign of the circuitry so that it heated and cooled. It succeeded. I went with the No Wait Carboy level which got me a then current (cooling only) model BrewJacket immediately and the updated electronics several months later when they were ready.

This year when I was finally ready to begin brewing I swapped out the electronics and started looking at the instructions closely. BrewJacket wisely suggests running a test with just water in a carboy to get a feel for the system before committing it to your first batch. I did it and it ran great for about an hour and then quit. No lights or anything, although I did smell a faint burnt plastic odor. I reached out to BrewJacket and they (and I) assumed it was the head unit. They sent me a refurbished one within a few days. Swapping out the heads meant no change whatsoever though. Then I took a closer look at the external power supply and noticed a small, warped, bubbled area on its bottom. I contacted them again and they sent me another power supply. Eventually everything was working so I ran the test. Put me a couple weeks behind for my first brew but whatever. I am stoked I have done 3 batches already!

Everything was good until it wasn’t. I was using a Big Mouth Bubbler 5-gal carboy with spigot. I had left water in it for a couple days and absolutely no leaks. A day after I put it into the BrewJacket insulating bag it leaked and trashed the bag. The bag got a strange white mold all over where it had been wet. A fairly quick drying in our low humidity environment and a couple cleanings and it seems to be OK. I now only use those spigoted carboys as bottling buckets!

I brewed my first batch of beer on 2 July of this year, the second on 18 July, and the third on 8 August, which is still in the fermenter. So far the Immersion Pro is working like a champ. But there are some limitations. I will lay out some pros and cons as I see them, so far, though some are specific to similar circumstances as mine. [Addressed somewhat in that first post, with some update coming.]

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Can be adjusted from +/- 30°F from ambient temperature
  • Maintains ~+/- 0.2°F from where set
  • Cooling 10°F takes approximately 12 hours [@ ~74-82°F ambient temp]

Cons

  • Can only be adjusted from +/- 30°F from ambient temperature
  • No real cold crashing if ambient temp is much above fermentation temp
  • One batch at a time
  • Somewhat noisy
  • To do anything with the fermenting beer means pulling the ImmersionPro out
  • This needs two people: one for removal, one to do whatever: gravity reading, finings/gelatin, dry hopping, ….
  • Cooling 10°F takes approximately 12 hours [@ ~74-82°F ambient temp]
  • The ferrite rod itself can only be sanitized with iodine-based sanitizers, like Iodophor

The temperature range of this thing is pretty incredible, except when it isn’t. In July and August, it has been approximately 72-82°F+ [thermometer tops out at 80°F so “82” is max] ambient [a daily change] in the spare shower where the fermenter is residing. This means no actual cold crashing. The best you could obtain is 42-52°F and that would be seriously taxing it by running almost constantly without the true benefit you are looking for. The opposite would exist if you were trying to ferment warm in a very cold environment. It only gets down to about 60°F in the winter in that shower but I cannot brew then anyway, even though that would be awesome for doing lagers along with the Immersion Pro.

Entire unit showing drawstring closed around neck of carboy. 1st batch.

The head is somewhat noisy but it isn’t really an issue for us since it is in a spare bathroom off the “entertainment” room. In a small aprtment or sitting in your living room, like one of their images shows, it would probably be disturbing to many people.

Close up of krausen and rod in carboy. Normally the jacket would be closed tight. 1st batch.

Removing the carboy lid or only the Immersion Pro is a bit more complicated than a regular carboy lid and tube/airlock. I guess a sanitary place to lie it could be made if you had to do something inside the carboy by yourself but it seems mighty problematic. Not that I am a fan of the wife holding it up above while I do what I need to quickly but that’s “easy” at least.

Closer look at the head unit. 1st batch.

Part of the sanitation issue is that it requires an iodine-based sanitizer. I use StarSan otherwise. So I needed a special “vessel” to make up Iodophor and put the rod in which is not the smallest nor best shaped/weight for such things. Then there is the “air drying” that iodine-based sanitizers require. How the fuck is that supposed to happen with a rod? Well, with any shape really? There is no way to suspend it and if it touches anything (assuming something sanitary) then it cannot dry fully. This might be my biggest peeve about the whole thing right now.

Maybe I am missing something obvious about drying iodine-based sanitized items but this is inconvenient, to say the least. If you already primarily used iodine-based sani then you are golden. (And perhaps laughing at me. Oh well.)

View from the side showing blowoff tube and temp probe. 3rd batch.

As for temperature stability, it is usually +/ 0.2°F from your set point so a total fluctuation of 0.4°F. Sometimes, especially if changing several degrees it may fluctuate for a bit at +/-0.4°F until it settles in to temp. That is pretty rock solid in the stability department!

Head, lid, rod and high krausen. 3rd batch.

As for how quickly it can cool, it has mostly met my needs so far but I can imagine that I might have reason to cool faster (or further) than it can go. Again, a 10°F change, for me, at ~74-82°F ambient, takes a bit over an hour per degree.

Calming down. Things have gotten a bit gunkier. 3rd batch.

The unit uses a blowoff tube for ale primaries and a one-way check valve for lagers and ale secondary, if you like. I have only been using the blowoff tube so far and it has been working great, although I do wish it were slightly bigger as I can see it getting blocked someday. The supplied connectors and tubing are 3/8″.

The jacket I got is compatible with normal 5 and 6.5 gal carboys, Speidel 20 and 30L, Fermonster PET 6 and 7 gal, 5 and 6.5 gal plastic and glass Big Mouth Bubblers, and other PET carboys in this size range. The possible difference between any of them is simply which lid you use. Currently I use the Universal Big Mouth Bubbler lid with a plastic BMB 5 gal.

All in all, I really like my Immersion Pro as it was my ticket to “solving” fermentation temperature control, a big hangup for me. I am looking forward to moving on from certain of its restrictions if/when we can get more space cleared in the detached “garage” and get another refrigerator/freezer and dual-stage temp controller out there. I also need space for conditioning. So , ….

Oh, what a hobby.

SMaSH beers (The Session #125)

This month (July 2017), I am hosting The Session #125 on the topic of SmaSH beers.

The Session, or Beer Blogging Friday

The Session, or Beer Blogging Friday

This is my post on the topic, along with an initial recap of what I said in my announcement post.

Recap of Announcement

Our local, annual SMaSH Fest, part of Central Oregon Beer Week, happened two weekends ago [May 27th]. Sadly, I missed it this year due to a bout of illness. When considering whether I was going to make it or not, I jokingly asked myself if single malt and single hop beers can be considered a “thing” (trendy, etc.) until we have coffee-infused, barrel-aged, and fruit SMaSH beers. Maybe we do; I have not seen them yet though.

