Wednesday, October 31, 2007

There's no free lunch....

Good Morning, and here is my environmental rant for the day. Don't usually like to discuss things like this in this blog, but this is directly related to beer. Today I received an email from Northern Brewer discussing how the supply of hops will not meet worldwide demand for the next two years. This is on top of what we have all seen with rising beer prices this year.

Now what the Northern Brewer article didn't mention, is why there is a shortage of hops? And why have beer prices overall increased as well? Of course rising petroleum costs are raising prices of everything we buy. But that's not it by itself. One of the main reasons for hops shortage is the energy trend towards biofuels like ethanol. At first glance you might not see the correlation, but it's there.

Now I'm all for trying to find new cleaner resources of energy - solar, wind, nuclear, being chief among the options. But people need to understand there is no free lunch when it comes to energy or anything else. No magic bullet. For example, it takes more energy to produce hydrogen than you get from burning it. True, the end product out of your tailpipe is cleaner, but some production plant had to burn coal or natural gas in order to create the hydrogen in the first place, then had to transport the hydrogen to it's final point of use. All that is wasteful.

But now back to biofuels and beer. Farmers have found that with this new trend, it is more profitable to switch out their traditional crops and start growing corn to be used for ethanol production. So, farmers that used to grow wheat, barley, and HOPS are now growing corn instead. Thus here we have our inequity in supply and demand. Beer demand (especially for craft brews) is growing worldwide while supply of ingredients for beer are not. Another unintended consequence of the growth of ethanol is food shortages in third-world countries. Worldwide stocks of corn are being directed toward fuel production rather than food. This is also causing even more rapid deforestation to plant crops like corn and soy to be used for biofuel. Mexico has seen prices of tortillas rise to the point of regular people having to pay the equivalent of a day's pay just for tortillas which are the main staple. We are now starting to see countries like Taiwan and China withhold exports of rice just to be able to feed their own people.

So you see, there is no free lunch as my professor in Econ 101 told us. It sounds great to use ethanol to save the world by cleaning the air. But what good is that if we can't afford to eat our tortillas and drink our beer?!!

Like I said, I'm all for trying to do things better, and ethanol technology was an important first step in the goal towards cleaner energy. But what are some possible solutions that reduce the negative externalities (ECON 101 plug here) and still allow us cleaner air, cheaper beer and tortillas? I'm not a scientist, but here are some ideas:

1. Grow and brew your own:
Why not grow your own hops? Yes, they do take up alot of space, but anyone with a pole in the backyard or the ability to run a wire horiziontal can grow some hops. Grow organic as much as possible. And by brewing your own you are helping buy reusing bottles and minimizing transportation costs associated with production.

2. Buy Local: If you can't grow it yourself, try to buy not just your beer ingredients, but as much of what you consume as close to home as possible. This helps in a few areas. The farther the product had to travel to get to your plate or glass, the more fuel was consumed to get it there. It also takes cost out of the distribution chain. Buying locally supports your local economy.

3. Different production methods/ingrediants for biofuels: Producers need to look at other sources to make biofuels. Corn production requires much water and is not as efficient as other possibilities. What about about other options such as bamboo and hemp? Renewable sources that are more efficient to grow than corn. This would take pressure of world corn stocks. Of course new supply pressures would be put on other products that require hemp and bamboo, but like I said there is no free lunch.

Anyway, just some ideas floating around in my head.....

Monday, October 8, 2007

Next on Tap.....

Alright, back to some real beer after that horrible lemon hefeweizen. This weekend I brewed a "Big Honkin' Stout". I used an extract kit from Northern Brewer. It's going to be very hard to wait for this one - should be done in about two months just in time for christmas. And no matter how hard I try to do everything perfect during brewing, something always goes wrong. This time my siphon came loose while transferring into my primary, and I spilled wort all over the kitchen floor. Oh well, not too much was wasted and luckily we need to refinish the floor anyway.

