Monday, December 31, 2007

The Sober Brewer's Bowl Predictions

Happy New Years!

It is college football bowl season and I must confess I haven't been following all that close this year. Nevertheless, I will make our first annual "Sober Brewer Bowl Predictions." The predictions will be based on the per capita beer consumption of the state the University resides in. So without further delay, here we go:

Dec. 31 bowl games

Armed Forces Bowl
California Golden Bears vs. Air Force Falcons
California drinks 26 gallons of beer per person per year, while Colorado consumes 33.4 gallons. The Falcons pull this one out.

Humanitarian Bowl
Georgia Tech Yellowjackets vs. Fresno St. Bulldogs
Georgia Tech wins this one with 29.5 Gal/person compared to California at 26

Sun Bowl
Oregon Ducks vs. South Florida Bulls
Oregon loses a squeaker with Floria drinking 33.8 gal/person vs. 30.6 for Oregon

Music City Bowl
Kentucky Wildcats vs. Florida St. Seminoles
Rest easy Wildcat fans you pull it out 36.8 to 33.8

Insight Bowl
Indiana Hoosiers vs. Oklahoma State Cowboys
Good for IU, they win in a tight game 28.3 to 27.0 (The loss of Eddie Sutton was a major blow to the Cowboys. He was good for another two gallons.)

Chick-fil-a Bowl
Clemson Tigers vs. Auburn Tigers
The tigers from South Carolina win 37 to 30.6

Jan 1 games

Outback Bowl
Wisconsin Badgers vs. Tennessee Volunteers
Big surprise, Wisconsin wins 38.2 to 30.2.

Cotton Bowl
Missouri Tigers vs. Arkansas Razorbacks
Mizzou and booger eater Chase Daniels win it 33.4 to 27.6

Capital One
Michigan Wolverines vs. Florida Gators
Florida swamps the Wolverines and spoils Carr's last game 33.8 to 29.3

Gator Bowl
Virginia Cavaliers vs. Texas Tech Red Raiders
Don't mess with Texas 37.4 to 29.3

Rose Bowl
Illinois Illini vs. USC Trojans
Illinois in a shocker 31.3 to 26.0

Sugar Bowl
Hawaii Warriors vs. Georgia Bulldogs
Hawaii proves legit as they beat the bulldogs 32.7 to 29.5

Jan. 2
Fiesta Bowl
Oklahoma Sooners vs. West Virginia Mountaineers
The most annoying song in the world (Boomer Sooner) is not enough to distract the Mountaineers, they cut their teeth on John Denver. WVU rolls 31.3 to 27.0

Jan. 3
Orange Bowl
Virginia Tech Hokies vs. Kansas Chickenhawks
The Hokies win as Kansas University only drinks white wine spritzers at the local "alternative" bar.

Jan. 7
BCS Championship Game
LSU Tigers vs. Ohio State Buckeyes
Bourbon St. carries LSU to the victory 37.1 to 33.5

There you have it, put your money down with confidence. But remember:
never trust The Sober Brewer
Jerry Gnagy

Updated Bowl Predictions:
Take every prediction I had and reverse it! I swear I could have done a better job picking teams out of a hat. Next year we will do the opposite, where the state with the least beer consumption wins. Take my advice and lay your money heavy on Ohio State, it's the Sober Brewer's "lock of the century."

never trust The Sober Brewer
Jerry Gnagy

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Canada; The Global Scapegoat

The face of Global Terror has been revealed and it wears a toque and plaid flannel!

Catherine Brahic wrote the following article for

Getting rid of vintage “beer fridges” – secondary fridges which many North American and Australian homes boast – could have a significant impact on household greenhouse gas emissions, suggests a new study.

Beer fridges are additional fridges that are generally used to keep beer and other drinks cold on top of a household’s primary fridge for food. One in three Canadian households has a second fridge, many of which are aging, energy-guzzling models, according to Denise Young, a researcher at the University of Alberta, Canada.

Young suggests that getting rid of older models, in Canada at least, would have an impact on energy usage. Her study analyzes industry data and the results of a national survey to look at the environmental effects of having beer fridges in Canada.

"People need to understand the impact of their lifestyles," says Joanna Yarrow, director of Beyond Green, a sustainable development consultancy in the UK. "Clearly the environmental implications of having a frivolous luxury like a beer fridge are not hitting home. This research helps inform people – let's hope it has an effect".

High demands

The survey that Young analysed was commissioned by Natural Resources Canada and suggests that 30% of households have two or more refrigerators. About 20% of secondary fridges are older models that are kept after the household buys a newer model as their primary refrigerator.

Having a second fridge for cooling drinks means more demand for electricity, and this demand is even worse when the second fridge is an older model.

The Canadian Appliance Manufacturers Association estimates that typical 1985 refrigerator models use 1060 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of energy per year, while a 1975 model uses 1580 kWh per year. In contrast, more recent and energy-efficient models can use as little as 380 kWh per year.

The survey shows that in 2003 about 65% of beer fridges were more than 10 years old. About 30% were at least twice that age.

Using the survey's information on the distribution of beer fridges and the data on energy consumption, Young calculated that the 65% of beer fridges that are 10 years or older consume 1165.7 million kWh of energy each year – roughly equivalent to the annual consumption of 100,000 average US suburban homes.

By abandoning beer fridges altogether, Canada's 11.5 million households could save 3500 million kWh each year, says Young.

Class divide

Young also found that low-income families were less likely to retire their old refrigerators to the garage to store drinks after buying a new model. She says this is probably because these households find the cost of running an additional fridge (up to $150 per year) too high.

She concludes that middle- to high-income families should be targeted by campaigns to remove old secondary refrigerators. Existing schemes encourage people to buy new more energy-efficient fridges by offering financial bonuses for each purchase – sometimes with a cash-back offer for handing in older fridges.

Young warns, however, that "these financial incentives may also induce a household to purchase a new unit earlier than they would have otherwise done so", which can actually encourage people to keep a second fridge.

Instead, Young supports government-run "round-ups" offering to pick up and dispose of old refrigerators. A 2006 study commissioned by the Ontario Power Authority showed that such programmes have been successful in the past, especially when they are boosted by information on how much money and energy can be saved by getting rid of the beer fridge.

But environmental effect of beer fridges depends on the source of electricity. "In Canada, there are major regional differences," notes Young. "In places where hydroelectric power is used, the greenhouse gas emissions are negligible. In places where coal or natural gas are used, the impacts can be substantial."

She calculates that a 1975 fridge in British Columbia – where most electricity comes from hydropower – is responsible for a negligible increase in emissions. But the same fridge in Alberta, where electricity is primarily generated from natural gas and coal, would be responsible for 1.4 tons of greenhouse gases every year.

In the words of the McKenzie Brothers, I say you global warming nuts can Take Off!

never trust The Sober Brewer
Jerry Gnagy

Friday, December 7, 2007

The Propaganda of Prohibition

This week marked the 74th anniversary of the repeal of prohibition. I thought it would be fun to look at one of the tools that prohibitionists used to sway people to their side. "The Prohibition Alphabet" is certainly one of my favorites.

A stands for alcohol, king among men, who takes them to gallows or puts them in pen.

B is for beer, the slop of the brewery; it lead to the judge, and right to the jury.

