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.