I will hopefully have brewed my first batch of beer—ignoring that attempt in Belgium in the early 1980s—between this announcement and The Session itself and, wait for it, that beer will be a SMaSH beer. It will be an all-Oregon, not too hoppy American pale, if anything.

  • Mecca Grade Estate Malt Lamonta pale malt
  • Sterling, 2016 whole flower, hops
  • Imperial Yeast A01 House yeast

So, at the moment, at least, it appears I think they have some value.

Here are some potential directions you could consider:

  • Answer my question above. Are they trendy? When would they be considered to be trendy? Have you seen/had a variant (x-infused, fruit, …) single malt and single hop beer? More than one?
  • What purpose do SMaSH beers fill? For you, personally, and/or generally.
  • Do they fill a niche in any beer style space? One that matters to you? Are they a “style,” however you define that?
  • Have you ever had an excellent one? As a SMaSH beer or as a beer, period.
  • Do you brew them?
  • Are there any styles besides pale ale/IPA that can be achieved via a single malt and single hop beer? (How about achieved versus done quite well.)
  • Do they offer anything to drinkers, especially non-brewing drinkers?
  • I consider this to be wide open and am interested in your thoughts, whatever they are, regarding SMaSH beers. I sincerely hope this is not too limiting of a topic in the number of people who have tasted and/or brewed single malt and single hop beers.”

My thoughts (at the moment) on SMaSH beers

As to my SMaSH pale ale, it is happily well into fermentation. I brewed it on 2 July and it got off to a vigorous fermentation, which has now slowed down a good bit. I intend to give it plenty of time for secondary and cleanup of diacetyl, etc. Sadly, it will not be ready for this post but no doubt I will post about it closer to the solar eclipse [see below].

This beer serves two purposes for me. Or perhaps one purpose with lots of extra meaning attached. Our home(brewery) is called Starshine Brewery, based on pet names the wife and I have for each other. Thus, the beer names will be mostly, if not entirely, celestially and astronomically-related.

The timing of the eclipse just worked out for me and my first homebrew batch. I needed to make a SMaSH beer to get a good handle on what I taste/smell in Mecca Grade Lamonta pale ale malt and on how it comes across on my system as I bought a 50-lb. bag of it back in April.

It is an all-Oregon beer, as best as I could do and within my “definition.” I would have preferred to be a bit stricter but I got what I got.

My semi-American SMaSH pale ale is named Path of Totality as the path of totality of the 2017 solar eclipse will be passing directly over Central Oregon. My Mecca Grade malt was grown and malted right under the path. [They are, in fact, hosting a big party on their property which I truly wish I was attending. But we are not campers and have decided trying to travel anywhere that weekend just adds us to the other a-holes clogging up the streets.] The water and yeast come a bit outside of the path, on either side. And the hops were the best I could do on a first go but are, at a minimum, OSU/USDA hops.

I was after Santiam hops as the Santiam Pass will also be under the path of totality but could only get 2015 (or older) pellets. I wanted 2016 harvest and wanted whole cones for this so ended up switching to Sterling, which I do not really know. It got chosen as I am not really a fan of Cascades, Centennial, and Chinook as the more famous OSU/USDA hops.

Sterling: “… aroma and oil composition very similar to Saazer (USDA 21077) and other Saazer clones. Pleasant continental aroma; suitable for replacing Saazer hops in brewery blends.”

Might be a strange hop for a pale ale but I wanted something I could ID and not be in the way of the malt flavor and aroma. Even if I decide I love these hops, I was warned when I bought them that they are rapidly being replaced. I did look into it and, yes, production has been minimal for a while now and is decreasing; something like <1% of hop acreage.

They were also probably grown in Washington, not Oregon, but my local Central Oregon hop growing friends only had Cascades and such on hand, in pellets, from last year. I will make another all-Oregon pale and source it completely from Central Oregon, except for the yeast and, technically, if I used Wyeast yeast then I could call it all Central Oregon. So maybe I will. I have several hop growing friends here so will get some whole flowers this year. I am thinking some (CO)-East Kent Goldings from Tumalo Hops, but we will see who has what that isn’t Cascades or Centennial.

As to my trendy question, my friend, Ryan Sharp, one of the folks who puts on Central Oregon Beer Week commented regarding my “can they be a thing” question with this info from the SmaSH Fest:

“22 beers this year.

3 of them lacto sours (and one using a wild sacc strain).

1 beer had fruit added (mangosteen).

16 different hop varieties represented, including 2 experimental varieties.

4 beers showcased Mecca Grade’s local malt.

Styles represented by brewer description: Fruited sour, Berlinerweisse, Dry Hopped Sour, Pale Ale Extra Pale Ale, IPA, IIPA, Hoppy Wit, Hoppy Lager, Vienna Lager, Pilsner, Blonde, Rauchbier.”

Based on the strength of current trends such as “IPA forever,” saisons, sours, barrel-aged beers and any other actually hot sections of the market, I do not believe that they are trendy. I am not sure I want them to be trendy either but I would love to see a lot more of them, especially commercially available.

Yes, there were soured and fruited versions available at SMaSH Fest but those are trends in themselves and, yes, perhaps I contradict myself from above but I believe it is actually a more thought out answer than my off-the-cuff jest.

I would love to see more commercial breweries producing them and touting them, though. Especially with the rise of craft malting—Mecca Grade is just one of many around the country—I think this would be a useful thing. If you are paying a premium for your malt then you ought be working at convincing yourself and your customers that the cost is worth it. What flavors and aromas is that malt bringing to your beers? Or the more basic (but misguided) question, does malt contribute to beer flavor or aroma? [Hard to believe but I have seen and heard this explicitly asked. It is our current focus on hops that has led to such ridiculousness.]

On top of the truly large and emerging issue of malt contributions to flavor and aroma, there is the question of bittering, flavoring and aroma provided by individual hop varieties and how they are used. We have new varieties with new and different flavors and aromas, and we have vastly different ways of using them versus mostly as kettle/bittering hops, thus some of that focus is certainly called for but not at the expense of applying the same kind of interest to barley and malt.

I believe that a well-produced series of SMaSH beers could go a long way to helping consumers understand these agricultural products and the ways in which brewers are using them. This assumes a brewery that feels consumer education is a part of their mission versus simply selling as much beer as they can. I am pretty sure that is not always the case though.

As for purpose, I think that SMaSH beers primarily serve as education, for both the brewer and the consumer. What do your ingredients and processes add? Reducing ingredients to a minimum is a great way to control the amount of variables.

I feel that they, currently anyway, fill a niche in style space for me both as a fledgling homebrewer and as an interested consumer. A brewery that helps to educate me is going to get a lot of extra love and goodwill from me. I assume that there are others who feel the same but no idea how prevalent this attitude might be.