C is for cruelty the demon we fear, who lives in the wine, the liquors, and beer.

D is for dram, a social or not; it leads from the moderate to the old drunken sot.

E is for early, when drunkards arise to add some more flame to their blood-shot eyes.

F is for fickle, we wish you to note the defect on drinkers, for license to vote.

G is for grog shop, a hell upon earth, where men are defiled from day of their birth.

H is for health, for happiness home, but all will be blighted in the foul liquor zone.

I is a pronoun, of dignified heft; but, bloated with liquor, there isn't much left.

J is for jug, the home drinkers pet; he fights the saloons but he is still wet.

K is for kindness; but she'll never know, who lives with a drunkard, but sadness and woe.

L is for liquor, the robber of life; he's cruel to children, and mean to his wife.

M is for millions who travel the road, in coffin and shroud, by the old whiskey goad.

N is for nickel, buys one glass of booze, though the children are hungry and the wife hasn't shoes.

O is for onion; its odors are rank, but not half so bad as a walking beer tank.

P is for plaster, a mortgage, or note, that's put on the house of the old whiskey bloat.

Q is for question; is a man really sane, who drinks of a poison that injures his brain.

R is for reason; where reason should be, is absent in men who go on a spree.

S is for slicker, a saloon keepers trait; for he gets all the suckers in town on his bait.

T is for trixter, the breweryman's suit; he'll take all you have, and your own soul to boot.

U is for uncle, our dear Uncle Sam; his battle with liquor is not any sham.

V is for virtue, the greatest of all; exposed through to liquor, this virtue must fall.

W is for will power, hard liquor destroys in the great and the small, the men and the boys.

X is for quantity; of course it's unknown, but equal at least to an old whiskey drone.

Y is for youth, an age of content; but liquor indulged will make it misspent.

Z is for Zion the church of our King, who judges a notion, a misguided thing when'er it is married by the foul liquor crew, and takes the blood money of cursed revenue. But let us, by voting the victory bring, and give to the nation a temperance ring.

Not exactly Longfellow, but see what can be accomplished with the clarity of thought, that sobriety brings? Just kidding, let's go have a beer.

never trust The Sober Brewer
Jerry Gnagy

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

What Brewers Do - 03 - Recipe Formulation

A little insight into what the brewers do at the BBC. This time we share our process of formulating a beer recipe.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Validation for The Sober Brewer

A couple of posts back I went on a tirade about the nonsensical beer judging we have encountered at the Great American Beer Festival. After each year's festivities are concluded and awards are handed out, the Brewer's Association sends us the judge's notes on the beers that we entered into the competition. These notes are supposed to help us brewers find out where our beer is in relation to what they are looking for. The feedback includes comments on the beer's Color and Appearance, Aroma, Bitterness, Alcohol, Style, Flavor and Aftertaste, Balance and Drinkability, Technical Quality and Carbonation. I thought you would be interested in some of the weird, almost schizophrenic comments that we received. Mind you, these are only from this year's judging, the past years' comments have been just as goofy.

First of all, let's look at the Oktoberfest. One judge says "lacks biscuit character in flavor" while another judge said "Biscuity" in flavor and "Biscuity and Toasty" in Balance. Strange, there would be a 180 degree disagreement, and what's with the overuse of the biscuity term? Did they both eat at Chick-Fil-A that morning? Another aside about the Oktoberfest, we sent it to another competition and again, no awards from the beer judges but it won the people's choice award...can you say Validation.

Next, let's look at the Anvil Steam, one of our all time favorites her a BBC. The general consensus of the judges was that it was a very good beer, only a little too much hop aroma. That's fine I can live with that, and since it was consistent among all the judges, it makes sense. But I do have one problem, and this happens all the time with these judges. On the bitterness section it read "Maybe to[sic] high." What's this "maybe," either it's too high, too low, or right on. "maybe" if you didn't have a spine made of linguine you could "maybe" give someone a straight answer, unless of course "maybe" you have no idea what you are talking about.

Moving on to the RIP VanWinkle Bourbon Barrel Aged Russian Imperial Porter. When entering a barrel-aged beer we have to specify first, what the base beer is, (Russian Imperial Porter) and secondly, what the beer was aged in, (Pappy VanWinkle American Oak Bourbon Barrels). So it must of came as quite a surprise to one particular judge who wrote "Almost has a bourbon Quality." Well duh. The same judge also had one of my favorite contradictions. On Flavor he writes "Very Woody" and on the very next line under Balance it read "Wood doesn't come through." I hope this guy finds some professional help for his split personality.

Finally we reach the Pilsner, and this is the one that validates my previous post about flawed beers doing better in competition. During the festival itself Cameron and I detected a high amount of hydrogen sulfide in both the aroma and flavor of the Pilsner. We determined that it was probably a function of autolysing yeast since the defect was not present in our filtered beer back here in Louisville. We were disappointed with what we sent and figured that the Pilsner certainly would be torn apart in the judging. Quite the contrary, this was the one beer of ours that went on to the medal round, just missing being awarded. But what held it back illustrates another weird judging comment. The judge wrote, "Well made beer, lacks some of the subtleties of a classic Pilsner." That's great Mr. to elaborate on what exactly those subtleties are? I guess not.

As you can see this "feedback" we get from the GABF is as useless as the medals we receive. As long as you, the customer is satisfied, so are we. Besides, I'm fairly certain you know more about beer than some of these jokers.

never trust The Sober Brewer
Jerry Gnagy

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Holiday Food and Beer

Tired of looking like a nancy-boy, having to buy a Rose' to go with your Turkey dinner. This year try pairing your holiday foods with beer. The Brewer's Association has came up with some good suggestions.

Holiday Foods and Beer

After Thanksgiving, make sure you come to our junk food and beer pairing event on Mon. Nov. 26 at 7PM. For $12 you get eight half pints of BBC and Cumberland Brews beers, matched with our favorite junk foods. Email me at for reservations.

never trust The Sober Brewer
Jerry Gnagy

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Ghosts in the Brewery

It has recently been brought to my attention that we may not be alone in the brewery. Strange forces are causing apparitions that I want you to see, so that if something happens to me (disappearance, stigmata, hangnail) those of you that are left can call in an exorcist.

It started with Cameron noticing a strange face in some crud on our hand wash sink.

If you look carefully you will see the face of Albert Einstein. Does this mean anything? Is the spirit of Einstein watching us wash our hands? Or does it mean we should clean the sink area better. I don't know.

Next I noticed a face staring back at me when I was having a cup of coffee. Check it out.

If that is not a face smiling and winking at me then I must be going crazy.

And finally, the most striking paranormal experience happened when a bag of grain mysteriously fell over, dumping its contents. If you look closely you might be able to make out some letters spelling something.

This is really creepy.

never trust The Sober Brewer
Jerry Gnagy

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Beer: The Liquid Defibrillator

For those that didn't know, our good friend and colleague Mark Allgeier from Cumberland Brews, recently had an unfortunate episode. An uneasy feeling and shortness of breath led him to drive to the emergency room where it turns out he had a heart attack. Apparently, his heart stopped for about two minutes but started up again after a few jolts, bringing him back to life. Mark has been know to have a few beers from time to time and so I began to wonder what kind of effect beer has on a person's heart. It turns out that there is a wealth of information about how beer HELPS the heart.

