Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Social Networks and Beer

#beerpeopleRgoodpeople

And with that, the hashtag heard round the twitterverse, we can sum up the movement to make the beer community digital. Think about it: when you have found a beer that you like, what do you want to do? Well, besides go and find more. Ultimately you share it with someone else. Sure it could be anything from “you’ve got to try this” to “here, try this”, but still, you pass the word on.

What about the beers you don’t know? What about the releases you don’t know about? Most breweries by now have websites dedicated to their brand. If they have a party revolving around a release (say… Darkness Day), they advertise it on their sites and the usual channels. The problem remains, though, what if you don’t know about Darkness Day, or Surly Brewing, or 3Floyds or any other brewery that holds spectacular release parties. What then? You need a hype engine.

Enter social networking. Yes, the beast. In all its positives and negatives, social networking can be used for good. For instance, you can use it to promote a brand. That is precisely what those like @TheBeerWench, @billybroas @NewBrewThursday, @HopCast, @StoneGreg and @Hoptopia (just to name a few) do today. From the I Am a Craft Brewer and I Am a Craft Beer Drinker videos, to name dropping about their next tweetup, these guys use technology to promote the brand of (Craft) Beer. Twitter, Facebook, Podcasts, Blogs. Technology used to their advantage. To tell others about beer. Simple as that. In that course, you make contacts, acquaintances, friends, enemies, the full gamut of (electronic) social interaction. Which brings me to a rather controversial part.

There is a new player in the social networking realm, where you can find out what people are drinking, tell people what you are drinking and keep track of what you have drunk. It is called Untappd, and it is stirring up a bit of controversy.

On one side, you have those who relish in the idea of being able to share beer ideas (through checkins) with those that follow them. They appreciate the challenge that Untappd gives you to try new things (and award you with badges for proof). On the other side, you have those who see updates of this nature as spam in their network feeds.

Wherever you are in the equation, appreciate the fact that, as does everything else, the beer community is changing, and I think for the better. There’s a big world out there, between styles and breweries takes on those styles. How are you going to find out about what is not around you? Put your ear to the digital ground. It’s out there.

Something I have taken for granted since I learned about craft beer is the fact that Pilsner is indeed a beer style, and not just a fizzy yellow beer that is mass-produced. A TRUE pilsner will both satisfy and have you coming back for more at the same time.

With that in mind, let me introduce you to a brewery in PA that I first learned of on a business trip. I walked into a beer store in central PA looking for something new. However, I soon found out that you can only buy by the case (state law). Being that I had to bring back my findings in a suitcase, I opted for some Oskar Blues cans to tuck away. However, I started talking to the employees in there, and we got to talking about Barleywines, and he asked if I had ever tried a local one called Old Horizontal by Victory Brewing. Indeed I had not. So, as I was leaving with my haul, he handed me a bottle on him. (I love this community!) Changed my life!

Then I heard the guys over on the Hop-Cast talk about another one of Victory’s beers, the Prima Pils. I decided it wasn’t going to kill me, so next time I found Victory beer being sold, I tried it.

image

And then I tried it again. Then I found it in a store and bought several more.

Right away from the pour, you know that this isn’t going to be a heavy, coat your mouth, kind of beer. With only the slightest of haze, you can see right through this golden-yellow masterpiece. The aroma caught me by surprise, though. There is a definite hop presence in this beer. Not overpowering, but more than subtle, and very engaging! It drinks very crisp, and I get a faint fruity (almost fruit loops) lingering afterwards. This one is a fantastic way to introduce new ones to the craft beer community, and it will become a faithful companion for many days to come. Assuming you are fortunate enough to live where this is distributed, of course.

 

-Wd

“… THIS is what makes #craftbeer possible.” -Doc Brown #craftbeermoviequotes

Just a quick update. At the heart of the current iteration of the RIMS project will be the above piece of electronics: the Arduino UNO. This is an open-source micro-controller that can handle a variety of inputs and outputs, including Temperature sensors and Solid State Relays for Heater coils.

The current plan is to interface this with the netbook, running an AIR-based Flex program for system readout and recipe manipulation.

As an extra aside, before it was even built, I’ve had an offer for help on an upgraded stand from wood to welded steel! We love donated anything! If you would like to give time/resources/knowledge to this project, you can contact us at ebbbrewing@wd2048.net!

-Wd

This post begins a series on my current brewery project to create our own RIMS brewing system as much from scratch as possible.

