Saturday, May 30, 2009

Pints for Pets Was Terrific

Just a quick post - the 2nd Annual Pints for Pets was terrific (again). The early session was laid back and not crowded at all, although I understand the later session was close to sold out. Tons of great brews available - more than I could try in 3 hours. I tried several good ones, but the stand out beer was Bullfrog Frambozen. It was a raspberry lambic, blended from two separate batches. I felt like I was back in Belgium drinking something special from Cantillon or Drie Fonteinen. Sour, funky, and full of raspberry goodness.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Brewpub and Brewery Operations: Day 15

We had a packed last day of class! Tom and I met early to chill some beer and get a few things ready for the food-beer tasting. Unfortunately, one of our students opened the fridge a bit fast and we lost two bottles of bitter ... sniffle. Anyway, after that clean up, we started class with the final exam, which covered beer brewing, styles, etc. This took most people between 30-45 minutes to take.

Next, we got to our four group presentations on brewpub or brewery feasibility studies. I have to say all five in the past two days were quite inventive and well-presented. I'd visit all five of them if they were to open (of course it didn't hurt to find a couple of beers named in my honor).

The final bit of class was a beer-food pairing. Most all of the students brought in food dishes ranging from chili or nacho dips to wings, ribs, cheese, and pasta. All in all, a great spread and the beers both turned out well.

Tom said that this was the best group of students in the three years he's taught the course. They did an excellent job, had some fun, learned a lot, and were generally pleasant to work with. Hopefully, I'll be invited back to help out again next summer - and will gladly do so!

Thanks for reading - we now return you to your normally scheduled blogging.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Brewpub and Brewery Operations: Day 14

Next to the last day! I took up the first half hour discussing more on beer styles, trying to link characteristics to those we'd tried during the course. I showed the students a couple of beer websites (like RateBeer and Beer Advocate that have their own style guides but are both influenced by the Beer Judge Certification Program guidelines.

Next, we had some student presenters give small talks (as make up work for missing class) on various subjects. The first student talked about marketing as it relates to brewpub/breweries. The second gave a talk on the calculation of ABV from specific gravities and its relation to the density of ethanol and water. The third gave some history on just a few breweries/brewpubs in PA.

After this, the students hit the computer lab while Tom and I met with individual groups to go over their feasibility study slides. At 11, we all re-gathered in the main lecture room to listen to one of the five feasibility studies. It was an idea for a brewpub in the North Hills of Pittsburgh. They included initial costs, types of equipment, beer menu (with names), food menu, and an overall plan.

Tomorrow is the last day and we start with the final exam.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Brewpub and Brewery Operations: Day 13

The majority of today's class was taken up by a great talk from state police Sgt. J. Jones, a member of the Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement, which under no circumstances should be confused with the PLCB. Sgt. Jones talked for almost 90 minutes about all of the considerations of running a licensed establishment, including the rules and regs for serving, open hours, gambling, and ID checks. He finished the talk with a segment on fake IDs and how to spot them. He also passed around several confiscated IDs from different states. It's amazing how poorly some people try to create a fake ID.

After Sgt. Jones left, one of our students gave a brief presentation (as make-up work for missing a field trip day) on safety in brewpubs/breweries. He's a safety science major and so this brought some new viewpoints to the operations side. Next, we assembled everyone in the computer room for more group feasibility project work. Tom and I met with some students about their presentations that are happening tomorrow and Friday.

Tom and I also cracked open a bottle each of the bitter and the lager that we brewed in class. Both had carbed up pretty well and should be good for Friday's final tasting/food pairing. Each could use a little longer to optimize, but we're dealing with a tight schedule.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Brewpub and Brewery Operations: Day 12

We started today's lecture with a bit of talk on yeast in a bit more detail than I'd covered before during the brewing process.

Our scheduled guest speaker to was Linda Chicka from ARIN IU-28 to talk about alcoholism - including the signs of alcohol addiction, how it affects work/productivity, and what to do about employees under your supervision who may be alcoholics. The facts and figures on the cost of alcoholism to taxpayers and businesses is, if you'll forgive the pun, sobering. It's a hard problem.