In Science Daily it is reported that a group of Israeli researchers conducted studies on a group of men with coronary artery disease. They found that drinking one beer per day for a month produced changes in blood chemistry that are associated with reduced risk of heart attack. Specifically beer's high polyphenol content helps decrease "bad" cholesterol and increases "good" cholesterol, it also increased antioxidant levels and decreases levels and activity of fibrinogen, a clot-producing protein.

Some would argue that all alcoholic beverages have the same anti-clotting ability so it's not the beer that helps the heart, it's the alcohol. Well that may be true, but another study says that beer goes above and beyond in its beneficial impact on coronary heart disease. The study, by and Innsbruck Medical University team found that beer blocks "interferon-gamma-induced chemical processes." More specifically, beer offers an anti-inflammatory effect by blocking the interferon-gamma which inhibits the production of neopterin and the degradation of tryptophan by suppressing T-cell response. All right, I don't know what any of this really means but it sounds awesome. But the most interesting part of the study was the the same effects were present in alcohol-free beers, implying that it was the beer itself, not the alcohol that produced the benefits.

So what does this mean to us? Well maybe instead of going to the hospital Mark should have chugged a beer. Possibly, instead of the electric shock paddles they should have an emergency beer bong. And finally, from now on CPR won't be cardiopulmonary resuscitation but Can of Pabst's blue Ribbon.

never trust The Sober Brewer
Jerry Gnagy

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Sober Brewer's GABF Report

So we made it back from the Great American Beer Festival empty handed, having been awarded nothing for our beers. I had told Cameron before we went to Denver that if we won a medal I would write about how GABF awards are meaningless, and if we didn't win anything I would write about how they are the most important things in the world. That's just the way we roll around here. So here goes:

Awards at the GABF represents a major achievement for brewers and breweries being recognized as having the best Pale Ale, Pumpkin Cherry Stout or Gluten-free beer in the nation is an accomplishment that can make or break a brewery. The 1700 plus entries are judged by some the the most knowledgeable and well respected brewers, brewery managers, beer writers and doped-up, noodle armed, jean short wearing Colorado hippies in the world.

Now we at BBC have had our share of success at the festival. I can distinctly remember the beers that were awarded medals. We won the gold medal in 2003 with a smoked porter. I remember while I was smoking the grain with a mixture of apple and hickory wood, I went inside for something and when I returned, flames were shooting out of the smoker and my grain had been reduced to ashes. Our chef at the time Jeff Grubbs offered to smoke some more grain for me so I took him up on the offer. I watched him throw the grain in with a bunch of raw salmon fillets. Close your eyes and imagine the smell of smokey barley malt melded nicely with fatty fish, Yum Yum. But it was too late to make another batch so we entered the beer in the competition and won gold. The knowledgeable judges must have liked seafood.

The second medal we received was the same year with a Dortmunder. I remember the day I brewed this golden lager, that night the switch that controls the temperature of the brew tank broke. This sent the fermenting beer's temperature up to 78 degrees only about 25 degrees too warm for this style. But it was too late to make another so we entered the beer into competition and won the bronze. One cold argue that if the beer was brewed at the right temperature it could have taken gold, but I doubt it since Miller won the gold in that category in 2003. Miller? WTF?

The thirdGABF medal we won was last year for our Oktoberfest. Now we love our Oktoberfest here at BBC, but the 2006 batch just did not turn out right.Cameron and I would have a glass, shake our heads and lament that it just wasn't as good as our previous batches. Well as you probably guessed, the one beer we didn't particularly care for won the bronze. Go figure, I guess our palates are just not as refined as the hemp wearing California peaceniks that judge at the GABF.

The moral of my rant is that its very hard to win medals when our tastes differ so much from coast to coast. The Southeast is usually underrepresented because there just isn't any large national brewers from the south that can shape and influence the national palate. It is far more important to us to brew the things we and our customers like than try and focus on winning medals that nobody outside to the brewing industry cares about. That brings me to next years GABF strategy, we are going to purposely screw up in some way all five entries and see what happens...Brewery of the Year 2008?

never trust The Sober Brewer
Jerry Gnagy

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

One Too Many Pours and Seven Years Ago: Cumberland's Mark Allgeier Addresses The Sober Brewer

One too many pours and seven years ago...

I decided to go into the brewery and restaurant business.
I thought about this alot on the way home due to a flashback
I had while listening to the awards ceremony at the GABF. I
recall a younger more eccentric time in my life while
traveling thru the west and hearing of this event. After a
couple of quarters for the phone calls home (no in 94/95 I
didn't have a cell) I headed the van to Denver. After a
quick wardrobe check as I had been camping for 2-3 weeks
straight my cohort and I rolled in and told them we were
from Kentucky. They then filled out two Hello My Name Is
stickers and off we went. (Warning : this check-in process
is completely outdated.) Well it didn't take long for this
young-en to figure there was alot of Great Beer out there.
Then Bang!!!!!!! The roar of the 2007 crowd awoke me from
my daydream" and the winner is" I heard over the amplifiers
......................Old Milwaukee Light gold medal winner
for the American Light Lager. I started back pedaling
bumping into some girls dressed like referees reminding me
as I turned ,"it was miller time". I ran right out of
there and took a deep breath and thought, what the fuck
is going on. No better yet what are they doing here? Is
it just me? What more does the future hold and are things
getting better. GABF is a great, well respected festival
but if I was you I would go as soon as possible before any
more improvements. I've got a funny feeling about a guy
named August Busch standing at the door of the festival
welcoming festivaterians, and as you walk up he smiles
strangely shakes your hand and then pushes you in a
large meat grinder like in that Pink Floyd video.

Back to why I went into the Brewery & Restaurant business.
For the same reason any of Kentuckiana is. Great Beer!
Support Your Local Brewery,

Mark Allgeier
Cumberland Brews
1576 Bardstown Road
(502) 458-8727

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Beer Marketing Terms and What They Mean Part Four: Frost Brewed and Brewed Longer

I thought today I would explore Coors' "Frost brewed" and Bud Select's "Brewed Longer." I put these terms together because they are both equally meaningless. Let's start with the most asinine "Brewed Longer"

Anheuser-Busch's Bud Select used the phrase "brewed longer" along with "a clean finish" and "a bold taste" in its marketing campaign. This statement begs the question, what part of the brewing process is longer? and longer than what? I did find out that Bud Select lets their mash (barley and water mix) sit in the brew kettle longer than normal Budweiser, the effect of this procedure is not discussed, but we can theorize. By leaving the mash sitting longer before taking off the wort, you might get a more complete enzymatic conversion of starches to fermentable sugars, thereby leaving less residual sweetness and body in the finished beer. This can explain the "clean finish" statement because the beer will certainly taste more watery and thin, but it doesn't really jibe with the "bold taste" assertion. Maybe it's the same concept as minimalist art, where a plain box painted on a canvas can be called "powerful." The same with Bud Select, we could say, "There is absolutely no flavor here...what a 'bold' concept."

