Monday, July 23, 2007

Filter the Brown

Today's project: transfer the two beers that Chase Becker helped brew a couple of weeks ago. The Bugeater Brown got filtered, and the Hefeweizen did not. I harvested a quarter-barrel of yeast out of each of the fermenters and stashed them in the cooler for the next brew.

My head, back, and arm don't feel any better since Thursday's treatment. This is disappointing.

Tomorrow: clean the draft lines and the two fermenters.

Friday, July 20, 2007


A screaming sinus headache kept me awake the entire night, and it's masking any potential benefits from yesterday's procedure. I picked up Paris at the Omaha airport, and we stopped as usual at the Crescent Moon for lunch, but I can't even remember what I had. I slept most of the way while Paris drove us home.

They did say that it could take a few days to feel any improvement, so I guess I'll be patient for a while yet.

Monday: Filter the Brown, transfer the Hefeweizen.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

No beer today...maybe

Big adventure today; I hope it ends up being worthwhile.

Thursday's route

I left home early this morning and checked into a hotel in Omaha. My first appointment was at 11:15 at the Nebraska Spine Center, a consultation in preparation for this afternoon's procedure. The doctor showed me the MRI images that illustrated the bone spurs in my neck that he thinks are interfering with the nerves that go to my back and right arm.

I arrived at Immanuel Medical Center around 12:30, and they got me ready. The plan was to stick a needle in my neck and inject a steroid into my spine: a "Right C6-7 Transforaminal Epidural Steroid Injection". It's supposed to reduce the inflammation and take pressure off the nerves. I figured they'd put me on the table face-down and insert the needle into the back of my neck. Instead, since the target was in the front of my spine, the needle went in the front of my neck, just above the collarbone, and all the way through to the spine.

Note the needle coming from the left side of the image.

I was quite awake the whole time, and everything went off without a hitch. (Except when he hit that nerve and made my right arm feel like I had grabbed an electric fence. Shit happens.) I was on my way by 3:00. The nurse had called a cab for me, but when it arrived, I gave the driver ten bucks and told him I'd drive myself back to the hotel.

Only I didn't go directly to the hotel. Not having had anything to eat nor drink since 7:30 last night, I was ready for a beer. (OK, it was contrary to medical orders, but I was damned thirsty.) Granite City Food and Brewery has a location near my hotel, and that's where I had my late lunch. The beers were really tasty, as was the Cuban sandwich I had, and Nicole the bartender was a lot of fun. Just what I needed this afternoon!

Tomorrow: pick up Paris at the Omaha airport.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Kegs and more kegs

Filled root beer keg orders and kegs of beer for the pub. The tank of All-American Gold was running low, and I'll need that tank next week to receive the new batch of Bugeater Brown, so all the rest of the Gold went into kegs today.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Tom brews Gold

I was kind of hoping to take it easy this week, but our supply of All-American Gold is running low. Fortunately, local homebrewer Tom Froehner kindly came by to do all the heavy work, brewing seven barrels of beer while I mostly just watched. I know Tom reads these pages, so I'll leave it to him to explain the important lesson he learned today.

Thanks, Tom!

Monday, July 16, 2007

Mostly root beer

Reasonably busy day today. Cleaned the draft lines. Did the mid-month excise tax return. Made 28 barrels of root beer and 7 barrels of Red Cream Soda. Ordered hops: 22 pounds of Saaz, 22 pounds of Kent Goldings, 22 pounds of Hallertauer, and 11 pounds of Simcoe. Ordered 25 pounds of sodium benzoate and 25 pounds of citric acid for the root beer.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Root Beer Shuffle

Of the three root beer tanks, one is empty, one nearly so, and the other (which is hooked up to the bar) is about ¾ full. So I kegged the remaining ten gallons out of the second tank, and filled the two empty tanks with the 14 barrels of root beer I've been holding upstairs.

Chris the bartender called me at home and said that the Orange Cream Soda had (finally) run out. I knew it was getting low, but I thought there was a keg or two left in the tank. Anyway, I'll make some Red Cream Soda to replace it on Monday.

Next week: make Red Cream Soda and lots of Root Beer, brew some All-American Gold, clean and fill kegs, and get some needles stuck in my neck.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Kegs and the cleaner

Thanks to the busted keg cleaner part, I have a two-week-deep pile of dirty kegs in the cellar. The part arrived late Wednesday afternoon, so I installed it today.

