Thou art my joy both night and morning"
-Good Ale: folk song-
Vol. 8, No. 11
The Meeting: What's Happening
The Last Meeting
The Tumbleweed Report
Spencer Thomas: 994-0072
Josh Grosse: 769-0906
There's one event scheduled: picking the club's entry into the AHA Specialty Quest competition. Bring your herb and spice beers, your fruit beers, and your vegetable beers, and we'll have at `em!
Dan and Spencer will be freshly back from the Spirit of Belgium with news of the conference and competition. Can we expect that with at least 8 entries from the AABG that we'll have a winner?
Bring your Brewola beers and we'll taste them around, too.
Late news: we may get to sample Bell's special Java Stout that was brewed for the Taste of the Great Lakes conference.
Business included the awarding of prizes from the Mt. Clemens competition. Tom Dimmer took away several. Other winners were Len Lescosky, Mike Tomaszewski, and Spencer Thomas. Mike took Best of Show for his Bock beer in a closely contested race. Spencer and Dan McConnell came very close with their Belgian Wit.
Rolf is looking for a new home for the club pico-brewery. Bill Pfeiffer is housing it now. It would be nice to have it a bit closer to Ann Arbor, though.
There were several new members. Chris Cooper and Mark Hogle introduced themselves to Spencer, probably because he had made the original connection with them by e-mail. Welcome to all, even if we didn't get your name.
There were several examples of the Brewola Belgian Ale. We again got to see (well, taste & smell) the amazing differences imparted by the yeast choice. Bill Pfeiffer's example was brewed with the Belgian grains, and fermented with a mixture of YeastLab Trappist Ale and a culture of LaChouffe yeast. It has a fruity, "bubble gum" aroma, and was a pleasant, easily drinkable beer. We didn't get to taste Dennis Raney's, because we were late. Jim Johnston had a very nice beer, a bit stronger than the target, fermented with Gauloise yeast from Dan. It had a very nice spicy phenolic note, with some malt, and a definite dry, bitter finish. Mike O'Brien and Dave West brewed 100 gallons and fermented it with the yeast from one of Jim's carboys. It was lighter in body, but sweeter (maybe because they used Schreier 2-row instead of Belgian Pilsner malt). The spiciness of Jim's was not as well defined in this one. Hal Buttermore also had a good one, made with the LaChouffe yeast, a touch clovey with a sharp bitterness.
Bill Pfeiffer was also pouring a robust porter with a definite roastiness and a huge brown head. Tom Dimmer brought his Lawnmower Man pale ale (1st place, state fair), a Raspberry wheat, and a Belgian Dubbel. Jim Rigney had a nice pale ale. Neil Fuenmayer, a new member, brought Yuengling Porter, but unfortunately it was all gone before we got there. Ken Schramm appeared with a Cherry Maple Stout that was nice, indeed (but you should have brought more, Ken!)
We didn't get to taste Bill Semion's Prairie Lemon Grass Ale, but it sure sounds interesting. Also in the "we didn't get any" category (and why not, eh?) are Tom Egel's Foamy Amber Ale and Dark Ale; Chris Cooper's My Honey's Amber Ale, which did have a neat label; a C&J Victory Ale from Jerry Lenghart; Hal Buttermore's version of Bob, Jean, and Hal's Renaissance Festival Ale; and Mark Hogle's Alt and Belgian Abbey beer. Jack Mercer made sure we got a taste of his well done English Red Bitter. The worker bees, Dave and Jon VanEck, came late but well supplied with Barn Berry Ale (raspberry), Hoedown Brown, and State Fair Blue Ribbon IPA. All were up to their usual high standard.
Paul Philippon brought Old home hard cider, which was fairly dry and crisp. Jim Johnston had a bottle of extremely dry cyser that had a strange "Listerine" note to it. His Cherry Melomel was definitely easier to take. Spencer brought a test batch of Apple Blossom Mead, made from apple blossom honey from the 4th Avenue People's Food Co-op in Ann Arbor. It was a bit sweet, with good honey expression.
Although he didn't write them down, we note that Rolf Wucherer brought two old beers: 212 was 6.5, but still tasted almost fresh, with only a hint of oxidation. The other, at 4 years, was heavily oxidized with a strong taste of wet cardboard. Both were classic "Rolf beers," strong, dark, and bitter.
Our host, Mike O'Brien, was pouring samples of his Raspberry Lambic and Raspberry Stout. These very nice beers came from the "lemons to lemonade" principle. In June, Mike, Steve Yalisove, and several other AABGers gathered at Steve's house for a pico-brewing session. Mike supplied the yeasts for a wheat beer and a stout. Unfortunately, they picked up the "Ypsilanti Lambic" culture that shows up in Mike's basement now and again, and which produces a fairly nice sourness. Mike added raspberries, figuring that they would go well in a tart beer. So far, we'd have to agree. Towards the end of the evening, Mike brought out some ice cream and Bell's Expedition Stout and made beer floats. If you've never had this combination (and we hadn't, previously), you should try it! The bittersweet chocolate notes of the stout blend very nicely with the sweet smoothness of the ice cream. The only real difficulty in making this delicacy is that you have to drive to Kalamazoo to buy the stout.