Now on to Coors' "Frost Brewed" I thought long and hard what frost brewing could possibly mean. Was the beer brewed cold enough for frost to form? I doubt that would be the case since unfermented beer needs to be boiled before adding yeast and if you cooled fermenting beer to 32 degrees or below, yeast would stop their activity. Also, after fermentation all beer is cooled to "Frost" temperatures, so that's not really an attribute specific to Coors. I finally decided they must be talking about the water used in the whole brewing process. They did make a big deal about Rocky Mountain water years ago, so I guess they are saying they use melted snow or frost to brew their beer. We know that the composition of frost and the melted frost, also known as water, doesn't change, it's still just hydrogen and oxygen. And frankly throughout the history of the planet with ice ages and evaporation of water into the upper atmosphere where ice crystals form, and the billions of times that snow and ice have formed, my guess is that every molecule of water on earth has been frozen at some point in time, so aren't we all frost brewing. To take it a step farther, throughout the course of human history, man and animals have drank water and excreted waste through urine, which eventually makes it back to the water supply, so wouldn't it be just as accurate to label Coors "Urine Brewed." You know, after tasting Coors Light, maybe this would be a more descriptive term.

never trust The Sober Brewer
Jerry Gnagy

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

What Brewers Do - 02 - Grain Removal

An inside look at a day to day task of a BBC brewer. Removing spent grain form the Mash Tun.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Beer Marketing Terms and What They Mean Part Three: Fire Brewed

A famous marketing term used by Stroh's brewing in Detroit advertised "Fire-brewed" beer. But what does this mean? Fire brewed has to do with the type of heat source used in the brew kettle to boil wort (unfermented beer). Hence the name, "Fire-Brewed" means that there is a flame or gas burner underneath the kettle adding heat. In fact, Stroh's was the last large US brewery to have a direct fire brew kettle. This is a departure from the steam jacketing heat sources used in most brewing systems. Steam jacketing is a heating system that generates steam in a boiler and recirculates it through a piping system that transfers the heat from the steam to the contents of the kettle. Both systems have their advantages and disadvantages, not only in the effect on the beer brewed but with versatility and maintenance. We'll leave the design of the systems alone and focus on each heating system's effect on beer flavor.

The main difference between direct fire and steam jacketing is something called "boundary temperature" which is the temperature of the surface metal contacting the wort. Direct fire kettles generally have higher boundary temperatures than steam. The negative effect of high boundary temperatures is the increased production of precursors to esters. Esters are compounds that are recognized on your palate as fruity flavors, which are fine in some types of ales but not really in the lighter lager styles that Stroh's was producing. The advantage of the higher boundary temperatures produce by direct fired kettles, is increased caramelization. This carmelization produces a richer red color and sweeter flavor that would have been appropriate for the Stroh's style and would have differentiated their beer from their competitors at the time.

I confess I have never had a Stroh's, but BBC also has a direct fire system, so we sort of carry on the Fire-Brewed tradition

never trust The Sober Brewer
Jerry Gnagy

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Beer Marketing Terms and What They Mean Part Two: Beechwood Aging

Our friends at Anheuser-Busch have long told us that their flagship brand Budweiser is "beechwood aged." What exactly does that mean to us?

Well, they do use beechwood chips in their lagering process. The purpose is not to add any beechwood flavor, in fact they boil the chips before they add them to their aging tanks to remove any oils or resins that can impart flavors. The purpose of the chips is to increase surface area on the bottom of their tanks where the chips settle. Suspended yeast in the beer will then settle onto this arrangement of beechwood chips allowing more yeast cells to be in contact with the beer during aging.

What's the benefit of contact with these yeast cells? During active fermentation, yeast produces many flavor compounds. Some of these compounds are desirable in the final product, others are not. After active fermentation and when in the process of going dormant and preparing for their next batch to ferment, yeast cells will draw in those undesirable compounds, thus removing them from the finished beer as they are filtered out. A couple of these compounds we are concerned with are acetaldehyde (green apple flavor) and diacetyl (buttery and butterscotch flavor) the latter being most troublesome in lagers because of lower fermentation temperatures. So when you can increase the amount of contact between aging beer and the yeast, post-fermentation, by having yeast cells collect on all these beechwood chip surfaces instead of a single layer on the bottom of the tank you can speed up the diacetyl removal process, thereby shortening aging time and moving the beer to the consumer faster.

Next up is "fire brewed" the old Stroh's line.

never trust The Sober Brewer
Jerry Gnagy

Monday, September 17, 2007

Beer Marketing Terms and What They Mean Part One: Cold Filtration

I recently saw a neon sign in a store window that read Cold-Filtered MGD. It got me thinking about cold -filtration and what it means. First of all, as far as I know all filtered beer is cold-filtered. I've never heard of anyone filtering a beer while it's warm and there is a reason for that, which I'll address after we examine why beer is filtered.

Beer is filtered to produce a more stable and bright (very clear) final product. The filter removes small particles such as yeast and proteins that can make beer appear hazy. Why we filter beer cold has to do with two compounds found in finished beer, proteins and phenols. These proteins and phenols will bind together in a protein-tannin complex when cooled to temperatures near freezing. This complex is heavy enough to precipitate out of beer on its own if left undisturbed long enough. But, in order to move beer more quickly from the cellar to the tap, these protein-tannin complexes can be filtered out. If beer were filtered warm these complexes are not formed and the two constituents separately can pass through the filter, only to bind together again when the beer is chilled, causing haze. When beer is cold-filtered the complexes are intact and have a large enough particle size to be trapped in the filter medium.

So while it is true that cold-filtration is a quality enhancing procedure, using it as a marketable attribute would be akin to running as ad campaign stating, "Our beer is brewed with water." Which would be true of course, but all beers are brewed that way.

never trust The Sober Brewer
Jerry Gnagy

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Training Video: 04

Remember plenty of exercise helps build thirst for a nice pint of BBC beer...

Monday, September 3, 2007

RIP Michael Jackson; King of Malt Pop

Many beer industry people have commented now on the passing of the famed beer writer Michael Jackson, most have included their stories about the time they met him. The common theme seems to be that their hearts were all atwitter as they approached Mr. Jackson, hoping that they would recieve some sort of blessing. Stumbling through their words with dry mouths and sweaty palms they would say something along the lines of "Mr. Jackson sir, do you remember that time in 1987 when you dropped your coaster? I was one of the four dorks that pounced on it." All kidding aside, I can't think of a more revered man amongst serious beer people.

I am obligated to tell you of my meeting with Mr. Jackson. We were standing outside our hotel in Denver following the Great American Beer Festival last year, when an elderly, disheveled, hunched over man shuffled over to me and snapped, "Get me a cab." I promptly told him that the valet would be of more assistance in that request than I would be, so he shuffled off. As I seen him climb into the cab I said to those around me, "Hey, that was Michael Jackson." Not exactly a life changing religious experience for me, nor for him I'm sure.

I will give credit where credit is due, Michael Jackson helped create the craft beer culture in America, giving life to an industry in which I make my living. He was a fantastic writer and critic who could bring the heart and soul of the world's breweries and pubs to those of us half a world away, and we will certainly miss him for that. With all that said, I respect Michael Jackson the most for getting paid to travel around the world drinking good beer and whiskey. That is an amazing accomplishment in itself.

never trust The Sober Brewer
Jerry Gnagy

Friday, August 24, 2007

Don't Enable this Drunken Monkey

This being Brew at the Zoo week, I had the perfect post for this blog. Then I went over to Roger Baylor's blog, The Potable Curmudgeon, and realized he beat me to it. For those of you who have not seen the "Bear eats man at zoo's beer fest" here is the link.

