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