Austin Beerworks - Branding Excellence

Austin Beerworks - Branding Excellence


Ever just go to random brewery's websites to look around at what they're up to and if their beer looks interesting or if it looks like they're having fun? Yeah, me too. Check out Austin Beerworks - clean and visually appealing website (need someone to design one of these for me), recognizable and un-obnoxious branding, and hilarious beer descriptions. Maybe their beer isn't great (I've never had it) - but I'd still go to their brewery or buy a sixer at least once because they are winning on the marketing and humor front.

Ex Novo, learning on the weekend.

Too Much Craft Beer in the NW? - NO!

Thanks Van Havig from Gigantic for the video that doesn't really substantiate such claims, but offers a pro's well-respected opinion in a fun lil' video clip: [vimeo]

it's going to be a really big year

It's that time of the year when you spend a good amount of time reflecting and dreaming - yet in practicality there isn't a whole lot to look forward to here in the NW. The month-long friends and family holiday whirlwind is over, there is no longer any excuse to have a beer or a whisky at 2:30 in the afternoon, it's cold and dreary, and you stream whole seasons of mediocre TV shows on Netflix without blinking an eye; it's back to real life folks. As for me, I don't quite know what that means right now - I don't have 'the man' to keep me in line or on a schedule, I'm kind of on my own in this unemployed start-up business frontier. Scary cool stuff. In the interest of making lists (it's a major blogging faux pas to not make lists around the new year), here are some things that will likely occur in the next 3 months that I find exciting:

1.) Sarah and I will no longer just be Sarah and I. Baby girl is coming, she's coming, she's coming. It's inevitable and imminent and yet not really real to me at this point other than knowing it in a way that I know physics or BREWING. I'm going to be a dad, and she's going to break my heart.

2.) Ex Novo is going to be something the state of Oregon knows about. Mostly the Secretary of State. We're going to incorporate this thing hopefully in the next month or so - plenty of nauseating paperwork to fill out and decisions on how we want to word our By-Laws, etc., but it will be a tangible step toward legitimacy. We could all use a little legitimacy around here.

3.) I'm going to wrangle some people into forming a Board of Directors for a brewery. Who would've ever thought that would be a thing?

4.) I'm going to persuade some really savvy and level-headed people to invest in what we're doing with chunks of cash.

5.) I'm (hopefully) going to rehab/sell a home in the area to provide for #1 and stave away conventional employment.

All in all I think 2013 is going to be amazing; the more I talk about the brewery plans with friends and strangers alike, the more I feel like it's actually going to happen and the vision gets a little clearer. All aboard!

Here's a cool pic of my family - WARNING - not beer related at all.


Bosque Brewing Visit

Bosque Brewing Visit


Back in Albuquerque for Christmas, Sarah and I paid a visit to the now-open Bosque Brewing Co. One of the co-owners, Jotham, has been an invaluable sounding board for me during the brewery planning business and I was stoked to finally get in there to try them out. As I often do with a new place, I went with a flight - 7 offerings - which is pretty impressive for a two month old brewery on a 3BBL system. FlightIt was a good lineup of ales - from memory I think there was a golden, two IPAs (one wheat, one English style), a brown, a scotch strong, an oatmeal stout and an amber. Good stuff guys: clean and approachable, laying off the uber-novelty stuff (at least for now). I think the Albuquerque connoisseur and the getting-the-feet-wet-with-craft-beer-person will find something to enjoy at the Bosque.

Hopefully they'll let me hang out after Christmas for a brew day, it's always good to see a new setup and get ideas about what does and doesn't work so well.

Cheers to you discerning beer drinker, merry Christmas.

New Developments

New Developments


Due to my recent unemployed state, I've had a lot of extra time and motivation to hone the alluded-to-before brewery idea. If you've heard my pitch before, I've told you how I wanted to open a brewery in Portland with great beer and use it as a tool to raise money for non-profits out there in the world kicking ass and needing funds. I haven't known exactly how this would look, but recent conversations with friends and people excited about this vision have steered us into thinking of going full nonprofit, whether or not we're able to get a 501(c)(3). I've had my head buried in this for the last week: handbook And have really been thinking it's the right move. A LOT of details still need to be figured out, but it does look a bit different than my original plan on account  of the board of directors piece and moving from 'owner' to 'founder', etc. (Did you know that non-profits don't have owners?) But I'm stoked to get others involved and have a broader level of buy-in. I've also got a good buddy (who will remain nameless until he gives me the OK) who's indicated he wants to be more involved on the ground level; this is good. Really good.