Bear eats drunk guy

But not to be totally scooped, I see your man eaten by bear and raise you one violent alcoholic monkey.

never trust The Sober Brewer
Jerry Gnagy

Sunday, August 19, 2007

A Practical Guide to Drinking On the Job

I'm sitting here in front of my laptop at work trying to think of something interesting to write about, and I'm drawing a blank. After giving you such ground-breaking , hard hitting, Pulitzer prize type posts, I know I can't just settle for linking some article about beer in history,sports or politics. So I decided that I needed some inspiration...some liquid inspiration, so without a second thought I walk 40 paces to the bar and pour me a tall, cold one. On the way I look over and see some poor shulb at the bar in his suit and tie looking longingly at my glass of malty goodness, whilst he sips at his diet coke. That's when it hits me, I'm one of the lucky people that can overtly, drink on the job. Now, I don't mean to wave this in the face of cubicle dwellers, on the contrary my purpose today is to help you experience the kind of freedom and satisfaction that can be gained by drinking on the job.

First let's talk about who can benefit the most from drinking on the job:
  1. Doctors--I know what you're thinking, doctors have to remain alert and have each brain cell functioning at peak performance. Well I say hogwash, doctors had beer for breakfast and martinis for lunch years ago, it was said that the alcohol steadied the surgeon's hand. I have no scientific evidence that this is true, but it sounds good to me. I did find a Canadian researcher, Psychologist Catherine Ortner, who found that students who had been given alcoholic drinks showed better judgment than those on soft drinks. I must ask, don't we want our physicians to have better judgment? Only the falsely pious tea-totaller would argue against that.
  2. Judges/Lawyers--Judges of course should drink for better judgment(see#1 doctors). Plus with those long, loose fitting robes, you can pretty much hide a keg under there. As for lawyers they definitely have to drink just to live with themselves
  3. Law Enforcement--Odd hours, stress, the looming fear that each day could be the day you get bumped off by fleeing miscreants or punk drug-addicts. They deserve a beer! Besides they run little risk of being nabbed by the long arm of the law, since they are the law.
  4. Service Industry Workers--Putting up with irate, overbearing, demanding, non-tipping jerks can be made more tolerable only by putting on the liquor induced happy face. Fortunately we don't have a single jerk come to BBC so it's not necessary here. But if you don't love the products you're selling, how can you be trusted?
  5. Performers/Artists--Look at all the great artists, Van Gogh, Caravaggio, Rothko, you will find a bunch of drunken slackers Am I suggesting becoming a drunk will make you a great artist? Yes I am. At the very least, you will stop caring so much about becoming great. This goes for actors as well, all the greats were drunk, Orson Wells, Robert Downy Jr., Lindsey Lohan. I rest my case.
  6. Clowns/Buskers--To deal with screeching children, pancake make-up and the annoying squeaking sound tying all those balloon animals, you had better be drinking something. And until we walk a mile in those size 47 clown shoes, who are we to judge?
These are just some examples of jobs where drinking during working hours should be not only allowed but embraced and encouraged. If I didn't mention the line of work you are in, don't worry, your job probably also qualifies, just ask yourself if you job fits any or all of the main criteria: 1) long or irregular hours 2) dealing with annoying people 3) some form of labor

Now we should probably talk about the rare exceptions, the professions that I will not approve of drinking on the job.
  1. Pilots--Not really because they can crash and kill us, but because I just don't need the delay from some pilot late for the flight because he drank too many yards at the airport bar causing him to deplane for a potty break. For what it's worth I think flight attendants should be able to drink all they want.
  2. School Bus Drivers--Why? Because I believe the children are our future, teach them well and ...yada, yada.
  3. Barbers--A dude with scissors less than an inch from my head needs all his faculties about him. I know to most folks this doesn't jibe with doctors being able to drink, but you just don't understand how important my hair is to me. Without my thick, luxurious, wavy hair, I would be nothing. So Barber...No drink for you!
  4. Politicians--How else can we git rid of Ted Kennedy?
  5. Jugglers--This is a clarification for the clowns/buskers. If your act includes juggling sharp or flaming objects, then you cannot drink. We just don't want to see you fail. Same goes for lion tamers.
Now that we have established just who is eligible to drink at work, now let's establish some innovative ways to get it done.
  1. The Coffee Cup--Come to work with a mug clearly labeled COFFEE. People will naturally assume that the contents are just that. Only you and I will know that it is really filled with hooch. Occasionally blow across the top pretending to cool it down, this enhances the effectiveness of the scam.
  2. Sports Drink Bottle--A little more tricky than the coffee since most bottles are clear. You might want to add a mix of fruit juice and clear spirit, since beer and bourbon don't have a very "sporty" appearance. This is also good if you sweat a lot when you drink, people will probably think you just returned from your mid-day workout. Suckers
  3. The Aftershave Cover-up--Drink whatever you want but wear so much Old Spice people start tearing up within 10 feet of you. Even the most rancid alcoholic beverage won't be able to be detected through your toxic cologne cloud.
  4. The Loaded Fruit--No, I'm not talking about Cameron after he gets a few beers in him. I'm talking about injecting an orange or grapefruit with vodka. When you need a boost just eat the fruit. If some health nut sees you peeling and asks for a piece, just smell the fruit, proclaim that it has turned sour and throw it away. Then try suggestions 1-3.
  5. Become the Irreplaceable Employee--This can be quite difficult to accomplish but if you can become too valuable to fire, you will be able to walk through the office completely loaded, with a bottle of Early Times hanging from your hip and no one will dare bother you. I don't know how you can get to this point but I'm sure pictures of your boss in compromising situations can help make this happen.
I hope this helps open up a whole new world for you drinkers who have a working problem.*

never trust The Sober Brewer
Jerry Gnagy

*I am not responsible for anything that happens if you take this seriously.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Don't Drink and Drive: You Can't Afford Either

Recently there has been a number of articles written about the rising prices of beer, most of which has attributed to the increase to the rising prices of grain. In the past year the price of beer has increased 3% on the shelves and 3.8% at bars and restaurants. At the same time barley prices have risen by 17% to the highest level in 11 years, and malted barley, which is the main ingredient in beer, has risen by 9%.

One reason for the increased price of barley is that with the increased demand for fuel, not just in this country but worldwide, ethanol production has increased rapidly. Consequently, the demand for the corn used for ethanol production has risen sharply, thereby sending the price of corn soaring. The high corn prices cause farmers to plant more corn so as to take advantage of the higher price. What happens when more and more acres are devoted to growing corn? Less acres are available for other crops, hence barley production has fallen, shortening supply and driving the price up.

I began researching for this post ready to find that the increased ethanol production was responsible for the rising beer price. But then I realized that the increased cost of barley malt only adds about 5 cents to the cost to produce a barrel (31 gallons) of beer. Where the real cost increase is coming from is the rising price of fuel, and energy in general. The price of shipping malt to our brewery has increased much more than the price of a bag of barley malt. Add in other fuel costs that get passed down to the brewery and on to you the customer such as farm equipment, transporting grain to and from malting houses and the energy used during the brewing process itself. Let alone the costs of a packaging brewery, with increases in glass bottle, cardboard, carriers and distribution. You can make a better case that rising energy costs have a much more profound effect on beer prices than rising barley prices. The jury is still out on the feasibility of ethanol as an alternative energy source, but if energy costs can be brought down by the increased ethanol production, it would be more effective in lowering the cost of producing beer than if barley prices tumbled.