This piece broke... I had to buy this whole thing.

The damned machine still refused to clean the first keg, lighting the "reject" lamp a few seconds after starting the initial rinse. There's a sensor probe in the drain line that is supposed to detect the difference between water and air; it often fouls, so I took it out and cleaned it to no avail. There's also an adjustment knob in the cabinet that increases and decreases the probe's sensitivity. A few minute's tweaking got it reprogrammed, and the day's tedium could begin.

The pub needed a few kegs of beer, and a wholesaler needed a few kegs of root beer (and one keg of Hefeweizen), so I filled them.

Adam and I had tasted the Toil & Trubbel Dubbel the other day and found it a bit sour — lactic. The final keg was about ¾ full, so I disconnected it, cleaned its draft line, and hooked up the leftover sixth-barrels from last month's Summer Arts Festival, along with a new half-barrel. So it's on tap now, but the "official" release will be tomorrow. (When a new beer comes out, we always offer the first pint at the regular price of $2.50, and the second pint for 1¢.)

The final tally: 37 half-barrels, 18 sixth-barrels, and 11 five-gallon kegs cleaned.

Tomorrow: Root Beer Shuffle.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Cleaning & treatments

Cleaned the two fermenters from yesterday's filtrations. Filled a couple of quarter-barrels of All-American Gold for the pub; they ran out last night. Still waiting for the keg washer coupler.

Got a call last night that the spine doctor found "lots of damage" in my neck, between C4-C5 and C5-C6. They want to do some sort of injections that will at least tell them which nerves in that area are under pressure, and might even help relieve the problem. Said treatments are scheduled for next Thursday in Omaha. I can't wait.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Pale & Hefeweizen

As promised, eight barrels of Pale Ale got filtered into T1, and six barrels of Hefeweizen went into T3. I cleaned the filter and hoses and went home at 11:30 with a pounding headache. Whee.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Countdown to filtration

After cleaning the draft lines this morning, I kegged off the last of the Brown Ale in Tank #1 and the Hefeweizen in Tank #3. Now they're cleaned, sanitized, and pressurized. Tomorrow I'll filter the Pale Ale into T1 and run the new Hefeweizen into T3.

Look, Ma! No hands!

A very handy piece of apparel!

Just in time for Summerfest, Brew City Beer Gear is launching a shirt that will hang on to your drink for you: a hooded sweatshirt with a front pouch designed to hold a beverage while keeping your hands free.

Photo from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

"We've been working on it for close to three years," said George Keppler, a co-owner of the Milwaukee shirt company. He has a patent on the design.

Keppler said he would have brought the beer-pouch shirt to market sooner, but his lone sample was stolen from the Las Vegas apparel trade show where he tried to introduce it two years ago.

Read the entire article at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Feud brews between Capital, Bud

Too many lawyers, not enough beer.

Anheuser-Busch probably spills more beer in day than Capital Brewery makes in a year.

But a size difference hasn't stopped the world's largest brewing company from filing an objection to Capital's effort to trademark the phrase "America's #1 Rated Brewery."

The Middleton-based brewer began using the phrase following the 1998 Beverage Tasting Institute's World Beer Championships where Capital ended up seventh overall behind six European brewers.

Read the entire article at The Capital Times.

Beer's in a milkshake, but never on a sundae? cream. I first experienced the luxurious flavors of a Stout Float at CooperSmith's in Fort Collins back in 1994. Lots of brewpubs offer them now, including some that I've worked at.

Nothing says summer like a frosty milkshake or a cold beer. Just don't assume the two are mutually exclusive.

Beer-flavored ice cream — often made with splashes of hearty brews such as stout — have become staples on dessert menus in brewpubs across the nation.

A British dairy caused a stir recently when it came out with New Castle Brown Ale-flavored ice cream, a creamy concoction that is said to highlight the distinctive New Castle taste. Unfortunately, the product appears to be available only in England.

Read the entire article at The Cleveland Plain Dealer.