After I move the Stout out of the primary, I'm going to try a California Common. I'm modifying my Bronwish Ale recipe a bit. Mainly using light DME instead of dark, and using California Lager yeast instead of the Irish Ale yeast. For those of you who haven't heard of California Common style of beer, think of Anchor Steam. Anchor trademarked the name "Steam" for their beer, but it basically is the style that the pioneers and 49er's made during the California gold rush. Since refrigeration and cooling was difficult back then in the hot California weather, brewers had to use a lager yeast but brew like it was an ale. The result was steam style beer. I'll post my recipe later when I start brewing this one.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

How much is inside a keg?

I thought this was a lightedhearted and funny page, that actually does answer the question. I can't remember how many keg parties I have attended in my lifetime - but it's probably too many. Anyway they say 141 cups in a standard half barrel keg. Do you trust their counting?

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Wife Beer Update (Follow Directions!!!)

I have learned my lesson. If someone says peels from two lemons should be plenty to get good lemon flavor, then use two lemons - not three. Not being one with alot of patience, I opened a bottle of the Lemon Lingerie hefeweizen after only one week in the bottle. Though still young and needs a few more weeks to age, I thought it was awful. WAY too much lemon - very bitter and sour. Almost tastes like chemicals or artificial flavor. Erika seemed to like it so far though since she likes lemon so much. We'll see what she thinks after it ages a few more weeks. I know for sure I'll hate it. So if she can drink it that's great. Otherwise down the drain.

Time to go back to real beers! Once the weather cools a bit I'll start another batch of brown ale and maybe start thinking of a good Christmas beer recipe.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007


Last night I bottled my "wifebeer". Pretty self explanatory really - a light ale that the wife will drink. It's calledd Lemon Lingerie, and I got the recipe of one of the forums at It's a real simple American Hefeweizen, but the interesting twist is to put lemon peels in the secondary fermentor.

So I tasted it before bottling and it sure has a ton of lemon flavor. Maybe too much - we'll see once it is cold and carbonated. Alcohol content is just about 3.8%

This bottling is getting to be a real pain though. Think it's time to start thinking of either kegging or perhaps one of those tap-a-draft systems.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Sam Adams Longshot Brewing Contest

I finally received my score sheets from the Sam Adams Contest. If you remember, I entered a Porter which was my second attempt at brewing. Two judges scored my beer an average of 27.5 which rates at the high side of "Good"

The scale is as follows:
Outstanding (45-50)
Excellent (38-44)
Very Good (30-37)
Good (21-29)
A satisfactory beer that generally fits the style parameters.

Fair (14-20)
Problematic (0-13)

One judge's comments were "This is a good beer, but not malty enough for style. Slight soap flavor. Very Dry Finish"

The other wrote "Slight roast, mild. Try increasing chocolate malt a bit"

So I think overall not bad for my first entry. And I even got a cool t-shirt that says Samuel Adams Homebrewer on it.

Next year I'll do better...

Tuesday, July 3, 2007


I thought this was a funny gimmick. Perhaps a waste of beer? Or maybe on a hot day it would be real tasty...

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Next On Tap....

It's real warm here lately - in the 90's. So it has been somewhat difficult to keep my fermentation temp low without a real thermostat control. I have the carboy in a plastic tub of water right now which is just barely keeping the temp around 75F. I deally I'd like it to be around 70, but this will have to do for now until I convert the old refrigerator. And then I can make some lagers!

Right now in the secondary fermenter I have my own version for an Irish Red Ale. I guess I'll call it an Irish/American Reddish Ale, because so far in the secondary fermentor it looks very much like a Brown Ale. And I used Northern Brewer hops and some darker malts to try to get it a little darker than a Kilkenny Ale. We'll see how this works:

1.50 lb Dark Dry Extract (17.5 SRM) Dry Extract
6.00 lb Pale Liquid Extract (8.0 SRM) Extract
1.00 lb Caramel/Crystal Malt - 80L (80.0 SRM) Grain
0.02 lb Black (Patent) Malt (500.0 SRM) Grain
2.00 oz Northern Brewer [8.50%] (30 min) Hops
1.00 oz Goldings, East Kent [5.00%] (15 min) Hops
1.00 oz Goldings, East Kent [5.00%] (5 min) Hops
0.50 tsp Irish Moss (Boil 10.0 min) Misc
1 Pkgs Irish Ale (White Labs #WLP004) Yeast-Ale

From this batch I have tried harvesting the yeast in order to try to culture it for a couple more batches. Hopefully that works. I can save $5-6 per batch if it does.