As for are they a “style,” for me, I would say no. I consider them a sub-sub-style, if you will. Or more accurately, a “give me a box to brew within” constraint on brewing a style of beer; that is, you choose to work within certain limit while still aiming for a tasty beer in its own right within a specific style or sub-style.

I have had several excellent SMaSH beers. Perhaps my favorite was a SMaSH American pale ale made by Mazama Brewing in Corvallis, OR in 2015 with an early batch of Mecca Grade’s malt and Crosby Hop Farm Centennial fresh hops. We got lucky and were in Corvallis for the release of this, which included talks by Dr. Pat Hayes, OSU’s barley breeder, on the origins of Full Pint (variety) barley and by the Seth Klann of Mecca Grade on their experiences growing and micro-malting it. Perhaps, as stated above, the educational and experiential component added immensely to the experience and to the beer—there has been a lot of talk online lately of the experience versus the beer itself and I come down (almost) fully on the experience side, assuming nothing is off in the beer itself. But this was a delicious American fresh hop pale ale, one which I would be happy to drink repeatedly and routinely. Deschutes has also made several SMaSH beers with Mecca Grade malts, including a saison that was quite good and excellent in its own right.

Based on my friend Ryan’s comment, there were many styles of single malt, singe hop beers made for SMaSH Fest. Based on my own (limited) experiences I would say that pale ale, saison, Pilsner, light(-colored) lagers and golden ales are the styles that have the best potential for making a great SMaSH beer. Next in potential, I would add IPA and Vienna Lager. After that I expect it to be a total crapshoot. I see an I/DIPA in the list but I would want at least a touch of some specialty malts in my I/DIPA although I imagine many IPA lovers could appreciate one done well. I am not claiming that no other styles would work; judgment is fully reserved on those.

As to do they offer anything to drinkers, especially non-brewing drinkers, I would have to say “Yes.” I think they can serve as a very valuable component of educating drinkers. What exactly do the individual ingredients taste like? Do I like it? Do I like it on its own or is it better as part of a mélange? Am I happy (possibly) paying a premium for a beer made with a craft malted malt or one of the trendy, thus in high demand and higher-priced, hops?

Personally, I am not a fan of most of the trendy new hops. Many of them have more thiols and bless the hearts of people who get berry and whatever else flavor and aroma they are sold on as providing. I just (OK, mainly) get allium from them; garlic, onion, shallot, scallion, leek, …. Pretty much one of the last things I want in beer aroma and/or flavor. I have had some IPAs and DIPAs with them and despite the aroma or flavor I quite enjoyed them. But. That note was always present and I always wanted it gone. The beers would have been exquisitely improved without that damned allium note, in my opinion. If you like them, more power to you. No grudges from me. Non-trendy hops are cheaper anyway and easier to source often.

That covers much of my thoughts on SMaSH beers, as of now. I am truly interested in what the rest of you have to say and look forward to doing the round-up over the next few days.

Again, to contribute:

How to Participate in this month’s The Session

Today (Friday 7 July) or the next day or two, you may comment on this post or the previous one and leave the URL to your Session post in your comment, or you may email me with your URL at mark . r . lindner @ gmail . com, or you may tweet your link with the hashtag #thesession and it wouldn’t hurt to @ me too @bythebbl.

By the way, my blog’s comments are moderated for first-time commenters but it will be quickly approved as long as it doesn’t look like spam.

Within a day or three of the first Friday (July 7th) I will post a round-up of all of the submissions with links.

The links are already rolling in.

Cheers!

Koch and Allin – The Brewer’s Apprentice

The Brewer’s Apprentice: an Insider’s Guide to the Art and Craft of Beer Brewing, Taught by the Masters by Greg Koch and Matt Allyn
Date read: 26-27 March 2017
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Challenges: 2017nfc

Cover image of The Brewer's Apprentice: an Insider's Guide to the Art and Craft of Beer Brewing, Taught by the Masters by Greg Koch and Matt Allyn

 

Library binding, 192 pages
Published 2011 by Quarry Books
Source: Deschutes Public Library [641.873 KOCH GREG]

Contents:

  • Introduction
  • Brewing Basics
  • 1 Mashing and Lautering: Eric Harper, Summit Brewing Co.
  • 2 Bittering Hops: Vinnie Cilurzo, Russian River Brewing Co.
  • 3 Aroma Hops: Nick Floyd, Three Floyds Brewing Co.
  • 4 Lager Brewing: Bill Covaleski, Victory Brewing Co.
  • 5 Water Chemistry: Mitch Steele, Stone Brewing Co.
  • 6 Brewing Like a Belgian: Tomme Arthur, The Lost Abbey
  • 7 Wheat Beer: Hans-Peter Drexler, Weissbierbrauerei G. Schneider & Sohn, Germany
  • 8 English Ales: John Keeling, Fuller, Smith & Turner, England
  • 9 Lambic Brewing: Jean Van Roy, Brasserie Cantillon, Belgium
  • 10 Brewing with Fruit and More: Sam Calagione, Dogfish Head Craft Brewery
  • 11 Brewing Big Beer: James Watt, BrewDog Ltd, Scotland
  • 12 Barrel Aging: Scott Vaccaro, Captain Lawrence Brewing Co.
  • 13 Organic Brewing: Ted Vivatson, Eel River Brewing Co.
  • 14 Tasting and Evaluating Beer: Ray Daniels, Cicerone Certification Program
  • 15 Making Beautiful Beer: Ken Grossman, Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
  • 16 Mead: Bob Liptrot, Tugwell Creek Meadery, Canada
  • 17 Hard Cider: James Kohn, Wandering Aengus Ciderworks
  • 18 Traditional Cider: Jérôme Dupont, Domaine Familial Louis Dupont, France
  • Brewer’s Glossary
  • Contributors
  • Resources
  • Index
  • Photo Credits
  • About the Authors

My notes:

Aroma hops with Mitch Steele contains a chart with seven suggested hop blends for “flavor and aroma” (36). These include hop variety and ratios. For example, Goldings and Target at 4:1 for English ales; earthy and spicy with hints of tangerine. I am interested in trying a couple of these.

Lager brewing with Bill Covaleski contains the clearest, most succinct, explanation of the gross differences between German, Czech, Swiss, and American Lager yeasts (44).

On Soft water [We have extremely soft water!]:

“A bonus of using soft water is that because of a low temporary hardness level, there’s little trouble hitting a desired pH with pale base malt.” 54

The chapter on Brewing with fruit and more contains the second full-on WTF?! Moment I came across in this book. [Sadly, I failed to note the first]. The section titled, Sanitizing Fruit, begins “Fresh or frozen fruit will both need to be sanitized unless you are adding it after your boil” (101). I believe that is incorrect.