I did leave out the largest cost component of beer. Taxes. Both federal and state taxes make up almost half of what it costs us to produce beer. Unfortunately, it's more likely that gas prices will drop to a dime a gallon, or I'll start growing barley malt on my bald spot than the tax on beer will be reduced.

never trust The Sober Brewer
Jerry Gnagy

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Dunking Dionysus: An Origin of Beer Gaming

Recently I came across an interesting piece of information in Tom Standage's book A History of the World in 6 Glasses. Standage was writing about the Greek wine drinking party called a symposion. During these symposia, regarded as the pinnacle of social sophistication by their usually all-male aristocratic attendees, the Greeks played perhaps, the first drinking game. The name of the game was kottabos, which involved flicking the last remaining drops of wine from one's cup at a specific target. The target would vary but some flicked wine at another person, a disk -shaped bronze target (an example is on display at the Speed Art Museum) or even a cup floating in a bowl of water, with the aim of sinking it.

I can't help but think that this kottabos was the genesis of "Dunk the Duchess" a beer drinking game I played in my college years and which I'm sure someone may be playing right now. I'll quickly run down how Dunk the Duchess is played. To begin, players need two full pitchers of beer and one glass per person, plus one extra glass. Float the extra glass in one of the pitchers (Pilsner-style glasses work best). Players then fill their glasses from the second pitcher and take turns pouring beer into the floating glass. Each player is responsible for the glass for five seconds after he pours. After the five second count, the glass becomes the responsibility of the next player. Thus, the perfect pour is one that causes the glass to sink in six seconds, thereby screwing the next player before he has time to pour. The player who sends the glass to the bottom of the pitcher must retrieve it and relieve it of its new found contents.

Sure kottabos and Dunk the Duchess aren't exactly mirror images of each other, but they usually result in the same sort of post-gaming behavior. Going back to Standage's book, as more and more wine was drank, some symposia descended into orgies, and others into violence, as drinkers issued challenges to each other to demonstrate loyalty to their drinking group, or hetaireia. The symposion was sometimes followed by the komos, a from of ritual exhibitionism in which the members of the hetaireia would course through the streets in nocturnal revelry to emphasize the strength and unity of their group. The komos could be good natured but could also lead to violence or vandalism, depending on the state of the participants.

Compare that with our modern day drinking games. As more and more pitchers of beer are drank, the drinking group usually devolves into an all out quest for easy women, a challenge of whose going to pay for pizza delivery and what pranks to play on the poor sap delivering it. And our own version of the komos, streaking across campus and mailbox baseball.

As you can see we haven't deviated very far from the ancient Greeks.

never trust The Sober Brewer
Jerry Gnagy

Training Video 03

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Training Video: 02

The second video in the series on how I became a brewer at BBC.
this time Jerry teaches me to build a resistance to hot water....

Never Trust a Sober Brewer....

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Stick This Beer Up Your @#$, No Seriously, It's Good For You

We all know that beer tastes good, some of us know that it's good for you, but I bet you didn't know about this story by John Roach in National Geographic News.

Anthropologist George Armelagos from Emory University found traces of the antibiotic tetracycline in ancient Nubian bones. The bones dated between A.D. 350 and 550 and were found in present day Sudan, south of Egypt along the Nile river. Today tetracycline is used to treat ailments ranging from acne flare-ups to urinary tract infections. But the antibiotic only came into commercial use around 50 years ago. So how did tetracycline get into the Nubian bones?

Armelagos looked at how the ancient Nubians used grain and come across a recipe for beer. Now this was not exactly BBC's Pale Ale or even Budweiser, it was more like a thick sour gruel. The Nubians stored their grain used to make this beer in mud bins. It was then most likely, contaminated with streptomycedes, a soil bacteria that produces tetracycline. The Nubians would drink the gruel and probably allowed their children to eat what grain was left at the bottom of the vat. Traces of tetracycline have been found in more than 90 percent of the bones Armelagos' team has examined, including those of 2 year old children. The Nubians would have consumed the beer because it was tastier than the grain itself, and then noticed that people fared better and felt better by drinking the beer rather than eating the grain.

Armelagos said that there is a whole series of Egyptian pharmacopoeias (medicine books) that percribe beer for certain ailments. The ancient Egyptians and Nubians used beer as a gum disease treatment, a dressing for wounds, and even an anal fumigant (a vaporborne pesticide to treat diseases of the anus.)

This is all very interesting, but we at Bluegrass Brewing Co. are not advocating beer colonics, nor are we liable for any mishaps that result from said procedure.

never trust The Sober Brewer
Jerry Gnagy

Monday, July 16, 2007

What Brewers Really Do

Video Clip of a day to day task for BBC brewers

Never Trust a Sober Brewer...

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Stoned Rastafarian Carpenters, Plowing with Wooden Cats

Biology of a Hangover

I admit it. I have overindulged from time to time. There's nothing wrong with tying one on once in a while. As long as you don't drive home (or to an ex-girlfriends house). Cleaning out the pipes, with a bunch of drinks can be "therapeutic." But as we all know sooner or later you will pay the price with a hangover. Today I thought we would look at the biology of a hangover, so we can understand what is happening to our bodies when we have a few too many.

1) Vasopressin Inhibition
When alcohol enters the bloodstream it causes the pituitary gland to block the creation of vasopression (also known as ADH). This causes the kidneys to send water directly to the bladder, instead of reabsorbing it into the body. This diuretic effect causes your body to become dehydrated. Headaches result from this dehydration because the body's organs make up for their own water loss by stealing water from the brain, causing the brain to shrink, in turn pulling on connective membranes causing pain. Another result of the lack of vasopressin is the loss of salt and potassium in those frequent bathroom breaks. Alcohol also breaks down glycogen in the liver, converting it to glucose which is then flushed out into the urinal (our whiz sure does have some good stuff in it). Those compounds are necessary for proper nerve, and muscle function, meaning you probably aren't getting any better at pool or darts and if you try to pick up those girls at the bar you will probably end up tripping and spilling your drink on them.

2) Congeners
Distillers know about these: Congeners = flavor. But to us: Congeners = Pain. Congeners are byproducts of fermentation, yet they are treated as toxins in the body. Drinks with high levels of congeners (bourbon, tequila, red wine) take longer for the body to process out than those with fewer congeners (vodka, beer, white wine)

3) Acetaldehyde
Alright, stay with me here, this is just biology101, these are just compounds and enzymes breaking them down, so lets go. A product of alcohol metabolism called acetaldehyde is created in the liver by an enzyme called alcohol dehydrogenase and is actually more toxic than alcohol itself. Acetaldehyde is then broken down by another enzyme, acetaldeyde dehydrogenase, and another substance called glutathione. Together these two break down the acetaldehyde into the non-toxic acetate. Unfortunately, the liver's stores of glutathione run out when larger amounts of alcohol enter the system, leaving more of the toxic acetaldehyde in the body for longer periods of time. Too much of this toxin can negatively affect brain function to the point where the only remaining brain functions will be those controlling heartbeat, respiration and possibly those responsible for craving pizza and sex. Basically you become Al Gore.