Finally, students handed in their brew tour journals from last week's trips. I spent the afternoon reading over those and editing the final exam. Tomorrow, we'll have a member of the state police talk to us for a while, then get in depth with more beer styles.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Brewpub and Brewery Operations: Day 11

Today was more class time, down in the computer room. First we finished the Beer Clean Glasses video, which explained the proper way to clean and test for cleanliness in beer glasses in addition to pouring a good head. A bit cheesy in its production value, but informative nonetheless.

Following this, we let the students work in their groups on the feasibility studies for their PA brewpub. As they worked, we also brought up some helpful websites for them to look at, including: RateBeer, the U.S. Census Fact Finder, the PA Restaurant Inspection Database, and the PLCB license search. You can find a lot of neat information on these sites, although you may NOT want to know what health infractions your favorite eatery has been sited for!

With a bit of remaining time, I lectured on water quality and its role in the brewing process. Tomorrow we're having an outside speaker talk about alcoholism and dealing with employees who may be alcoholics.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Brewpub and Brewery Operations: Day 10

After four days of road trips, it was nice to be back in the classroom. We started today with an hour-long debriefing on all the places we visited this week. It was a good chance to have a discussion about the different brew houses, menus, etc. and find out what students liked and disliked.

After a short break, Tom handed out several papers on food-beer pairing, and also an equipment pricing sheet for brewing equipment. After a short discussion, we headed to the computer room to watch a video of a Food Network show on brewpubs, hosted by Al Roker.

Finally, we organized the work groups for the brewpub feasibility studies.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Brewpub and Brewery Operations: Day 9

The last day of field tripping was also the shortest. Today, we left at 9am and drove to Rivertowne Pour House in Monroeville. We started the visit with a tour of the facility and then headed to a small meeting room for a presentation by brewers Andrew and Barrett (Sean, formerly of Johnstown was also there, but he was brewing).

For about an hour, Andrew and Barrett gave us a talk on all of the considerations you must take into account when opening a brewpub versus a microbrewery - from operating expenses, material costs, employee costs, licenses, utilities, etc. Quite enlightening, and considering some of the archaic PA laws, it's amazing that anyone would even venture into this type of enterprise. Well, kudos to those who do and we're thankful for it!

Afterwards, we enjoyed a great lunch and some beer, then headed home. Tomorrow, we pick up with lecture again.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Brewpub and Brewery Operations: Day 8

Today was day 3 of 4 for field trips and we found ourselves back in Pittsburgh. We left a bit later today because our morning plan to go to North Country was scrapped. The class has gone there in the past, but this year despite repeated calls, no one would get back to us. Hope everything is OK in Slippery Rock!

So, we left at 11:00 and drove down to the Hofbräuhaus Pittsburgh by 12:30. We were seated at two adjacent tables and enjoyed a great lunch of German fare, with some great beer to boot (well, no one got a boot glass, but that's another story). After lunch, we met with Ed, the head brewer, Eckhard, the brewmaster, and Tom, the general manager. They gave us an informal presentation on the store, the brewing, etc. After which, we got a small brewhouse tour. Interestingly, all the beer is brewed on site here - except for the Maibock (now on tap) and the Oktoberfest. Both, because of licensing issues, must be imported from Germany.

After our tour, we drove across town to Church Brew Works. Here we were greeted by Brant, the head brewer, and given a quite thorough tour of the facility and a great presentation on the brewing process. We even got to see the yeast lab. After a brief taster, it was time to wrestle through rush hour traffic and head back home.

A big thanks to Ed, Eckhard, Tom, and Brant!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Brewpub and Brewery Operations: Day 7

Another day of field tripping today - this time everyone went to the same places. We left IUP at about 10:30 and drove to Edgewood to visit D's Six Pack & Dogz, arguably the best bottle shop in the Burgh. The students were able to find many more styles and brands of beer that just aren't available to us over here in Indiana, and most walked away with some bottles of good stuff. We also met briefly with the owner (and I just completely blanked on his name - sorry!) and Hootie, "The Executive Director of the Nectar".