And next on tap after the Irish ales, is a "wife beer". I found someone who posted a recipe for a "Lemon Lingerie". It's basically a hefeweizen, but he adds lemon zest to the secondary fermentor to give it the lemon zing. Sounds real good for a summer beer that Erika can drink.

I forgot to tell you how this one ended up!!! I think this is my best beer to date. I'm calling it "Trabuco Brownish Ale" I looked up the style guidelines and technically it does fall within the style of an "American Brown Ale" mostly due to the higher hop content. But since I used Irish Yeast, I'll call it a Brownish (Brown-Irish) ale. It tastes similar to but hoppier than a Newcastle I think. But I'm not a great taster.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Stone Brewing World Bistro

This Saturday Erika and I drove down to Escondido after visiting the Carlsbad Outlet Mall. There is nothing much in Escondido I would ever go there for, except for the new Stone Brewing World Bistro. Stone Brewery just recently opened a new restaurant/brewery, and it was very impressive.

The building architecture is a modern/industrial with lots of stone, iron, and rebar. The restaurant area has floor to cieling windows on one side that let you see the brewery operations. The other side is open out to the outdoors beer garden. You can lounge around outside in the garden and have a beer - very relaxing.

Dinner was excellent. I had the Super-Septuple Garlic Bomb Chicken with Stone IPA garlicky mashed potatoes which was awesome. Only bad thing was that it also came with Brussels sprouts which though they looked tasty, are my absolute most hated vegetable in the world. Erika had a Spicy Lime Almond Crusted Tilapia with toasted barley & quinoa tabouleh. Also was excellent, and the quinoa was especially good since we have been on a quinoa kick lately.

So now for the real important part - the beer! For starters I had the Stone Ruination IPA. Lately I've been a little tired of all the West Coast breweries and their IPA's and pale ale's. Everyone seems to be just hopping up like crazy and losing the taste of the beer. I'm no different - my recent pale is nice and hoppy but not alot of malt character. This Ruination IPA is very different though. Although highly hopped of course, and 7.7% alcohol, the taste is still very good and you can still taste the underlying characteristics of a very good beer. I think it was a perfect pairing with the garlic infused chicken.

Next I had the Stone Smoked Porter w/Chipotle Peppers. Now I am always a sucker for anything Chipotle so I couldn't pass this one up. At first taste you get the smoky porter you would expect and nice and dry. I didn't really notice the chipotle until after swallowing. Unfortunately that aftertaste wasn't very appealing to me. The chipotle bite at the back of my tongue didn't really leave me wanting more. Unfortunately I think it's one of the few beers I couldn't even finish. I don't think it's a bad tasting beer - just something about it wasn't quite right for me.

So I will definitely go back and do the tour one of these days, and also try some of the other Stone beers. I've always enjoyed their Arrogant Bastard Ale, and am looking forward to some of their others. Cheers!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Miss American Update

So the Miss American Pale has been bottled now for about three weeks. I'm a little unsure about this one. Definitely has the hop characteristics of a Sierra Nevada, though may be just a little too dry and/or astringent and lacking a bit of malt character. Perhaps this will smooth out with a little more age and be perfect by around July 4.

And there is a terrible chill haze, which I am attributing to my use of the dried seaweed instead of the Irish Moss. Theoretically it should work, but I think it didn't pull out the proteins that cause the chill haze. When warm, the beer is incredibly clear. So Back to Irish Moss for the next batch.

Speaking of the next batch! I started a yeast starter yesterday of Whitelabs Irish Ale yeast. Today the starter is very active and I should be brewing tomorrow. This batch will be my own recipe, which I will post later. It should be a darker version of an Irish red.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

The Joy of Fermentation

Here is a short video of the primary fermentation of my Miss American Pale. Video was one day after pitching at 68F degrees. It stayed constant at this rate for about 4-5 days before transferring to secondary....