If you're reading this and thinking "I've got a million dollars I've been really wanting to give away to an amazing startup," go ahead and click here to get in touch with us. Same if you have some retail/restaurant space with high ceilings that needs leasing at a supremely low rate. Or you just have some brilliant idea that you're itching to share - sock it to me.

More on this later as it comes into focus...

Completion IIPA Review

Completion IIPA Review


It's been awhile since I reviewed one of our own beers, as it turns out I'm well pleased with this Double IPA  we have - it turns 2 months old today and it is really coming along nicely. If you hate hops, you will HATE this beer. We did not skimp at all with the late kettle additions and dry hops on the Completion, and the result is a super flavorful, easy to drink big beer that I will be lament being out of. Using the RateBeer system, here are my thoughts - add yours if you've come over to try it...IMG_20121205_114819

This guy finished at 8.2%, 116 IBUs, 1.017 FG

Appearance (4/5): Pours a gorgeous light orange with some ruby hues, good white head on it.

Aroma (8.5/10): Big hop aroma: Grapefruit, Pine and Tropical Fruits all up in your nose

Taste (8/10): Definitely on the hop-focused side of balanced, bitter but not harsh. Citrus and fruit flavor picked up on the nose.

Palate (3.5/5): A little too bitter, but the taste doesn't linger, smooth for a IIPA, no alcohol 'heat'

Overall (17/20) I think it's pretty great, especially for a first attempt. It's a hop showcase, the Pacific Jade and Amarillo dominate, with the citrus and pine flavors filling in the gaps. Next version I suggest we take 15-20 IBUs off and leave everything else the same.

Hope I have some left for our Christmas party...

The Barn Light

The Barn Light



We drove down to Eugene this weekend with some friends from Minneapolis to check out The Barn Light, a bar/coffee shop opened by Sarah's old friend Thomas. Not yet two weeks old, The Barn Light  is basically the place that you wish you thought of yourself. Unless you hate vintage and repurposed things done in a tasteful and creative way, you will dig it in its entirety. All of us in the NW have seen reclaimed wood and old items used artistically, but the guys at the Barn Light really went for it, and did it pretty flawlessly. Aside from the vibe, they have a good lineup of draft and canned beer (obviously including Eugene staples Ninkasi, Oakshire, and Hop Valley), unique cocktails, top notch espresso, and some good grub (frito pie.)

So if you find yourself in Eugene for a Ducks game or some other reason, check them out.


Red Wednesday Recap

Red Wednesday Recap


Super smooth brew day yesterday - whipped up 10 gallons of our NW Red Ale, which will be one of the staples going forward and needs a name badly. I liked Redemption Red, but it's already taken by these creepers. Any ideas? Specs: 1.065 OG, 65 IBUs, 16 SRM


  • Malts: Pale 2-Row, Munich Dark, Caramel 80 and Caramel 120
  • Hops: Bittering – Centennial.   Flavor/Aroma – Simcoe. Dry Hop - Cascade, Simcoe
  • Yeasties: Wyeast 1056 slurry

It was a busy night too; kegged some of our Christmas beer, transferred the Continuous Pale to secondary and made the chalkwall more awesome: 

Enjoy the turkey, football and family today. Gobble Gobble.

Beer Report Card

I had to share this beer list from my new favorite spot, Crows Feet Commons, in Bend, Oregon.  It includes: beer name, date tapped, location of brewery, ABV, Color, smell, taste notes, who is this beer (my personal favorite column) and final grade by Beer Advocate.

Winter Is Coming

Winter Is Coming


Friday night we were invited over to Dustin's for a winter beer blind tasting; this is a totally normal and really fun way to spend a Friday, schedule yours soon. The lineup consisted of 12 winter seasonals and one oatmeal stout - I don't know why only 11 made it into this was taken after the tasting...