On the next page, in Adding fruit to the brew it states there “are three common points in the brewing process at which you can add fruit: at the end of the boil, during primary fermentation, and to the conditioning tank” (102). So, in practice, all the additions are “after your boil” and, thus, no fruit needs sanitizing. And that is simply wrong.

Brewing big beer contains some good information on pitching rates, making a yeast starter, using Champagne yeast and high-test yeast strains.

Following this chapter proper is an interview with James Watt of BrewDog. I was particularly dismayed by this choice because despite their three “world’s strongest” records they used freeze distillation for all of them. Freeze distillation is illegal in the US for homebrewers as it is distilling. This is a book for homebrewers so why focus on something clearly illegal? Better choices would have been Sam Calagione and World Wide Stout, among others (Palo Santo Marron) and Jim Koch and Utopia. No doubt in 2011 there were plenty of other choices too.

All in all, I found the book useful and enjoyable, even if in a middling way [3 of 5 stars]. There is some poor editing throughout but not a substantial amount. For instance, Beyond fruit has an incomplete sentence: “Most culinary elements that have a manageable fat content (yes, chocolate works), and can be sterilized, added, or infused into beer in some way” (103). [Just remove the “and” is one way to fix it.] Plus, it mentions “fat” with no commentary as to what is “manageable” or even why fat is an issue. There are several more minor editing issues between the above and “… , we’ll rack the fermented cider the sediment off yeast” (174). Most of the poor editing is comprehendable but not always and perhaps not to people with limited knowledge.

I do think it could be a useful book, but at this point, with all of my others, I would not pay much for it.

This is the 17th book read and 7th reviewed in my Nonfiction Reading Challenge 2017 [2017nfc]

Views on imported beers (The Session #122)

This month’s The Session on the topic of “Views on imported beers” is hosted at I think about beer by Christopher Barnes. It is apropos that this month’s instantiation of The Session falls on National Beer Day in the US, April 7th, when we, i.e., beer nerds, celebrate the Cullen-Harrison Act going into effect and effectively ending Prohibition. It is also, and more accurately, known as National Session Beer Day since it was 3.2% ABV beer that was approved for sale. Nor was it the entirety of the country as some states failed to pass there own legalization laws prior to the 7th.

The Session, or Beer Blogging Friday

The Session, or Beer Blogging Friday

Barnes has a fairly close connection to imported beers as his post explains:

“I love imported beer, specifically Belgian and German beer. They’re what I drink. My cellar is made up of Belgian beers, my fridge is full of them, and there a few stashed around in a closet or two as well. Imported beer is my life. I drink them. I write about them. I travel to experience them. In fact, my career involves working with Imported Beer. I manage several prominent import portfolios for a Oregon craft focused wholesaler. And while I have a vested interest in the success of Imported Beer, it doesn’t lessen my passion for the traditional beers of Europe. As craft beer sales have surged across America, sales of imported beers have suffered. I’m going to ask a couple of questions.

For American and Canadians: What place do imported beers (traditional European) have in a craft beer market?

For Non North Americans: How are American beers (imported into YOUR country) viewed? What is their place in your market?”

I am clearly a North American, and sadly have not been out of the country in a couple of years so could not tackle the second question anyway. I will begin by first answering the related question: “What place do imported beers (traditional European) have in my beer drinking?”

#1: What place do imported beers have in my drinking?

For point of reference, I spent three tours in the Army in Europe: twice in Germany and once in Belgium and I have been back once to Germany for my son’s wedding. Just not lately. To say the least, I drank a fair bit of European beers and drank them fresh and (mostly) local during those tours.

Over the last couple of years, I studied for and qualified as an MBAA Beer Steward, a Cicerone Beer Server, and a BJCP Certified judge. Preparing for all of these involved drinking imported beers from the major brewing centers of Europe and a few of the smaller ones to boot.

I also quite enjoy lots of Belgian beers, German Lagers, Czech Pilsners [have not had those local, sadly], some Samuel Smith’s beers, and many, many others. No doubt I would love many additional beers and styles if I were exposed to them.

But. Freshness is a major issue. [I have a gestating post on the freshness problem in craft beer, including local craft beer, so this problem is not an imports-only issue, although many of the issues are different.]

Living in a thriving local and state beer scene, no, even a hip and happening local and state beer scene, means the imports see a little less love than they might in an area without a glut of choice for fresh, tasty and local beer. Sure, you can choose imported—European or otherwise—beer but it will not be fresh. If that seems too strong a claim, then purchasing imported beer will always be a crap shoot seeing as you have no idea how it was handled and stored on its voyage from the brewery across the seas and to the store shelf or bar tap. It may be quite tasty but it will (most likely) not qualify as fresh.

Just recently I started studying to retake the BJCP tasting exam in July. I want that 80+%! This means, again, looking for representative beers from twenty (20) European style categories and sixty-seven (67!) European substyles I need to have a grasp of.

Imported beers—of whatever quality—will be critical to my preparation. If our exam administrator finds the time to do a prep class again, like last year, then they become critical in the context of a larger group of people. Perhaps the importance is the same but moving scale from one person to a class of several or more amplifies any learning by being able to discuss the beers with other like-minded folks towards the same purpose. That seems to me amplification enough of their value, in an educational context.

Imports also provide some variety, which is quite nice amongst all of the PNW (and other) beer at hand.

Back to the larger question: “What place do imported beers (traditional European) have in a craft beer market?”

#2: What place do imported beers have in a craft beer market?

One of the areas I think imports may serve in the craft beer market is as a potential gateway. There are many folks—of all ages but especially nearer mine—for who it is little to no stretch to consider an imported beer on occasion instead of only industrial lagers. They might not think much past that but they can at least get that far. It might even only be on a “fancy” occasion.

While I agree that many craft breweries can brew a craft light lager that blows any macro away as far as flavor goes, not all beer drinkers want their light lager to be so. If they consider an international lager, or a Festbier, or German Pils, or Hefeweizen or any other imported beer that has just that much more flavor, then perhaps craft Euro-style beers might also appeal or at least be given a chance. But if said drinker never deviates from industrial light lager then all flavor “lures” are off-the-table already. Then they might be tempted to try an American craft version of that style [which is another completely fraught issue of its own].

Aside on imported beer and craft/macro: Let me be perfectly clear, by-the-by, that craft beer and imported beer are neither mutually exclusive nor mostly overlapping categories, but overlap they do. Just as much imported beer overlaps with “American” macro beers.

Now this should not be the only role for imported beer in a craft scene. As I just said, many of these beers should and do qualify as “craft” [define how you like].

