Tag Archives: barley

Drinking Local in the Second Quarter of 2019

Here is what my beer purchasing looked like in the second quarter of the year:

second quarter beer.png

I want to apologize to the brewers at Barn Town Brewing for forgetting exactly which of their beers I drank following a spring bike ride in April.  It was an IPA and it was hazy.  After that my  memory has completely failed me.

A couple of things stand out.  First, I went a little overboard with the cans I brought home from Summit County.  There is no way to get Outer Range Brewing or Broken Compass Brewing beers except in the high country.  Plus, I wanted to share the experience with some people back home so I loaded up the cooler and acted like an old school bootlegger.  Twenty four cans of beer does not exactly make me a bootlegger, but let me have my moment.

Second, I bought a lot of so-called “middle craft” beers from brewers like New Belgium Brewery, Sierra Nevada, Firestone Walker, and Lagunitas among others.  Normally I would have little reason to choose a national craft brewer over something more local but a combination of grocery store sale pricing and rebates via the iBotta app changed my behavior.  The combination of the two often meant that I was buying a twelve pack of Sierra Nevada Hazy Little thing for less than $14.  That would compare with a local beer selling for $18-20 for the equivalent number of cans.

Once the summer rebates and pricing go away so does my interest.  Plus, Big Grove Brewery is carpet bombing the retail beer landscape here in eastern Iowa with twelve packs now.

Friday Linkage 1/23/2015

I am taking a certain sick pleasure in watching the current Republican controlled Congress. The Senate recently voted, nearly unanimously, to admit that climate change was real and not a hoax. The same Senate also did not pass a resolution saying human actions were the cause of global warming. Okay, Mr. Wizard, what is the cause of climate change?

On to the links…

Ocean Life Faces Mass Extinction, Broad Study Says—Basically, the oceans are dying and we are to blame. It’s not too late to save the oceans, but it will take coordinated…ah, screw it. We’re too stupid and narrow minded as a species to do anything to actually save the oceans. Let’s go shopping.

S.F. Bay Bird Rescue: Mystery Goo Bedevils Experts—There is a mystery goo, it’s a technical term folks, that is coating and killing birds in the Bay Area. If we did not need more proof about the dire health of the oceans, here it is.

India’s Tiger Population Increases by almost a Third—The animal is still critically endangered and there are many threats to a continued recovery, but the effort is being expended to make this a success story. That in and of itself should be a ray of sunshine on a Friday morning.

A Brief History of the Oil Crash—As I write this post oil is trading sub-$50 per barrel. The rolling 52 week high was just over $100. This is an interesting look at the causes of the price crash.

Graph Dispels The Myth That Cheap Gas Means Cheap Energy—Oil is just one energy source and the energy source that leads to a near daily price interaction as many of us drive by gas stations advertising the price of a gallon of gas. However, the total cost of our energy is a much more varied picture.

Single-Family Residential Solar Power Investment Beats S&P 500 in Most US Cities—I am not suggesting that you stop investing in your 401K, but maybe solar on your own roof could be seen as an investment just like that condo your Uncle Benny keeps talking about in Boca Raton.

Largest-Ever Study Quantifies Value Of Rooftop Solar—People are willing to pay more for homes with solar PV systems. Did this really need to have a study to confirm?

Florida Power & Light Solar Rebate Sells Out Completely In 3 Minutes—Florida is not the friendliest state to renewables. Heck, Florida is not the friendliest state to its own residents. However, this rebate program’s quick sellout confirms a market demand for solar power in the Sunshine State.

Why It’s Taking The U.S. So Long To Make Fusion Energy Work—Fusion is the unicorn of energy technology: cheap, plentiful, pollution free…a man can dream can’t he? Too bad it always seems like it is a decade away.

Striking Photos Show Struggle Of Farmers In California Drought—Maps showing drought conditions are nice, but sometimes photos convey a lot more meaning without being technical. Our best understanding of the misery of the Dust Bowl comes not from facts and figures but from striking monochrome photos.