Beer Prices Come To A Head; Ethanol Blamed

Sure, switching barley production to corn to feed the ethanol plants might be a cause of rising beer prices. But with gasoline and diesel at record high prices (in the U.S. anyway), the shipping of raw materials and finished goods is also more expensive than it's ever been.

It's the latest example of the trickle-down economics of ethanol -- beer is getting more expensive.

Compared to this time last year, beer prices are up about 3 percent across the nation, according to the Labor Department. The increase marks the largest jump in more than two years.

One big reason, according to some brewers, is the rising cost of barley. A high demand for corn-based ethanol has many farmers devoting more fields to their corn crop and less to barley.

Read the entire article at WGAL.

Can you pick out your brew?

This is so obvious that it requires no comment on my part.

Put samples of half a dozen or so mass-market American beers before a panel of drinkers in a blind taste test, and even the most confirmed quaffers would be lucky to match two to the right brand.

But put half a dozen or so mass-market American beer advertising slogans or jingles before a panel of testers, and even teetotalers with some exposure to media would come close to a perfect score.

Try it yourself:

  • It's the water

  • From the land of sky-blue waters

  • The beer that made Milwaukee famous

  • The one beer to have when you're having more than one

  • The king of beers

  • The champagne of beers

That even non-imbibers would score well on such a quiz (some of you are not just humming the melody of the jingle but finishing out the verse) is testimony not only to the pervasive nature of mass-market advertising channels when combined with a memorable message. It's also evidence of the power of advertising to create brand identity — and customer loyalty — out of what is basically a commodity product, in which one brand is largely indistinguishable from another.

Read the entire article at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

Hark! It's 'The Canned Beer Apocalypse'

Canned beer definitely has a "cheap" image, but one that's not necessarily deserved. I have tasted some canned beers from Oskar Blues, as well as other craft breweries, and found them just as tasty as their bottled versions. And since cans are great packages for picnics, golf courses, ballparks, etc, we'll be seeing more and more small breweries starting to can their beers. Sam Spilker once told me that canning is expensive, and he doesn't like doing it, but it got exposure for his beers that he couldn't have got any other way.

The Canned Beer Apocalypse is both a joke and serious at the same time.

The phrase is actually a registered trademark of Oskar Blues Brewing Company in Lyons, Colo. Back in 2002, owner Dale Katechis, the namesake of Dale's Pale Ale, and maker of Old Chub Scottish Ale and Gordon, got a fax from Cask Brewing Systems, a Canadian company hawking canning contraptions to small, independent brewers like himself.

"Put my bold, hoppy Pale Ale into a can?" he scoffed. Then he laughed, long and loud, and continued to laugh for weeks. At some point, (exhaustion I presume) Dale stopped laughing and started learning, and you know what he found out?

Find out what he found out, at

The first week of July, more or less

  • Thursday, June 28: Filled root beer kegs.

  • Friday, June 29: Delivered root beer kegs to Council Bluffs and Lincoln. Stopped by Yia Yia's for lunch. The pizza was almost as excellent as the beer selection!

  • Monday, July 2: Went to see a spine specialist in Omaha. They took some more MRIs and X-rays of my neck and back, and said they'd get back to me with the results. I hope they find something treatable; I could barely walk this weekend. Had lunch at Crescent Moon as usual when I'm in town.

  • Tuesday, July 3: Cleaned the draft lines. Cleaned and filled a whole bunch kegs; in fact, I ran out of root beer before the order was filled. Broke the handle off the keg cleaner coupler. Picked up a pallet of sugar in Duncan, and used 750 pounds of it to make 21 barrels of root beer.

  • Thursday, July 5: Exeter homebrewer Chase Becker came to Columbus today to help brew two beers: seven barrels each of Brown Ale and Hefeweizen. (I say he "helped"...actually he did all the work.) Other than the slow runoff, the brews went pretty well. I called the manufacturer of the keg cleaner to see if I could get a new handle, figuring it would probably cost $30 or so. He told me they don't make that kind anymore, and I'd have to get a whole new coupler FOR A HUNDRED AND SEVENTY-FIVE BUCKS. So it should be here early next week. In the meantime, I have exactly one clean half-barrel.

  • Friday, July 6: Filled the rest of the root beer kegs and drove them to Norfolk. Filed June's tax reports, along with most of last week's invoices which I stupidly allowed to stack up on my desk.