Next, we drove over to the Sharp Edge Beer Emporium on St. Clair Street for a late lunch and tour of one of the best Belgian beer bars. Hart, the director of beverage acquisitions for the 4-store chain was there to talk to us about the locations, their beer selection, and all the challenges of running a place in the Pittsburgh area. He was also gracious in giving us happy hour beer flight prices! After a great lunch, we got a tour of the place, including the beer storage area.

Finally, we made our way over to our final stop, East End Brewing. Scott and his assistant brewer (sorry - forgot his name, too!) were on hand to tour us around the brewery and offer up some samples of their beers. When the tour was over, the students (and the instructors) purchased a growler of stuff to go (in my case, two growlers and two bottles). We hit some rush hour traffic but did make it back home in fairly good time.

After a long day on the road, I then had to host the May meeting of the Indiana Homebrewers' Club. Students from the class were invited, but only one showed - not surprising since they'd been with either Tom or me all day: why ruin their evening ;)

Anyway, a homebrewer and former student of mine was the guest tonight and he showed us how to build some nice mash/lauter tuns and hot liquor tanks from picnic coolers using PEX tubing. Other than missing a few pieces not available at Lowe's, I'm just about done with mine. I'm anxious to start the all-grain brewing for the summer again.

Thanks to our hosts today at D's, Sharp Edge, and East End! Tomorrow, it's off to Pittsburgh again for the Hofbräuhaus and Church Brew Works.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Brewery and Brewpub Operations: Day 6

Today was the first day of field trips. Tom started early and left at 6:45 with his group to go to Red Star Brewing in Greensburg. Afterwards, they were going to go to Rock Bottom in Homestead at the Waterfront.

My group left just a bit later at 7:20 and drove to Marzoni's in Duncansville. Bill was brewing a batch of Avalanche IPA today and we arrived in time to see the transfer of the mash liquor to the brew kettle. Bill graciously and patiently answered several questions from the students, gave them a tour of the facilities, and then took us to the bar for a sampling of the Marzoni's lineup. Today's specials were the Scotch Ale and a great Maibock. After the sampling, several students took turns raking grain out of the mash tun.

We left Marzoni's at about 11:15 and drove to State College. We arrived at Otto's Pub & Brewery at 12:15 and started with a round of drinks and lunch. The Bourbon Barrel Aged Jolly Roger was still on cask, but unfortunately the Double D IPA was off tap for a few hours. After a terrific lunch, we got a tour of the brewing operations. Charlie was off premises today at a fly fishing tournament, so Nick was happy to step in for all of the questions from the students.

A big thanks to all of the brewers and other staff today for their patience and great hospitality.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Zeno's and Otto's Never Fail to Please

Yesterday, my wife and I went to State College for the first time (together) since last year's Arts Fest. After enjoying a good lunch at Faccia Luna and driving around to see what had changed, we parked downtown and did some walking around and shopping.

Of course, after walking around for a while, one does tend to build up a thirst. So into Zeno's we went for a refreshing draught. I was anxious to try a couple of Zeno's brews - brewed by Otto's. The first was the Rye Ale, a nice specialty grain brew that was very nice - great hoppy character. The second one was a Schwarzbier aka Black Lager. It was a bit sweeter - almost like a porter - than other German Schwarzbiers that I've had, but very tasty. While I was drinking those, my wife enjoyed a glass of Dupont Avec les Bons Voeux saison from draught! Delicious.

As I ordered our first round, I notice a gentleman sitting at the bar taking some notes on the beer he was drinking. I struck up a conversation only to find out that he was another RateBeer user (frothingslosh) from Greensburg whom I'd talked to on the site several times but never got to meet in person. Small world.

We left Zeno's and did some more stuff down town, then I got dropped off at Otto's while my wife did some more shopping at Target, etc. I walked into the bar, only to sit down next to frothingslosh again! Luckily, the Bourbon-Barrel Aged Jolly Roger Imperial Stout was still on cask. Absolutely delicious and sublime. Following that, I had some cask Arthur's Best Bitter.

All in all, a successful beer day. After a quick appetizer, we headed over to see the new Star Trek movie, which was really good despite the fact that neither of us is a Trekkie.