Experts Zero in on Pizza as Prime Target in War on Childhood Obesity—Damn, I have never been so glad that my kids are not pizza eating wild animals like a lot of other kids. Tacos and breakfast burritos are our problem.

Craft Beer Uses 4 Times As Much Barley As Corporate Brew—It turns out that Natty Light really is just watered down real beer.

Faux Craft: Colorado Native Lager

What is craft beer? This is a question that is vexing the industry as formerly small batch brewers grow and expand or big brewers make moves into the craft market via mergers, acquisitions, and brand extensions.

Take Blue Moon for example. To most people who occasionally drink beer it is a craft beer. It is not carrying the label of any of the big three—Miller, Coors, or Budweiser—and it is a style of beer that differs dramatically from your typical light American lager. However, for its entire life Blue Moon has been brewed under the aegis of Coors.

Colorado Native Lager is another product, like Blue Moon, that is brewed by a subsidiary under the aegis of Coors. This time it is brewed by the AC Golden Brewing Company—AC for Adolph Coors perhaps—which operates a brewhouse within the larger Coors complex in Golden—hence the Golden in the name.

The marketing gimmick is excellent. It is brewed only with ingredients from Colorado and it is available only in Colorado. Sort of creates the same mystique that Coors had in the 1970s when people would make road trips to the Centennial State in order to bring back a trunk load of the banquet beer. Can you imagine someone doing that now? We would think they were insane.

So, how does the beer stack up:

Colorado Native

First off, I am less and less of a lager fan every day. Some people will claim that the lager style is simpler and that the lack of any overtones from the yeast allows the hops to shine through. I get none of that with lagers. The aroma that gets me is burnt or off in some similar way that I cannot place.

Second, this beer is sweet. Not cider sweet or Smirnoff Ice sweet, but sweet like a shandy without the lemon hit to balance the sweetness somewhat. There is no sugar in the ingredient list, but I would not be surprised if some honey from the San Luis Valley made its way into the fermentation vessel.

Third, for a beer that claims in its hop bill to have Chinook, Centennial, and Cascade there is very little discernible hop flavor or aroma. It is very muddled. Generally, Chinook is a very distinctive hop—especially when used for dry hopping—and the other two hops are distinctive craft brewing staples.

Last, it comes in those silly cans like Coors Light that have a slightly different geometry than any other twelve ounce can in the world. Why is this a pain? Try combining a twelve pack of disparate cans and discovering that some of the cans are just a little taller. God damn it.

Overall, the gimmick of being made in Colorado from Colorado ingredients and available only in Colorado can take the beer just a little bit beyond failure:

Purchased One Mug Rating

In the past I have been harsh to other “faux craft” beers because I think there is something much more to being craft than purely size. It’s an ethos that is separate from the mega breweries that gave us pale liquid sold more by girls in bikinis than the quality of the drinking experience.

Friday Linkage 10/18/2013

I am sorry that this is going to be a somewhat brief set of links, but I am in Florida on vacation and do not have access to computing resources.  This is not the fault of Florida, although I do love to blame the state for many things, but rather a conscious choice to keep the evils of work related email from ruining my time off.

On to the links…

Florida Panther Bolts from Holding Box into the Wild—Everything in Florida is not bad.  Here is a great picture of a panther, rescued as a kitten, being released into the wild:


Photo is from the Florida Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Hawaiian Monk Seal’s Extraordinary Life Illustrates Conservation Challenges—Kamilo, a 6-month old Hawaiian monk seal, has already had a pretty eventful life.  Recently, the monk seal was relocated to Nihau after playfully nipping some swimmers off the shores of the Big Island.  These critically endangered marine mammals face so many challenges.

The Ambitious Restoration of an Undammed Western River—The slow restoration of the Elwha River in Washington is an amazing story of our capacity to right environmental wrongs.  The story is not complete and the restoration of the watershed has a long way to go, but the seeds are present.