From left to right, the contestants - along with their RateBeer score:

  1. Ninkasi 'Sleigh'r' (85) - Dark Double Altbier
  2. Bridgeport 'Ebenezer' (79) - English Strong Ale
  3. 10 Barrel 'Pray For Snow' (not rated) - American Strong Ale
  4. Great Divide 'Hibernation' (98) - English Old Ale
  5. 21st Amendment 'Fireside Chat' (48) - Spiced English Strong Ale
  6. Hopworks 'Abominable' (95) - American Strong Ale
  7. Nogne 'Winter Ale' (99) - American Strong Ale
  8. Pyramid 'Snowcap' (85 {really?}) - English Strong Ale
  9. Full Sail 'Wassail' (92) - English Strong Ale
  10. Sierra Nevada 'Celebration' (98) - Winter IPA?
  11. Widmer 'Brrr' (92) - Winter Red Ale
  12. Firestone Walker 'Velvet Merlin' (98) - Oatmeal Stout (not pictured)
  13. Schooner Exact 'Hoppy Holidays' (81) - American Strong Ale (not pictured)

Each taster had a scoresheet, and rated each beer on 5 basic categories: appearance, aroma, taste, palate/mouthfeel, finish. I regret that I only scored the beers tasted, I didn't take notes - which makes a recap 2 days later difficult. The overall winner among the group was the widely available Widmer Brrr. It really is a solid beer, and I would wager it won because it is essentially an India Red Ale with flavors everyone is familiar with.

My top 3 were: Nogne Winter Ale, 10 Barrel 'Pray for Snow', and the HUB 'Abominale'. I tried to stay objective and rate based on the category of winter ale or winter warmer, though it seems I favor American Strong Ales to the English style...blind taste tests always reveal interesting things.


I am pleased that I was bearish all along on the Pyramid Snowcap, and I ended up rating it the lowest among the 13 - street cred. Also receiving low marks was the 21st Amendment Fireside Chat, though it gets best artwork on the logo design which is certainly worth something. If you want anothers' view on the tasting, Dustin's post is here for your enjoyment.

So go do your own tasting or use my recommendations to choose a winner - winter is coming, time to embrace it.

Get Smart!

This primer will tell you mostly everything you need to know about how to interpret those acronyms and numbers on the wall/menu of the beer hall of your choosing. The most common are #3 and #4, but an understanding of all 5 will really give you an appreciation for what you’re ordering and will impress your friends. #1: Original Gravity (OG): This reveals the specific gravity (density/sugar content) of the wort before fermentation begins. Essentially, it is potential for alcohol – alcohol is just fermented sugars right? By itself, it is not a very helpful stat, but it is relatively popular nonetheless. It’s usually expressed in the conventional format, 1.055 for example, or in degrees Plato (14°). The conversion between the two is easy, Plato * 4 roughly equals the last 2 digits on the conventional gravity. 20° Plato is the same as 1.080. This value can range widely, 1.045-1.110 are typical values.

#2 Final Gravity (FG): Another gravity measurement, this time at the end of fermentation. This tells you how many residual sugars are left in the brew when the yeast is done with its work. This number can help you determine how malty a beer will taste and how balanced it will be with the hops included. Example: A beer shows an FG of 1.012 and 80 IBUs (we’ll get to that soon). Pretty good chance that is an IPA that is all about the hop showcase, not trying to balance the malty sweetness as much…on the other end of the spectrum you may have an FG of 1.022 and 30 IBUs – that could be an English Old Ale, meant to be sweeter with the malts as the focus. Typical ranges are 1.010-1.024.

Checking specific gravity with a hydrometer

#3: Alcohol by Volume (ABV): Doesn’t need much explanation in terms of what it is (and how it makes you feel), but do you know how it’s calculated/measured? You cannot (as far as I’m aware) measure the alcohol content in beer, you have to measure the Original Gravity and the Final Gravity and do this: (OG – FG)*131 = ABV. Example, Double IPA: (1.085-1.016) *131 = 9% ABV. Nerd out.