4) Glutamine Rebound
A large contributor to the fatigue felt with a hangover is that the drinker will not sleep as soundly as normal. This results from the body rebounding from alcohol's depressive effects. Alcohol inhibits glutamine, one of the body's natural stimulants. When we stop drinking, our bodies make up for lost time by producing more glutamine than needed. The increased glutamine level stimulates the brain during sleep, preventing us from reaching the deepest, most healing levels of slumbers.

Pretty thick stuff I know, but interesting none the less. I think I'll celebrate the hangover with a few beers.

Nine Foreign Terms for "Hangover"
1) katzenjammer -- German for "the wailing of cats"
2) stonato -- Italian for "out of tune"
3) la gueule de bois -- French for "wooden throat"
4) resaca -- Spanish for "surf of the sea"
5) jeg har tommermen -- Norwegian for "carpenters in my head"
6) hont i haret -- Swedish for "pain in the roots of my hair"
7) ire Rasta coco ganja -- Jamaican for "stoned Rastafarian trying to split my coconut"
8) so to gi ko-ho! -- Vietnamese for "water buffalo plowing inside my head"
9) byt v druhom stave -- Slovak for "to be in a second state"

never trust The Sober Brewer
Jerry Gnagy

Monday, July 9, 2007

Training Video 01

Asked many times how I became a brewer at the BBC, this video series gives insight into the rigorous training methods of Head Brewer Gnagy.

Enjoy and never trust The Sober Brewer...

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Beer, More American Than Mom and Apple Pie

Beer has played an important part in American history, and especially during the 4th of July. Independence day wouldn't be complete to most Americans today without downing a few brews alongside a grill full of hot dogs and burgers. In fact brewing goes back to the beginning of the country.

Breweries were owned by some famous revolutionaries, not just Sam Adams, but Charles Sumner, Ethan Allen and Israel Putnum all owned breweries in the newly independent states. The most famous brewer was probably George Washington. Known for his love of Porter style beer, I'm sure he was in his backyard at Mt. Vernon, flipping burgers and knocking back a few on Independence day. Washington once recorded an early beer recipe, which has been preserved in the manuscripts collections of the New York Public Library. Washington wrote:

"To make Small Beer
Take a large Siffer [Sifter] full of Bran Hops to your Taste.--Boil these 3 hours then strain out 30 Gall[ons] into a cooler put in 3 Gall[ons] Molasses while the Beer is Scalding hot or rather draw the Melasses into the cooler & Strain the beer on it while boiling Hot. let this stand till it is little more than Blood warm then put in a quart of Yea[s]t if the Weather is very Cold cover it over with a Blank[it] & let Work in the Cooler 24 hours then put in the Cask--leave the bung open till it is almost don[e] Working.--Bottle it that day Week it was Brewed.

Beer even has it's moment during the first 4th of July celebrations in Colonial America. According to Stanley Baron in Brewed In America, Philadelphia had its first 4th of July procession, celebrating the ratification of the Constitution, and it turned out to be an "elaborate, lively affair." He wrote, "the brewers were ten in number, headed by Reuben Haines, with ten ears of barley in their hats, and fashes [fasces] of hop vines, carrying malt shovels and mashing oars,... a standard carried by Luke Morris, decorated with the brewers arms, and the motto, 'Home brew'd is best."

Because New York Delegates to their state constitutional convention in Poughkeepsie delayed so long in agreeing to ratify, the celebrations there were held up until July 28th. On that day, though, New York had a memorable parade which "exceeded all previous demonstrations in the country." One of the brewers' flags bore this message: "May he be choked with the grains, or drowned in hot ale whose business it is to brew mischief" There were twenty brewers and maltsters in all who took part in the procession. The motto of the brewers was "Ale, proper drink for Americans."

On this July 4th make sure you enjoy a couple of good beers. It's Patriotic.

never trust The Sober Brewer
Jerry Gnagy

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Kiss Your Ash Goodbye

The smoking ban takes effect in Louisville this coming week. Whether it is a good or bad idea, only time will tell. It will be hard to measure economic impact for businesses, because so many factors account for upturns or downturns in restaurant sales. So lets take a look at some brewpubs that have already banned smoking.

Cumberland Brews here in Louisville, banned smoking in their restaurant in January. It was the result of the employees voting for it. I talked to Matt Gould, the brewer at Cumberland. He said that there hasn't been any drop in business, and that there have been people who have came into Cumberland specifically because of the smoke-free policy. Matt did add that sometimes there are more people outside on the sidewalk, where patrons can smoke, than there are inside, which can be a little difficult to deal with. But overall it has been good for them.

Peter Egelston, president of Smuttynose Brewing Co. and Portsmouth Brewing in Portsmouth, NH, who voluntarily made his brewpubs smoke-free over four years ago, spoke out on smoking bans in The New Brewer. Egelston said, "People assume that because I made the brewpub smoke-free, that I support smoking bans. Nothing could be further from the truth. I am adamantly opposed to any form of legislated smoking ban in bars and restaurants. I don't see why the government should act as nanny in this regard any more than it should force us to eat our peas and carrots at dinnertime. The very people who promote legislated solutions to the problem of secondhand smoke will soon be turning their guns on those of us who make our living in the beverage alcohol business. Mark my words." Don Younger, owner of the Horse Brass Pub in Portland, Ore. said, "If a smoking ban is such a good idea, why do they have to pass a law? If it's so great for my business, why am I already not doing it? They're telling me I am stupid, and I don't know how to run my own pub." I would add here, that the exemption of Churchill Downs exposes our city leader's inconsistency. If there is no negative economic impact, then what's the purpose of the exemption?

Tyler Brady, manager at Bluegrass Brewing Co. used to work at a 4th Street Live restaurant that voluntarily went smoke free. He said they lost a significant amount of business following the decision. Tyler added that he thinks a ban is too restrictive and would rather let businesses decide for themselves. If Government wanted to push businesses in a smoke-free direction, he would rather they use incentives such as tax breaks or lower insurance premiums.

My opinion is that if smoking is so bad and causes so much disease and death, then ban smoking altogether. I can't understand the inconsistency of a government that with one hand takes the cigarette out of your mouth and with the other hand collects the taxes from their sale. Tax revenue is the only reason I can think of why they won't ban cigarettes. Hell, it should be our patriotic duty to buy cigarettes in order to properly fund our government's important projects *cough* paint the bridge*cough*. Scott Lilly, assistant Jefferson County attorney was quoted yesterday in the Courier-Journal, "economic loss doesn't trump a law intended to protect public health." He was talking about business's economic loss, perhaps we should apply this to our elected leaders. Tax revenue shouldn't trump public health. Ban cigarettes completely or leave people alone, it's this convoluted middle ground that upsets everyone.

never trust The Sober Brewer
Jerry Gnagy

Friday, June 22, 2007

Ale vs. Lagers; The Real Story

Scene at Bluegrass Brewing Co. Bar:

BBC Patron: Excuse me bartender, do you have any Lagers on tap?

BBC Bartender: Yes, we have a Vienna style lager and a Schwarzbier.

BBC Patron: What's the Schwarbier?

BBC Bartender: It's literally "black beer" in German, sort of a cross between a Stout and a Pilsner.