The Secret to Resiliency: Neighbors—When facing a system that degrades into chaos, resiliency is going to be critical.  Too often, however, the systems we design to face chaos are engineered around a single point of failure—the individual.  If you rely on a single person—yourself—to maintain survival you are invariably going to fail.

SolarCity Expects to Install 80% More System in 2014 versus 2013—SolarCity released guidance for FY14 that showed it expects a pretty sporty increase in the number of systems it install in terms of year-over-year change.  This is wicked good because it is putting PV systems on roofs in a visible way that speeds adoption by other interested parties.

Putting Robots to Work in Solar Energy—Every day brings a story about how technology is bringing down the balance of system costs that have remained stubbornly high while panel costs have shrunk dramatically.  For large installations the answer might be robot labor to take care of the tedious tasks.

Norway’s Massive Government Pension Fund might be Invested in Renewables—If you want to talk about a game changer, look no further than Norway’s oil wealth fund or Government Pension Fund.   Currently, it stands at approximately $790B and it might be investing in renewables.  That much money being pumped into the sector would move the needle.

After Sparking Outrage In Detroit, Koch Brothers’ Tar Sands Waste Now Piling Up In Chicago—It looks like the Koch Brothers or their related companies are looking to move the mess of petcoke from the shores of Detroit to Chicago.  Apparently, property along the Calumet River may become home to this nasty crap.

250 Pasta Shapes You Should Know—Just 250?  I will get right on it:

Pasta Pasta

I might have to buy the poster from Pop Chart Labs.

Drought-Hardy Barley Could Save Your Beer—The world is heading toward a future that is hotter and drier, in general, which does not bode well for my beer habit.  Some scientists in Germany are trying to create drought tolerant barley that will allow future generations to enjoy some beer.

Drinking With Your Eyes: How Wine Labels Trick Us Into Buying—Damn marketers, make a label pretty and I want to buy it.  But what about those simple, artisan hipster labels?  Does that repulse me?

Cockroach Farms Multiplying in China—Why do I think that we are going to be reading stories in the not too distant future that talk about Chinese meat being raised on a diet of insect protein?  Granted, the story is about the use of cockroaches in the cosmetic industry and traditional Asian medicines.  I am just waiting for feed blocks to show up at a Smithfield plant comprised of compressed cockroach bodies.

Synchronicity Has Landed

When I saw the description of Northern Brewer’s Synchronicity recipe kit I was hooked.  The official description of the deliciously named Synchronicity Extraordinaire Wheaten Saison Extract Kit says that this beer possesses a “supercharged burst of fresh citrus flavors paired with the slick smoothness of silky wheat.”

It sounded like the perfect beer for cool summer nights following sun baked days.  It’s well-known that I have a certain predilection for Leinenkugel’s Summer Shandy and I think that a lot of that attraction has to do with the citrus flavors.  Heck, I usually choose citrus flavors for almost everything I consume so why should beer be any different?

The recipe kit included organic sweet orange peel and organic dried lemongrass in addition to the usual malt extract, honey, and hops.  Everything was brewed up and I waited the requisite time before cracking open the first bottle, which I have increased from two to three weeks because the increase in time really does seem to mellow any harsh notes out.  The result:


After the insane amount of carbonation in about half the bottles of my Chinook IPA batch and the experience of being nearly drowned by Lightning Thunderweizen I was pleased to open a beer with a gentle amount of head.  Whew!

According to iBrewMaster calculations this beer should clock in at 3.8 ABV and 50 IBU.  At that low of an alcohol you are starting to get into Berliner weiss category of low alcohol.  In all honesty, the beer does not taste that low in alcohol nor does it taste like a 50 IBU beer.  I have beers with IBU ratings around 30 that tasted more bitter.

I would like to attribute the smooth drinking to the addition of sweet orange peel and lemongrass, but neither of those flavors is really prominent in the final product.  This is really surprising considering that when I poured the beer into the carboy it smelled like an orange explosion.  Little if any of these aromas survived several weeks in the carboy and another three in bottles.