#4: International Bitterness Units (IBUs): I won’t go into how this is calculated (you’re welcome), but this value tells you the bitterness given to the beer by the hops used in the brewing process. Just about all types of beer use hops in the boil, and therefore have some bitterness. Brewing is all about balance, and the dance between the hops and malts used. Don’t assume that a beer with 50 IBUs will be more bitter (tasting) than one with 35. The former could be a big stout, with loads of heavy and complex malt used which require the bitterness to balance it out, otherwise it would taste syrupy and over-sweet. The latter could be a german pilsner, with less/simpler malt used, letting the hops shine. So there is not, or should not be a threshold here that you stay away from based on limited experience. You’ll have an overly hopped pale at 65IBUs that is too bitter, and a Black IPA with the same 65IBUs could be juuuuuuust right. Typical ranges are from 15-100IBU. You can’t taste the difference after 100.

#5 SRM: This is a less common measurement, unless you are a brewer or go to brewery website to look at the stats of certain beers (everyone does that right?). SRM is ‘Standard Reference Measurement’ used by brewers to describe the color of the beer. Depending on the malts used, brewers tweak this value to produce the look of the beer desired. Basically, the scale goes from 2-40 from light to dark, although it does not have anything to do with clarity of the beer. The photo below shows the 3 beers I have on tap now at my house – Pilsner (3.5), Fresh Hop Amber (13.8) and Black IPA (38).

The color spectrum

Hope you enjoyed the info, it will make you appreciate the beer in your hand more – I promise.  Now drink up – cheers!

Bad News is Good News?

In a non-surprising move, I was informed Friday that my company was shutting down my division - that in the near future I will be jobless. We'd been hearing rumors for weeks, and planning accordingly, so the shock was replaced by relief that something was concrete and it's time to move in another direction. I should mention that I wasn't much of a fan of this job. Or the last 3 engineering jobs I've had for that matter...I think it's kind of a 'it's not you it's me' scenario: plenty of folks could be perfectly happy doing what I'm doing. So at a time when I have more responsibility than ever (bambino #1 expected in March), I'm exploring avenues other than conventional employment. Sounds crazy. May be crazy.

I still have a ton to learn about the beer industry and running a successful business, so the time is not quite ripe for me to jump into opening a brewery, which is the long-term plan. Anyone planning on being thirsty summer of 2014? All in all I'm feeling quite a bit of freedom with my new jobless sentence - it's an adventure, one which will likely come with  its sacrifices, but it could also be the defining moment when all the historians look back on my life.

Any advice from those who have walked in these shoes?

Tuesday Night Recap - Spice Wars

Smooth brewing last night, showed the cold and rain who's boss by shifting all operations into the garage - which is conveniently where the taps are located... Specs on our Wee Heavy Christmas Ale: OG: 1.083, 30IBU, 22 SRM.


  • Malts: Pale 2-Row, Maris Otter Pale, Brown Sugar (shugga), Special B, Caramel 80 and Roasted Barley.
  • Hops: Bittering – UK Goldings.   Flavor – Fuggles
  • Yeasties: WLP028 Edinburgh Scottish Ale
  • Spices in Boil: Cinnamon and Clove
  • Fresh ginger and lemon zest to go in secondary

We missed our target OG by 3 points on the low side, which doesn't matter much with a big beer like this one. Seven weeks from now we'll be sipping this at our Christmas party in high form, making elaborate toasts and debating foreign politics.

We also dry hopped our Imperial IPA and gave it a sample, so far it's delicious and promising - making good beer is so much more fun than not making good beer.


Wee Wish You a Merry Christmas

Wee Wish You a Merry Christmas


It's an off-schedule brew night tonight as we usually try to stick to 1st and 3rd Wednesdays of the month. I'm blaming this one on Dan although I can't prove anything.... We'll be brewing a new style, a Wee Heavy (strong Scotch ale) with a Christmas twist. Big beers like this one, especially ones with spices, need time to mellow out and have the flavors get to know each other - hence we're brewing holiday beer in October.

Grab a friend or spouse and come out tonight if you read this blog - we're pushing to have brew nights be more social and even fun for people who don't care about making beer. We'll be getting started a bit early, but anytime from 6-8 would be a good time to come by.

Sexy Beer

Shout out to a newer beer blog BeerIsSexy! I've been invited to be a weekly contributor over there and I'm excited to share my beer thoughts with a different audience. I like what they're doing, with several different authors at various levels of beer geekyness/snobitude. Follow them or check them out from time to time, feel free to let me know if there's a story out there that needs telling.