Beers like Saison Dupont are exquisite and amazingly affordable. Then there are the even more renowned beers such as Westvleteren XII that is neither affordable and was only once legitimately available here in the states. I still have 2 bottles that came with my 6 bottles and 2 glasses package. Being able to taste this “best beer in the world” and to share it with friends and fellow craft beer geeks was very special. Is it delicious? Quite. But I like beers of that profile, call it a style or not. Is it “the best beer in the world”? Seriously? Those titles are always ridiculous. It is not even my favorite beer. By a long shot. But I am stoked that I still have 2 little bottles to drink and enjoy some day in the future.

I guess I don’t really know “What place imported beers (traditional European) have in a craft beer market.” Many traditional European beers are craft beers.

Primarily, they should be available in their own right for being the (often) tasty beers that they are.

For many folks studying for Cicerone, MBAA, BJCP or other certifications, having a diverse array of imported beer available is critical to their study, preparation and continued learning.

Lastly, they might serve as gateway or transition beers for folks who either “do not like beer at all” or to lead those who might on occasion drink an imported beer to other craft examples, whether imported or American.

Loving Deschutes, Firestone Walker and Fremont

I do not do this near often enough, so I want to pass on some of my current beer love which was prompted by a lovely lunch down at the pub yesterday.

Deschutes

Just want to give a shout out to the Deschutes Bend Public House, and Andrew in particular, for a grand lunch yesterday. Had a tasty salad and tasted 3 amazing beers and also had a taste of the production Pacific Wonderland on draft (3rd version for me; 2nd favorite).

Salad on plate, 2 taster glasses of beer, a pint of beer and a pint of water.

Black barleywine on left, Kaizen Cream Ale almost gone, and a pint of The Oregon Tr’Ale IPA

Stopped in for The Oregon Tr’Ale IPA and had tasters of Kaizen Cream Ale and Black Barley Wine. All were exquisite. The Oregon Tr’Ale is a collaboration between several local breweries (The Central Oregon Brewers Guild) for the American Hop Convention held just recently in Bend. It uses Mecca Grade malt and experimental hops from the Willamette Valley.

Deschutes, et al. The Oregon Tr'Ale bottle label

All photo credit belongs to Deschutes Brewery. Borrowed (and slightly cropped) from this tweet: https://twitter.com/DeschutesBeer/status/821881154349441024

Andrew always takes great care of me and I sincerely appreciate him and all of the staff at the Public House. Cheers!

Deschutes Brewery Bend Pubic House brewhouse on The Abyss 2016 release day (16 December 2016)

Deschutes Brewery Bend Pubic House brewhouse on The Abyss 2016 release day (16 December 2016)

The other two shout outs I want to give are to the two breweries I wish I were far closer to: Firestone Walker and Fremont.

I think of them as roughly equidistant—as in, far removed from here—but I guess they are not, in a stricter sense. According to Google maps (various routes rounded) it is ~700 miles to Paso Robles, CA (our main FW destination) from Bend or ~800 to Buellton, CA (my desire but not wife’s) and only ~330 to Seattle, Earth for Fremont.

Firestone Walker

We (the wife and I) have been loving Firestone Walker vintage beers—the “boxed beers”—since just after getting to Bend in 2012. We buy more FW “prestige” beers each year than Deschutes, since before now there simply were more FW ones (which we love) and now the Big D [my moniker for Deschutes; they are comparatively “big” in the craft beer world] is stepping up with The Abyss variants and more Pub Reserve series and such. Our taste buds and other sensory apparatus love it. Our pocketbooks do not.

Bottle, snifter full of beer, and box for Firestone Walker XX Anniversary Ale

But Parabola, Stickee Monkee, Sucaba [on hiatus this year], the Anniversary blends, Helldorado, Velvet Merkin, highly lamented Double DBA …, even the recently late and lamented Wookey Jack (perhaps my favorite black IPA/Cascadian dark). I have also loved the Luponic Distortion series. Um, where is #4 though?

Back of my wife's head taking a photo of Firestone Walker Helldorado glass and bottle with her iPad

Sara taking a picture of 2015 Helldorado blond barleywine

But those boxed beers from FW?! Oh. My. I have 47 checkins of FW beers in Untappd and they are mostly variants of the boxed beers.

Full snifter, bottle and box of 2014 Sucaba Barrel-aged Barley Wine No. 004

Fremont

Another brewery we have come to love for the same sorts of reasons is Fremont in Seattle [20 checkins]. They are masters of barrel aging and spicing and I will rarely say that of the first and, until now, never of the second.

Bottle of 2015 Coffee Edition Bourbon barrel-aged Dark Star oatmeal stout

Bottle of 2015 Coffee Edition Bourbon barrel-aged Dark Star oatmeal stout

I have had the pleasure to experience [their beers] Bourbon Barrel Abominable [B-Bomb], barrel aged Dark Star and their assorted variants. And I hope I am justified again this year but regular Dark Star Imperial Oatmeal stout in 12 oz cans, available for two months a year, is my go to again this year. I got a case last year but asked my guy to get me two this year. This would be my daily go to beer if I could have it year round. As it is I buy it in quantities nothing else compares to. Except perhaps the wife’s Oskar Blues Ten Fidy. Her go to beer.

I have also simply adored a few of Fremont’s fresh hop beers. Packaged fresh hop beers! I can only imagine how transcendent they would be at their own pub.

Bottle and two glasses of 2016 Rusty Nail Imperial Stout with cinnamon, licorice and smoked barley

2016 Rusty Nail Imperial Stout with cinnamon, licorice and smoked barley

Prairie Artisan Ales

I also want to throw a bit of love at Prairie Artisan in Tulsa, OK [8 checkins]. We have had a few things out here and they are lovely. A friend did point out the trend to incapacitating ABVs to which I had to agree, especially since even I made it in reference to one of their beers. But I consider a non-brazen 12-12.5% beer to beer fair game as long as you know what you are getting in to. We prepare for that scenario. We live that scenario.

I simply adore their labels, by the way.

Bottle and glass of Pirate Noir at BTBS

But Apple Brandy Barrel Noir, Vanilla Noir (as a non-fan of most beers with vanilla), and Pirate Noir? Simply amazing beers.

I have a second Pirate Noir, which I just had in last few days, to try in future; currently slated for 4th quarter this year. I had the Apple Brandy in July via a bottle brought home from Corvallis Brewing Supply (Love you folks!). Doubt I’ll ever get to try it again. My checkin comment was “Tastes like chocolate-covered apple brandy. It does.” That cracks me the heck up. I assume that was a good thing at the time.

Bottle and glass of Apple Brandy Barrel Noir

Untappd 2500th unique

I am one unique beer away from 2500 unique checkins on Untappd. I have decided it will be the Firestone Walker 2015 Parabola barrel-aged Imperial Stout. Not sure why I haven’t checked it in already but no worries; I will tonight after work.