Friday, May 08, 2009

A New Blog and A "New" Beer Place in Indiana,PA

Our good friend, homebrew club founder emeritus, and assistant brewer at Earth Bread + Brewery, Jon, has started a new blog: Proclamations of a Malt Lover.

And wonder of wonders, one of our existing bars here in Indiana has stepped up its game in the craft beer arena... Boomerangs (formerly Kangaroos to us older folks) has just this week installed a 20-tap system! Although it's not up to Pittsburgh/Philly beer bar quality, it's going to give The Coney and HB Culpepper's a run. In addition to several standard macros and macro imports, there is Hoegaarden, Brooklyn Brown Ale, RedHook CopperHook, Lagunitas IPA, Magic Hat #9, and Lindemans Framboise.

There's hope for this town yet!

Brewpub and Brewery Operations: Day 5

Today was bottling day for the most part. Tom and I and a few students were in early at 8am to sanitize equipment and bottles. Once the rest of the class showed up, we started the explanation of and demonstration of the bottling process - then turned the students loose.

Both beers smelled and tasted pretty good having only been fermented since Monday - both had pretty good attenuation. The lager went to 1.012 and the ale to 1.015. We got just under two cases for each, and they're now safely conditioning in a store room until two weeks from today, when we'll crack them open. Keep your fingers crossed.

After cleaning up, we went to the classroom to take the RAMP exam, which Tom will score and process for us. We then started watching a rather commercialized video on beer clean glasses until the VCR-computer combination stopped working. Hopefully we can finish that up next Friday. Why wait until next Friday? Field trips start on Monday!

Tom is taking one group to Red Star in Greensburg to watch some brewing, then heading to Rock Bottom. I'll be taking a group to Marzoni's to watch some brewing, and then head up to Otto's for lunch and a tour. Should be fun.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Brewpub and Brewery Operations: Day 4

So today I got a break from teaching and got to do some learning. After figuring out who is going with who next Monday for the field trip, Tom started into the Responsible Alcohol Management Program (RAMP) training.

Essentially, the training goes over what alcohol does to the body, what occurs to the body at different BAC levels, what factors affect BAC (body mass, time, alcohol dosage, etc.), and what to look for in a patron who has had too much.

In addition, we covered several legal aspects of RAMP, including what forms of ID are acceptable in PA, what liabilities are assumed by the bar and its employees, and what specific laws apply to restaurants and clubs in PA with regard to hours of operation, last call, and alcohol service.

So, in PA if you're 21 years old or older, you can bring your child (of any age) into the bar as you drink. If you bring your niece who's not your ward, you cannot drink if you're not 25 or older. If you're 21 and married to a 20 year old, you cannot sit at the same table with your spouse if you wish to drink. Some odd, odd logic in this state.

Tomorrow, we're going to bottle the beers that we made on Monday and take the RAMP exam. For passing the exam, we get a two-year certification in RAMP.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Brewpub and Brewery Operations: Day 3

Day 3 went well. I basically talked about beer for 2.5 hours, which is always fun. We finished up the main discussion of the brewing process during the first half of class, and although I skipped over some detailed slides, I think they got the main ideas. If I get more lecture time later, I can revisit a few sections.

At the half way point, we started into a discussion of beer styles. I used the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) as a reference to discuss what makes a style and how you can experience a beer in terms of style. Last night, I went out and bought three six packs to showcase three styles. When I got to class this morning, one of the students actually said he'd brought a six pack, too.

So, for the latter half of class, we discussed four styles of beer and some of their close relatives. First, we talked about American Wheats and did so while enjoying Leinenkugel's Summer Wheat, donated by a student. For each of the beers, we discussed the characteristics and 'vital stats' of the style, and cited characteristic examples. Not a bad way to spend the late morning...

As for the other styles that I brought: the second beer was Victory Golden Monkey as a Belgian Tripel; the third style was an American IPA and I was lucky enough to find a six pack of Stone IPA - an excellent beer; and finally, the fourth style was a stout (probably more of a sweet stout) exemplified by Bell's Kalamazoo Stout. The students seemed to enjoy all of the samples and I think it was an eye opener for the majority to experience some beers more complex than Guinness or Old Milwaukee.