All in all, Synchronicity is a really good recipe kit and an especially welcome beer during the summer.  I have a get together in St. Louis planned for about a month, so two more batches of beer are bubbling away right now: a batch of Lefse blonde and a batch of Phat Tyre Ale.  It’s a risk to take an unproven beer down to my friends–fierce beer critics all–but I am feeling the beer vibes after several successful batches without a hiccup.  Okay, some of those Chinook IPA bottles were a little over carbonated.

First December Beer Thoughts

The Christmas songs are out in full force wherever you go, people are carrying those red cups from Starbucks, and suddenly people think it is appropriate to put strange looking reindeer decorations in their cubicles at work.  The holidays always turn my thoughts to…beer.  Big surprise.

Dry Irish Stout

The latest beer is done bottle condition and is ready to drink.  It’s a Dry Irish Stout recipe:

Dry Irish Stout

The original recipe, as it came from Northern Brewer, called for a more bitter beer than I wanted.  So, I reduced the boil time for the hops to reduce the bitterness down to approximately 40 IBU which is where a lot of people place the popular Guinness Draught stout.

Unlike Guinness Draught from a tap or can, my stout does not get the benefit of a nitrogen dispensing system or whatever that little widget is in the can that rattles around when empty.  The result is that the homebrew version lacks some of the creaminess that I associate with stout.  Not a deal breaker, per se, but it is a little bit disappointing in some ways.

However, the bitterness profile is spot on and this is a great beer for colder nights.  One way to really take things up a notch would be to introduce some cold pressed coffee extract.  Like, I don’t know, Surly’s Coffee Bender…

Innkeeper, Brickwarmer Red, and American Amber Ale

A batch of the Innkeeper extract ale kit from Northern Brewer is set to be bottled sometime on Sunday or Monday evening.  I brewed this same recipe earlier in the year and was very pleased with the results.  For some reason I felt compelled to return to the recipe.  It revolves around my interest in brewing styles of beer that are harder to define than India Pale Ale or porter or whatever.  It’s also about a search for finding beer styles that can have bold flavors, both in terms of malt and hops, without becoming hop bombs.

Next up after the Innkeeper are two recipe kits: Brickwarmer Red and American Amber Ale.  The Brickwarmer seems like the perfect beer for January and February when the weather is the coldest and you just want to snuggle under a blanket.  Not the right time of year for a light wheat beer or saison, but perfect for a heavier beer with spice.  Maybe an ugly sweater will complement the beer perfectly.

The American Amber Ale kit is going to be a little bit of a departure from the recipe as specified by the good folks from Northern Brewer.  Originally, the recipe called out Wyeast 1056 American Ale yeast.  Honestly, I am very bored with both strains of American Ale yeast (1056 and 1272).  The yeasts produce fine beer, but like the description points out these are yeasts that are meant to produce a beer that takes a backseat to bold hop flavors.

I chose to take the recipe kit and combine with the Wyeast 1332 Northwest Ale.  My hope is that this yeast will produce a beer with a distinct flavor profile versus a somewhat blank canvas like 1056 and 1272.  Only time in the carboy will tell.

How to Identify the Hops in Your Beer

The more I delve into the manufacturing of beer and the vast array of ingredients available the more I think the entire community is getting a little Sideways at time with the hops.  I am half expecting to go into Benz Beverage Depot and see a couple of guys looking at a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon while wondering about the variety of hops it uses.

Nonetheless, some hops have very different flavors and aromas.  If you are brewing your own beer or spending $12 a six pack for beer it is important to know what you like and what you do not.  Here is a handy guide for starting to identify the hops in your beer.

Beer Mythbusting

Apparently, there is some truth to the oft told tale that the pilgrims ended up landing in present day Massachusetts because the supply of beer was running low.  Huh, who would have thought?

There are some other interesting beer mythbusting going on in the same article.