Screenshot of my Untappd profile page showing 2499 unique checkins

Recap

So big love and thanks to Deschutes Bend Public House, Firestone Walker, Fremont and Prairie Artisan. I could definitely see myself spending lots of quality time at both Firestone Walker’s and Fremont’s pubs. Some day we will get there. Or so I tell myself anyway. Mighty glad though that they are distributed here.

Just wish they were closer so I could drop in and hang for an afternoon every once in a while.

Beer & Brewing Resolutions for 2017

These are my beer and brewing resolutions for this year, which I got from Beer Simple.

Pint of Oblivion beer on a wooden table top

1. Brew at home!

This has been my goal for two years now and I really hope this is the year I can pull it off. I need to get my kettle modified and acquire a few more pieces of equipment and also nail down my processes that I want to use. But I either need to do this or give it up.

2. Revisit (one of my) least favorite breweries and drink at least 4 of their beers

There are several local breweries who I almost never think about–we are that blessed here in Bend, Oregon thankfully–but perhaps they have improved. It is only fair to give them another chance. Perhaps I’ll find a new favorite beer or at least be able to give more up-to-date info to others regarding them.

I also hope to be making a trip to Salem, Oregon this spring and let me just say I trashed every post I started to write after my trip to Salem two years ago. I am not a “If you can’t say anything nice” kind of guy but had to keep deciding that was best in this case. I am looking forward to giving pretty much all Salem breweries another chance.

I want to do this locally too, though, as there are several new(er) breweries in town I have never even visited, although I have had some of their beer. Ergo, no visit previously.

3. Read at least 3 new-to-me beer or brewing books

This one should be extremely easy but it is still important. I am already well into Beer, In So Many Words.

4. Attend a new-to-me festival

I would really like it to be something like the Oregon Garden Brewfest (June 16-18, 2017) or the Hood River Fresh Hops Fest (September 23, 2017) but I will take any new one that interests me.

5. Find a new appreciation for a passé or overlooked beer style

Bock or malt liquor perhaps, although it will be tough to find many of either.

6. Write a letter to a brewery making one of my favorite beers and thank them

Do it!

7. Learn one scientific lesson that will improve my brewing

Water profiles, perhaps?

8. Attend a homebrew club meeting other than my own (COHO)

Cascade Fermentation Association in Redmond I expect.

9. Participate in at least 2 group brews

I definitely need more experience and watching and/or helping others and seeing other systems and processes in action is a great way to get it.

10. Re-take BJCP tasting exam

This is scheduled for July and I am hoping to get a 70 or above. I got a 68 last year on my first go, which was better than I expected, but I want to be eligible to take the written exam even if I never do.

There are other things I hope to do but I need a better formed idea in the first place for one, or more ideas to expand on another, or simply to remember/realize some things for others.

What are you hoping to accomplish in 2017 in your beer drinking, writing, appreciation, etc. and/or in your brewing? Cheers and Happy New Year!

McMenamins beer in cans taste-off

As I wrote in my post, “Received: McMenamins cans are here!,” that I would, I did a taste-off between the canned versions of Ruby and Hammerhead from the Edgefield production brewery and those from my local McMenamins Old Saint Francis School brewer, Mike “Curly” White. On the 23rd of August I stopped by OSF and got a growlette (32 oz glass “bottle”) of each.

Picture of coozie, two 16 oz cans of McMenamins beer, a postcard, and a small ornament of Ruby.

On 24 August I compared the two Hammerheads and on 25 August I compared the two Rubys. [First 2 under this link]

Hammerhead Taste-off

“Hammerhead McMenamins Hammerhead label

A classic Northwest Pale Ale and McMenamins Standard. This rich chestnut colored gem is a model of harmony between hops and malted barley. Hammerhead’s signature Cascade Hop nose and intense hopped flavor blend nicely with the caramel tones from the Crystal Malt. This beer has a vocal following; to run out is an unforgivable sin.

Malts: Premium 2-Row, Bairds Crystal 70/80

Hops: Cascade

Original Gravity: 1.056

Terminal Gravity: 1.010

Alcohol by Volume: 6.0%

Calories: 241 per pint”

McMenamins Hammerhead can, 2 snifter glasses and a growler

McMenamins Hammerhead taste-off: Can on left, OSF on right

Old Saint Francis School Hammerhead

Aroma: lightly floral and light melon; caramel and toasted bread crumb.

Color: Slightly opaque golden orange. Light tan head of extra fine bubbles and a couple small fisheyes; decent persistence.

Flavor: “English.” Soft. Fairly complex malt of bread, toast and light caramel for a pale ale. Medium hop flavor which was lightly floral and very light citrus. Medium bitterness.

Mouthfeel: Light chalkiness in finish; finishes semi-dry and then dries out a bit more.

Edgefield Hammerhead

Aroma: very light cattiness when cold; disappeared but then came back, so fleeting cattiness. After warming some: very light tobacco/ashtray and a very light dankness.

Color: Almost clear medium-dark orange. Light tan head of extra fine bubbles and a couple small fisheyes; decent persistence [same head as OSF].

Flavor: almost smoky. Medium hop flavor of very light citrus, pine and some earthiness. Medium bitterness.

Mouthfeel: creamier. Slightly more attenuated. Finishes semi-dry.

More “polished” overall but I think the scales [for me, in this instance] tip to Curly’s version. I like the chalkiness and the malt was more complex. His also did not have some of the odder aromas coming from the canned version.

Ruby Taste-off

“Ruby McMenamins Ruby label

One of our most popular standards, we still make Ruby with the same aims we had when brewing the first batch back in March of 1986: To create an ale light, crisp and refreshingly fruity. Great Western Premium 2-Row and 42 pounds of Oregon-grown and processed raspberry puree is used to craft every colorful batch. Simple but delicious.

Malts: Premium 2-row, Maltodextrin

Hops: Chinook

Fruit: Raspberry

Original Gravity: 1.039

Terminal Gravity: 1.005

Alcohol by Volume: 4.0%

Calories: 170 per pint”

McMenamins Ruby can, 2 snifter glasses and a growler

McMenamins Ruby taste-off: Can on left, OSF on right

Old Saint Francis School Ruby

Aroma: high fresh raspberry. Lightly bready malt almost hidden under the fruit. No discernible hop aroma. Light corn as warms. Once warm got some ashtray on intake.

Color: opaque pink grapefruit with a just off-white head of extra fine bubbles and varied fisheyes and medium persistence.

Flavor: Light corn with a light corn slickness. Raspberry present more in finish than across palate but still low.

Mouthfeel: Medium-bodied. Finishes medium-dry with a medium-low hp bitterness but no discernible hop flavor. Softer than the canned version.

Edgefield Ruby

Aroma: raspberry but more artificial. Very light bread crust. Very light corn in inhale just before sipping.

Color: much clearer than OSF version; almost clear orange-peach with the same head as OSF version.