Tomorrow, I get a break from lecturing so that Tom can start into the Responsible Alcohol Management Program or RAMP.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Brewpub and Brewery Operations: Day 2

Today's class was mainly lecture, by me, about the brewing process. We discussed the overall processes involved in malting and the chemical components of malt and got about half way through the mashing process before calling it quits. At the midpoint of lecture, we went down to the kitchen lab to check on the status of our beers from yesterday - happily bubbling away. Tom also had the students fill out proof of age forms.

We then had a small tasting. I didn't make it out last night to the store, so I shared two homebrews with them: the Fantome clone from 2007 (still gushing) and the second (2008) batch of Commonplace Coffee Porter.

Tomorrow I'll be wrapping up the brewing process and starting into beer styles, so tonight I'm going to buy six packs of three different styles of beer that we can taste and discuss during lecture. Rough job, I know, but someone's gotta do it.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Brewpub and Brewery Operations: Day 1

Today was the first day of May intersession classes that run from May 4-22, and marks the beginning of HRIM-404 Brewpub and Brewery Operations (actually, that course number was only recently approved so it's still really HRIM-481, but that's neither here nor there). Anyway - it was the first day of a three-week course about beer!

I'm team-teaching this course with another instructor (Tom) who specializes in the drinks management, beverage service, alcohol awareness portions of the class. I bring the geeky chemistry and home brewing knowledge to the table. Tom and I arrived at 7:30 to set up all of our ingredients and equipment in the kitchen lab of the food & nutrition/HRIM building. I picked up all of the ingredients at our local homebrew supply shop, Montgomery Underground Winery. Tom Montgomery (a different Tom), the proprietor of the shop, was kind enough to let me borrow a grain mill for crushing our whole malts.

After setting up, we met our students in a lecture room and went over the syllabus and orders for the day. All 18 students showed up, which was encouraging. After everyone got changed into proper kitchen attire, we headed down to the kitchen to start the brewing. With that many students, we set up two brewing stations - one for the British bitter and one for the Czech lager. I had typed up a recipe/instruction sheet for each so the students could take them home and also to use while brewing. Tom and I talked the students through the entire process, from some crushed grain steeping to the yeast pitching. We did run a bit late, but I was pleased to see most of the students could stay longer than 11:30 to finish the job.

Both batches are hopefully bubbling away in the storage closet and will be ready for bottling on Friday.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Brewpub & Brewery Operations - Prepping For Class

Today and tomorrow I will be preparing for the Brewpub and Brewery Operations (HRIM-404) class that I'm co-teaching from May 4-22. On Monday (Day 1), we're brewing two 5-gallon batches of beer so that we can (hopefully) have some to drink by Day 15.

The first recipe is a British bitter, from which the majority come from Dave's notes. In honor of his contribution, I've named the recipe Hwart's Bitter (small inside joke). Why a bitter? Well - because of scientific research: I had three chemistry students do water testing on our local water this semester. They looked for certain ions that define water quality, then compared our levels to those of famous brewing waters. The result was that the best beer to make here in Indiana, PA is a bitter. We'll see how it goes.

The second recipe is a Czechvar clone, a bit lower gravity and using only Saaz hops. Also, we're going to try to use California lager yeast to ferment, since it knocks out a bit quicker and at a bit higher temperature. Keep those fingers crossed!

Both batches will be brewed on Day 1, bottled on Day 5 (Fri.), and opened for drinking on Day 15 (last Fri.).

In order to aid in that process, today I'll be making two yeast starters. Going to use about 4 oz. of DME in 1 qt of water for the wort. We'll see how it goes. Tomorrow, I'll be filling up my sanitized brew bucket with 5-6 gallons of my filtered tap water to use for the bitter. My colleague is bringing in 5-6 gallons of well water for the lager.

Sun May 3 update: The yeast starters are bubbling along quite nicely and should be ready to pitch tomorrow morning. I have all of my ingredients boxed up and ready to pack in the car, and I'm filling up the brew bucket with water in just a few minutes. I've been working on slides all days, but my lectures don't start until Tuesday, so I have a bit more prep time.