BBC Patron: I thought all Lagers were light beers.

BBC Bartender: Well no, Lagers are bottom fermenting and Ales are top fermenting.

BBC Patron: (confused look) ... how about a Summer Wheat.

Stop right here, Is the customer right, are all Lagers light beers or is the bartender right, Lagers are bottom fermented and Ales are top fermented. The truth is they are both right...and both wrong.

I thought today we would dispel the half truth which is Ale vs. Lager and top fermenting vs. bottom fermenting. The aforementioned customer is right in a sense, most widely recognized lagers are light in color and body with delicate flavors. Examples are Harp, Pilsner Urquell, Spaten lager and all our macrobrew friends (Bud, Miller, Coors). So it's understandable that there would be a "Lager=light beer" misconception. But that would ignore the vast array of dark lagers brewed around the world. Examples are Bock, Dopplebocks and Dunkels, such as Einbecker Ur-bock, Paulaner's Salavator, and Mexico's Negro Medalo. The real difference between Ale yeast and Lager yeast is their species.

We as humans have a Classification Genus (Homo) and species (Sapien). Well yeast has a classification too. Lager yeast's Genus and Species is Saccharomyces Uvarum while Ale yeast is Saccharomyces Cerevisiae. Both may be used to ferment any kind of beer. No matter light or dark, high or low alcohol, malty or hoppy, Ale and Lager yeasts are interchangeable. Most of the time we can recognize which beers are Ales or Lagers by the flavor compounds each yeast produces during fermentation...but sometimes we can't. Some Lager strains fermented at higher temperatures can produce fruity and estery flavor compounds normally associated with Ale yeast and in turn some Ale yeast under certain conditions can produce the sulfury and clean flavors associated with Lagers. So how can we tell the difference? We'll get back to that after we examine the bottom fermented vs. top fermented line used by our BBC bartender.

While it is true that the normal behavior of Ale yeast is to form a head at the top of a fermenter and Lager yeast generally sediments to the bottom, there are some strains that remain almost completely in suspension. It never made sense to me that yeast would stick in one place during fermentation. The truth is, apart from the yeast head on Ales and the sediment in Lagers, yeast is present in about the same concentration throughout the fermenting beer. If we took samples from near the top, the middle and the bottom of fermenting beer and looked at those samples under a microscope, there should be about the same number of yeast cells in each, regardless of Ale or Lager strain. So what is the only absolutely certain way to tell the difference between Ales and Lagers? We have to look at what they eat(ferment).

Strains of Saccharomyces Uvarum (Lager yeast) will completely ferment raffinose, a minor sugar found in unfermented beer, SaccharomycesCerevisiae (Ale yeast) will not. In contrast Ale yeast can break the link between melibiose and fructose (more sugars) and can ferment the latter, however they cannot ferment melibiose. Aside from any mutations in yeast strains this is the only way to tell the difference. Now practically, we can't taste whether there is any raffinose or melibiose in our finished beer, so you will still have to take the brewer's word on whether a beer is an Ale or Lager. But I hope you appreciate my attempt to set these half truths straight, and to scratch the surface of some brewing science. Now back to our bar scene:

BBC Bartender: Lagers are bottom fermenting and Ales are top fermenting.

BBC Patron #1: (confused look) ... how about a Summer Wheat.

BBC Patron #2: Actually, the difference is that Lager yeast (Saccharomyces Uvarum) can completely ferment raffinose, while Ale yeast (Sacchormyces Cerevisiae) can break links between fructose and melibiose and ferment the fructose but not the melibiose. These characteristics are unique to each strain.

BBC Patron #1: Wow, that's interesting, thanks for the info...Hey, let me buy you a beer, what would you like to drink?

BBC Patron #2: I'd love a cask conditioned raspberry flavored Hefeweizen.

BBC Patron #1: odd. They don't have that here.

Never trust The Sober Brewer
Jerry Gnagy

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Bluegrass Brewing Co. ranked fifth largest brewpub in region, sixty-fifth nationally.

The production numbers are in and Bluegrass Brewing Co. is the fifth largest brewpub in the south region, according to the Brewers Association. The south region includes brewpubs in the states of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North and South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas. (Everything is bigger in Texas, except the brewpubs I guess.) Out of nearly 1,000 brewpubs nationally we came in at sixty-fifth. Who was the largest in the south region? It was our fellow Kentuckians at Hofbrauhaus in Newport, with a whopping 3,200 beer barrels, placing them at number thirteen in the nation.

We produced 1,690 barrels of beer in 2006. To give you an idea of how much that is, one barrel equals thirty-one gallons or two full size kegs, or roughly 420,000 twenty ounce pints. It's amazing how much you people drink! Probably only a thousand of those are mine.

A few other relevant number for you:
-Craft beer as a whole grew 12% this year. Macrobrew's declined by nearly 2%.
-Our production increased 11%, up from 1520 barrels in 2005
-Other area brewpubs:
Browning's 498 barrels, 543rd nationally; New Albanian 475 barrels, 553rd nationally; Cumberland Brews 365 barrels, 636th nationally(That's huge for Matt on a two barrel system)

I want to top 2,000 barrels for 2007 and I can't do it without your help so pretend I'm your financial advisor. Here is a plan that I want everyone to commit to:
10% to Church or charity
15% savings for retirement
15-25% to the Government in taxes, and
10 beers per week in your local brewpub (come on, that's less than 2 a day)
Now that's a plan that will keep everyone happy.

Never trust The Sober Brewer
Jerry Gnagy

Monday, June 11, 2007

Welcome to The Sober Brewer

You may be asking "Why another beer blog? Why here? Why me?" Well the short answer is, I HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY! Now whether anyone listens/reads, well that's a separate issue.

We, the brewers at Bluegrass Brewing Co. decided that we would like to start writing down some of our thoughts and sharing them with you. Hopefully this will have some positive effects including: 1. Letting you, our customers, potential customer, adversaries and passing strangers know a little bit about us, our interests, beer facts (or at least the facts as I see them) and stories about beer and brewing that interest me and in turn, hopefully interest you. 2. Provide us an outlet to get our story out, get something off our collective chest, and learn something from our own research and feedback from you.

Now with all that said, I want to offer this disclaimer. It has been about ten years since I took it upon myself to do any writing, so please excuse all run on sentences, excessive, comma, use, and poor 'punctuation,":. I thank you in advance for your understanding (something my business writing professor told us never to do. Oops.)

All good blogs must be updated regularly. The responsibility of updating this blog will fall on my shoulders. I have also received commitments (not legally binding unfortunately) for material from our most valued and longest tenured brewer's assistant Cameron Finnis. Cameron is also the only employee of BBC with a valid green card. Also contributing will be our newest member of the brewery staff Sam Cruz, who will update us on the soap opera which is BBC on Wednesday nights. Others who will post from time to time will be Kylee "Miss BBC" Marcy, James "Miss 4th St. BBC" Wise and anyone else we can con into doing our work for us. Hopefully we can even get a word or two from our infamous owner and GM, Pat Hagan. ("infamous" means more than famous right?)

And now with the introduction out of the way. I hope you will find your way back to read the next update. (probably by this weekend)

Remember, never trust The Sober Brewer

Jerry Gnagy

Head Brewer,

Bluegrass Brewing Co.