Flavor: Almost raspberry up front and then a lot in the back.

Mouthfeel: Slightly less body than OSF version. Finishes in middle: kind of semi-dry and semi-sweet at same time.

Raspberry is not my favorite ingredient in beer but I preferred Curly’s version with its much fresher-seeming raspberry aroma and a bit less raspberry flavor. Again, the OSF version was also missing the weird (mostly) phenolic aroma showing up. Those can be fine in an imperial stout, barleywine, old ale, etc. but not in these styles of beer. All in all, it was fairly close but not as close at the Hammerheads were.

After I was done making my notes on the individual Rubys I combined them in a 50/50 mix. The aroma was closer to be fresh raspberry (OSF) than artificial raspberry (can). Color and clarity were in between, of course, and the head was much longer lasting than either version alone (although the mix did get a slightly more vigorous pour). It also had a softer mouthfeel than either. For me, it was the best of both worlds.

Wrap-up

These cans are gorgeous, although I am a bit biased as I adore McMenamins in-house art style. I would say it is fairly close still between Edgefield and Curly here in Bend, although I think Curly’s still got a slight edge where my taste buds are concerned. I do not pretend this is any sort of objective standard or measure. ‘Tis just me.

Thanks again, McMenamins for sending me these beauties!

[Disclaimer: These beers came to me free and unbidden [but appreciated] from McMenamins.]

Received: McMenamins cans are here!

Picture of coozie, two 16 oz cans of McMenamins beer, a postcard, and a small ornament of Ruby.

Friday I received a package from McMenamins which included their new 16 ounce cans of Hammerhead (NW pale) and Ruby (raspberry ale), along with a Hammerhead coozie, a postcard and a small hanging ornament of Ruby.

How did they know I still collect cans? Had to get rid of so many over the years and after so many moves. I have very few of my old collection left which I started 45 years ago when I was 12. Nowadays, for now, I am keeping one can of every canned beer I have. And, yes, most are packed away from view. Again. And. Still. ::sigh::

I am hoping to get growlettes of both of these beers brewed by our own local brewer, Mike “Curly” White, at Old Saint Francis School to compare and contrast each one to the Edgefield-brewed cans. I have done that in the past when McMenamins has sent me bottles of seasonal releases. I a very lazy blogger and that is a very tad bit of work but it seems worth it and a slightly different angle to me so I like it. So far I believe Curly is ahead on my preferences but I know there was a time or two Edgefield’s bottled versions won out. Always close and always interesting.

According to the postcard, they are available at all 54 McMenamins locations across Oregon and Washington, and are $2.75 each or $10/4-pack. That’s a pretty nice price for 16 oz cans.

Reviews/comparison coming soon I hope.

Beer midlife crisis (The Session #111)

The Session, or Beer Blogging Friday

The Session, or Beer Blogging Friday

From Oliver Gray at Literature and Libation who is hosting this month’s Session on Surviving a Beer Midlife Crisis:

I think that’s true about a lot of bloggers and beer writers. Some may work directly for breweries or distributors or behind the till in a beer store, but a lot of us toil in vocational worlds apart, spending our free time and free dollars on what can only (by definition) be called a “hobby.”

Recently, I’ve found my interest in said hobby waning. The brilliant luster of new beers and new breweries looks now, a few pounds heavier and a bunch of dollars lighter, more like dull aluminum oxide.

The thing I have embraced so fully and spent so much time getting to know and love, suddenly seems generally, unequivocally: meh. It’s like I’ve been living a lie, and everything I’ve done is for not. I’m having a beer mid-life crisis, yo.

Maybe it’s the politics of purchasing or selling. Maybe the subculture has peaked. Maybe this is the natural progression of a hobby that has no real tie to the industry behind it.

Maybe I’m way off the mark, and this whole thing is just a figment of my imagination.

But I’m willing to bet it’s not. All that talk of beer bubbles might prove true, but instead of a dramatic *pop* we’ll might see a slow deflation followed by a farting noise as some of the air leaks out and the hobbyist move on the spend their time and dollars elsewhere. It’s impossible to see the future, but if my fall from rabid beer fanboy to dude-who-drinks-beer-and-sort-of-wants-to-be-left-alone is indicative of a trend, I’ve got some signs to make a doomsaying to do.

What say you?

This topic really spoke to me when I first saw it shortly after it was announced.

I have been feeling something is ‘off’ in my beer drinking and the culture around that for a while now. One might say something has been troubling me but I had no real idea what that was.

I reread the prompt before heading out on a road trip to a beer fest last weekend and just let it gestate way in the back somewhere. I read it again Monday morning so I could do the same on a shorter timeframe as I was heading out to do some weeding. All of a sudden I was writing down some good thoughts before I even got out the door.

A large part of my problem has been, and still is, a matter of reconciling what I want my beer drinking world to look like and what it actually does; limited storage, limited funds, very few occasions our drinking friends and us can get together, and other real world (and, admittedly, first world) problems. Major improvements have been made in attitude and some expectations have been adjusted, yet some of the core issues remain, especially limited time to drink with friends (and we all have a lot of beer that needs drank). Nonetheless, some peace has been made.

Still. Some things are nibbling at the back of my mind. Perhaps I have identified one of them. Here’s my current thoughts on my beerlife crisis, with a bit of a setup.

Since August 2012 I have lived in a beer heaven, Bend, Oregon. There is almost too much availability; certainly more than enough choice. Except for the large number of things not distributed here; including lots of other Oregon beer. 😉

I live in a town of 80,000+ and we have over 20 breweries with a total of 28 in the immediate Central Oregon region, with more on the way. I can not think about most of them on a routine basis and just mainly concentrate on the top five or six that I prefer. Life is that good here [see sidebar of Jon’s blog for a list]. I am not trying to brag but to simply express how freaking blessed we are here.

I started using Untappd on moving here. I currently have 2169 unique check-ins. Once I hit 2500 I’m not sure I’ll continue using it to track them. I may though as it the best, at-hand, tool I have to see if I had a beer previously and what I thought of it. That is a big part of trying to engineer my tasting experience towards only drinking better-than-average beers.

Besides the above issues, which seem perennial, I have come to realize that the issue  is that I’m pretty much over tasting different beers simply for their own sake, and perhaps seeing that number of ‘uniques’ go up. And now, while I’m still happy with a very wide variety of beers, new or not, I want good all of the time; my definition of “good,” not yours. 😉 I don’t want just different. That was never a major motivator but it certainly did play a role for a while.

Button from 20th Annual Legendary Boonville Beer Festival

Button from the 20th Annual Legendary Booneville Beer Festival

As I mentioned, I went to a beer fest last weekend, the 20th Annual Legendary Boonville Beer Festival put on by Anderson Valley Brewing Co. I went for the adventure and because I love some of Anderson Valley’s stuff and at the brewery I could get mostly stuff I haven’t had as it is not distributed, or certainly not up here. But that’s not enough anymore for my limited time and travel/fest budget and there are still several other fests we would love to attend.