Brewing Software

So I downloaded some software for brewing a while ago from I've just started playing with it a bit more and having some fun. The software is pretty good for a beginner like me, and I expect it will be even more valuable as I get more advanced and start doing all-grain brews. It has a lot of sample recipes, as well as conversions and calculators for all aspects of the brewing process. What I really like is that you can choose/add different ingredients for your own recipes and it will show you the estimated color and alcohol content of your beer. Note: I am NOT endorsing this product, nor do I get paid anything for the link or anything like that. Just thought I would mention it as a tip for anyone interested.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Miss American Pale

For my birthday my sister gave me the ingredients and recipe for me to do a new batch. It's called Miss American Pale, and should be similar to a Sierra Nevada. Ingredients and recipe came from Olympic Brewing at

Here are the recipe ingredients:

7 lbs Light Malt Extract

1 lb Crystal 20 L Malt

1 lb Munich Malt

1 1/2 oz Columbus Hops 25 HBUs(Boiling)

1/2 oz Columbus Hops(flavor: 30 min)

2 oz Cascade Hops(flavor: 2 min)

Wyeast American Ale

So for this third brew I have tried a few things different. First I used tap water filtered through my refridgerator filter and then boiled rather than the Glacier Peak bottled water that I used for the previous two batches. Second, I'm using Roasted Nori Seaweed rather than Irish Moss to clarify during the end of the boil. And third, I'm dry hopping for the first time. I added the 2oz. Columbus Hops to the secondary fermantation to get the extra hoppy aroma of a Sierra Nevada style pale. We'll see how it works!

Some specifics on the brew so far:
- OG was 1.057 prior to pitching the yeast
- Primary fermentation lasted 7 days and was very vigorous
- Transferred to secondary fermentation after 7 days at which time gravity reading was 1.015

I'll be bottling this weekend which will put the secondary fermentation at about 17 days.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Things to do with beer...

This is an interesting article I found about things you can do with beer - other than drink it.

32 Things to do with Beer

Friday, March 2, 2007

The Porter is on the way!!

Yesterday I sent out a 220z Porter to friends and family. (You know who you are!!) You should get it hopefully on 3/5 or 3/6 depending on where you live. I hope it makes the trip without bursting or leaking! I sent them ground so hopefully that should be ok.

So let me know what you think of my second effort at homebrew. Either leave me a comment here on this post, send me an email, or vote on the right hand side of this page.


Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Samples & Sam Adams Contest

OK, sorry to those of you who I said I would have some samples of my new Porter out to last week. I have slacked off and didn't send them out yet. They are coming I swear.

In other news, Samuel Adams is holding their 2007 LongShot American Homebrew contest and I am going to submit one or two entries. If mine gets chosen as a winner, they will brew and distribute it with other winners in different categories.

Friday, February 2, 2007

The Land of Smithwick's, Guinness, & Jameson!!!

So the wheels have been set in motion for Erika and I to travel with some old friends to Dublin!! The band James is reuniting after 6 years in hiatus and are playing their opening night in Dublin on my birthday. Thank God and my employer for airline miles - I'll likely be using all my accumulated miles to make the trip.

You know what a trip to Ireland means - great beer. We visited the Guinness Brewery and Jameson Whiskey last time we were in Dublin in 2004. Hoping to go to the Smithwick's brewery in Kilkenny this time around as well as some pubs I'm sure. If anyone happens to read this and has any suggestions please share.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Easy Labels

Much Thanks to my sister for a tip on how to do easy labels. And they're eco-friendly too! It seems there is a protein in milk that acts as an adhesive. So, for an easy label, just print out a label on your inkjet and then brush a bit of milk on the back of the label and stick onto the bottle. As it dries it glues to the bottle. Here is a picture of a couple bottles of my Sumatra Porter I just bottled. Brewed with Sumatra Coffee.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

First Post

Hello and welcome to my beerblog. I've just recently started brewing my own beer and thought it would be fun to share some experiences and tips. Also to receive advice from those of you out there who have more brewing experience. And I will also have some posts from different breweries, pubs, and beers I've tried throughout some of my travels. (Recently just took a trip to London and Belgium and had some great beers.)

So far I have brewed a clone of FAT TIRE. I bought the ingredients from a local brewshop. It was an extract kit with some specialty grains provided. All in all, it was a decent first attempt. The beer had a nice amber color, perhaps a bit darker than a Fat Tire. It also seemed to lack a bit of character or complexity, but that may be because I just couldn't wait to drink it and didn't let it age long enough!