In stepping through the process of learning in my home brewing, I have turned the page exclusively to all-grain brewing. While I have much to learn, I am happy with where I am in the learning process. However, I know there is much more to learn, and further to go in making consistently good beer.

In order to find out where I’m going astray, I put myself out there by sending out home brew to willing people who would sacrifice their senses and give me feedback on what my beer is missing. (As an aside, for anyone who is sincere about growing and bettering your craft, this is a fantastic way to quickly find your weaknesses. Their words may be humbling, but it’s a way of exposing faults so you can eliminate them. There is no ill will to be found. They WANT you to be better. Otherwise they wouldn’t say anything to you at all.)  A special thank you to Sarah Huska and Ray Daniels from Cicerone.org and the Craft Beer Institute. They helped me to see something that is lacking in my brewing. That, in so many words, is consistency.

So, in the name of consistency, I started researching. There is a way to brew that involves some automated processes. Without going into lengthy descriptions of all of them, I will stick with what I decided on: Recirculating Infusion Mash System (RIMS). Basically, You have a stationary setup and you pump your mash through a heating chamber to maintain temps (hence, recirculating). To REALLY dial it in, you can use temperature controllers and what nots. You can go out and buy one of these systems. To really do it up right, you are looking in the range of $2000-6000. Ouch! I’m not quite there yet, to be honest. So I decided: hey, why not build my own! SO that’s what I’m doing. This Series of posts will document each step of the way. And I’m already on my way. Behold, the heart of the temperature and heating control: The Arduino UNO board. I will post pictures along the way. Speaking of pictures, here’s what I plan to use as the head unit for my automated RIMS system:

The interface looks to be written on the Adobe AIR platform. More on that later. Yes, my friends, we are in the very preliminary stage. But big things are happening… oh yes! Big Wibbly Wobbly Timey Wimey things!

 

-Wd

Giving them another try

image

Let me start by saying I am not really a fan of New Belgium. Sorry, no offense guys. Every time I get a chance to try something from these guys, all that is available is Fat Tire. A lot of people seem to like this offering. Sadly, I am not one.

However, that’s ok. As a craft beer drinker I have the right to like or dislike styles. That’s w hat is great about the vast array of choices available from the craft beer industry. But I digress.

Back to the issue at hand. Lately, anything hop related has got my attention. So, when I saw New Belgium’s “Hoptober”, it was practically calling me, despite my misgivings. So, off I went:

Here’s the best way I can describe it: sunshine, grass, citrus and a bit of candy. Honestly, I didn’t know you could take the bitter grassy, citrusy hop flavors and combine them so well with the sweetness of (candy sugar?) and the crisp glow of sunshine from the look and feel in the glass and have it turn out so well. So much so, that here was me just a few moments later:

New Belgium, you have redeemed yourself. I can’t wait to try more!

 

-Wd

June excursion…

For our anniversary, my wife and I spent some time in St. Louis. One stop that really blew my mind was a stop at the Schlafly Bottleworks. Wonderful things are happening at that place, I tell ya.

Once we got inside, you just couldn’t wipe the grin off my face. I had never actually toured a brewery, and I’m glad the first one I visited was Schlafly.

If you haven’t heard of Schlafly, they are a great brewery out of the midwest, and they have some remarkable beers that keep coming.

Following the tour, we got to sample some of the freshest options coming straight off the holding tanks.

Schlafly is a fantastic place with some fantastic people. If you get a chance and you are in the midwest, stop in and say hi. They’d love to get you hooked!

Why do we do it?

It’s a valid question. Why dedicate an entire blog to talking about beer? And I’m not the only one out there. Far from it, I’m one of the small fish. Head over to http://drinkwiththewench.com and you will see that Ashley there has a whole interview series on beer bloggers. Several of them have been in the game a lot longer than I have. None the less, I recently got the opportunity to be featured on her site (you can check it out here). Bottom line: VERY COOL!

I digress though. Again, why do we do it? Simply put, it’s for education! See, it’s not about seeing how much we can cram down our gullets (well, usually not anyway), but more about finding new experiences and sharing them. Beer consists of more than the “fizzy yellow” varieties from the big names. There are several breweries around the country world that are putting out FANTASTIC product!

Bell, O’Dell, Dogfish Head, Schlafly, Three Floyds, 21st Amendment, Sweetwater… I could go on and on.

The point is, the world is saturated with the big names. Everyone can them and they know what to expect. We, us bloggers, are here to do our part to expose those who will listen to the wonderful world of craft beer.