Anderson Valley Brewing Company taplist

Anderson Valley Brewing Company taplist

03Tent

Home for my friend and me for two nights. [Windy when I took this photo.]

06FirePit

Someone’s extremely cool beer fire pit during an evening camp walkabout, which we did both Friday and Saturday evenings. Bahl hornin’!

08CampMtn

A small part of camp and the surrounding mountains.

09Fest

One small corner of the fest.

There were lots of beers, scores from breweries I had never even heard of. But it was almost all normal production/“standard” beer. Some were tasty; few needed to be poured out. But mostly meh. I did, though, drink several exquisite beers back at camp with the other five guys I was with.

Firestone Walker Anniversary XIII-XVI. Filled a big space in my love of FW anniversaries. [Friday]

Firestone Walker Anniversary XIII-XVI. Filled a big space in my love of FW anniversaries. [Friday]

Three amazing New Glarus fruit beers. Simply incredible! [Friday]

Three amazing New Glarus fruit beers. Simply incredible! [Friday]

The Rare Barrel No Salt [Saturday]

The Rare Barrel No Salt [Saturday]

Libertine Pepe Le Pluot [Saturday]

Libertine Pepe Le Pluot [Saturday]

12Libertine2

The back side of the Libertine. An absolutely gorgeous presentation on both sides. [Saturday]

13FarmhouseNoir

Sante Adairius Rustic Ales Farmhouse Noir (Batch 3) [Saturday]

Our own Bend Brewfest has been like that for me since our second year here. Just an awful lot of decent stuff. Meh. I am very glad that I went to Boonville, though. Despite the mostly mediocre quality of beer at the fest—that was only four hours—there were excellent beers and people throughout the weekend. And I got to see large parts of my country that I had never seen. So beer fests are fraught in their own way but we will continue to be selective as we refine what we want out of them.

Mt. Shasta

Mt. Shasta, California

Redwoods

Redwoods

Map of a small portion of our trip

Map of a small portion of our trip

Northern California coast

Northern California coast

Paul Bunyan and Babe and his big blues ... Oh. Wait.

Paul Bunyan and Babe and his big blues … Oh. Wait.At Trees of Mystery, Klamath, California

On the flip-side of any ‘crisis,’ I am extremely excited about new hop profiles that are emerging, whether based on new hops or on brewers learning to use hops differently than the recent past where it was mostly about bittering. I am here referring to mostly hop-forward beers like pale ales, IPAs, etc. But then, some of these hops and associated techniques can probably help create some amazing hop profiles in many non-hop-forward beers too. This is probably the thing I am most excited about in the beer world right now.

Thee beer world is all business and that can take its toll sometimes. Then again, so can movements. I am going to drink mostly local and mostly craft but you better believe I bought a 6-pack of 10 Barrel Cucumber Crush in cans because I could. I might never buy one again but I couldn’t let the absurdity of the availably of that beer in that way pass me by. I may well, though, buy it a can at a time in the future [six was too many to keep fresh]. The wife absolutely loves, and I appreciate, Goose Island Bourbon County beers and we will drink some of those in the future, especially as we have a fair few in our cellars.

The main point is my beer world is still evolving, as it has since I took my first sip four decades plus ago, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Not everything is perfect but I am working to accept some things that simply are, and to shift focus and priorities in other directions to keep me interested.

Whether or not I have something like BJCP certification to work towards I will continue to read about beer history, the making of beer, the consumption and packaging of beer, and so on. I am also beginning to home brew; ok, still collecting equipment and I need to help my friends more often but that’s about as fraught an issue as getting together to drink so …. I certainly hope to be brewing by late summer here. Still need to acquire a few pieces and get my kettle modified.

To wrap up this rambling: things are evolving as they always have, I have amazing beer close at hand, I am beginning to brew myself, attitudes are being adjusted, realities are being accepted, I see emerging trends in beers that I am excited about, and, most importantly, I am still learning. I ain’t got no stinkin’ crisis.

Broken Top Bottle Shop & Ale Café changing (some) hands

Wednesday, March 16, via the Facebook group Broken Top Bottle Shop Friends, I learned that two of the original four partners in BTBS will be shortly selling their share to the other two.

Diana Fischetti and Andy Polanchek are moving on and leaving the beloved bottle shop and restaurant in the capable hands of Jason and Jennifer Powell. We love all four of these folks and this is kind of bittersweet for us.

Photo of the four original partners in Broken Top Bottle Shop & Ale Café

Picture of Broken Top Bottle Shop & Ale Café owners & partners shortly after they opened. L-R: Jennifer Powell, Andy Polanchek, Jason Powell, and Diana Fischetti. Picture credit believed to belong to Gina Schauland.

We first went to BTBS in May 2012 just three plus months after they opened when we were here for Sara’s interview. We moved just up the College Way hill from them in August 2012 and commenced to being regulars. Let me just put it this way: On Untappd I have 455 checkins at BTBS. Our good friend Ryan has 302 and my lovely wife (who started using Untappd way after me) has 116. We are the top three. [At our own home location I have 714, she has 142, and Ryan has 100.]

We used to live at the other end of the street which was just over 1 mile, with a fairly significant hill. The way down was easy. One earned their beer and food with the walk back home. Almost entirely uphill. We have since moved somewhat across town but nowhere else is close for either of us on checkins. The next two would be Platypus Pub and Deschutes Bend Public House, which both around 160 checkins for me [versus 455].

This is our place. I wrote about them in the Oregon Beer Growler. [PDF: November, 2013, p. 18] I talk and write about them frequently. I even have a TextExpander shortcut for “Broken Top Bottle Shop & Ale Café.” Most of my browsers, at home or work, “know” that “b” typed in the address bar means “http://btbsbend.com/“ so I can check either or both of the tap list and specials menu.

I stopped by there Thursday on the way home from work to do some business with a local brewer friend. Got myself a converted half barrel to use as a mash tun and boil kettle. Stoked! But I saw both Jason and Jennifer (separately) and they are stoked to move on to this new phase. “Team Powell” is on the way and looking forward to maintaining their place and the community, along with bringing us new things. We are excited.

Friday evening was also the “Sail Away Party” for Andy and Diana during the Stone tasting. We went down for dinner and beers after I closed up the Barber Library at 5 pm. Thankfully we got a few minutes to chat with both of them. They aren’t leaving us right away and have some irons in the fire, so to speak, so we’ll be looking forward to seeing where this next phase goes for all of them and the shop.

We want to extend our heartfelt good wishes to Diana and Andy in whatever comes next in their lives. Cheers, friends!