The Merchant of Vino and Rave Distributing, in the person of Doug Corsin, donated four Belgian and Flemish (French) beers: Roman Brown (Double), Biére Sans Culottes, Ambrée, and Blonde, the last three from the La Choullette brewery. We reported on the Roman and "San Culottes" last month. The Ambrée and Blonde are nice, but not especially distinguished, beers in the French Biére de Garde style. Our thanks to them.
Beers Across America sent Buffalo Oktoberfest, which was sour; and Gaslight Pale Ale from Pacific Hop Exchange, which was pretty good.
A "subcommittee" talked about these issues, and decided: Keep the meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 13, but discourage the traditional "high gravity" orientation of the meeting. Instead, we will work on finding a place where we can hold the January meeting on a weekend night, with lodging available. This meeting will be more of a party than the usual, along the lines of the Beer-BQ, with spouses welcome. Those of us with children should get together to talk about child-care arrangements.
We felt that January would be a better month for a party, because it's in the "dead time" after the holidays. Fewer of us will have other conflicts, and it should be easier to find facilities.
"According to Waterloo Brewing Company's Billy Forrester, a Boston Beer Company rep has contacted him, claiming that BBC has trademarked the name 'Sam Houston'. They recommended that the Austin publican stop calling his beer Sam Houston's Austin Lager, given that further use will constitute 'intent'. Given that the beer is already entered in the GABF, the 'Duel Between the Sams' should be quite entertaining. Stay tuned for a blow by blow account."
This item prompted the following response in the on-line Homebrew Digest:
For those of you who have reported (or perhaps hoped to see) a "kinder, gentler" Jim Koch lately, I have news for you -- he ain't changed.
The latest hoopla over The Boston Beer [and Litigation] Company's contention to have staked a claim to the "Sam Houston" moniker prompted me to surf the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office records when I had some free training time on Westlaw today.
According to these records, the Boston Beer Company filed an "intent to use" registration on the name "Sam Houston" in January 1993. These registrations last for six months, and can be renewed on a showing of "good cause" to the Patent and Trademark Office. BBC has filed for several such extensions on this name.
Now, anyone can file an "intent to use" registration and more-or-less "reserve" a name while final product preparation is forthcoming (that's the whole reason for the "intent to use" process), but the applicant must declare under oath that he does in fact have a "bona fide" intent to market the product. To quote from the leading treatise on trademarks (McCarthy on Trademarks and Unfair Competition, section 19.07[a] if you're keeping score), "Congress intended the test of `bona fide' to be evidenced by `objective' evidence of circumstances showing `good faith.' The evidence is `objective' in the sense that it is evidence in the form of real life facts and by the actions of the applicant, not by the applicant's testimony as to its subjective state of mind. That is, Congress did not intend the issue to be resolved simply by an officer of the applicant later testifying, `Yes, indeed, at the time we filed that application, I did truly intend to use the mark at some time in the future.'"
Thus, for the BBC to have any effective claim to the name "Sam Houston," the BBC is gonna have to show that it has really been planning to bring out a "Sam Houston" beer since January 1993; otherwise, they defrauded the PTO and their intent to use application will be ineffective.
I rather doubt this to be the case. From my review of the PTO records, it appears to me that the BBC has simply tried to latch onto "good" names regardless of whether or not they have any right to them or bona fide intention to use them. Note, for instance, that the BBC has not been content to trademark and reserve "normal" names and slogans (e.g., Boston Beer Company [TM], The Best Beer in America [TM], Lightship [TM], etc.), but they also have laid claim to George Washington Porter (#73-827,689), Poor Richard's Ale (#73-827,688), Ben Franklin Ale (#73-827,691), and many others. Particularly galling is that, notwithstanding its use by Jack McAuliffe (the guy who really started the microbrewery revolution) in the 1970's, BBC has also laid claim to the name "New Albion" (#74-369,673) with an intent to use registration filed in January 1994.
Think that's bad enough? How about the BBC's "intent to use" registration on "Great American Beer Judging" (filed 10-19-93, #74-450,324)? I guess we should have expected as much from "America's Microbrewery" (BBC intent to use this name filed November 1992).
Close to 200 people gathered to sample German fare and various beers. The food was typical Frankenmuth, and this year some different beers were presented. Outstanding was the Augsburger Oktoberfest! Excellent. A table consisting of Mike O'Brien, Dave West, Mike Tomaszewski, Ken D. and Hal Buttermore decided the Frankenmuth Pils was the best they offered, and the new Traverse City Brewery had their Manitou Ale on hand. It is currently contract brewed (Don't remember where). The real hit of the night was when Dave pulled out a number of, you guessed it, Meads! A small crowd gathered around as Dave poured a young and an old Peach, Raspberry, Cherry, Traditional, Maple, and probably more that I can not for obvious reasons, remember. Note taking was not at its best. The next day the full conference was started off by Fred Shumacher (sp?), now a brewery consultant. Next Bob Morton from the equipment supplier DME presented a lively look at micros and brewpubs. Anyone interested in jumping into the business should call this guy!! He even quoted net profits to be expected from 2000 barrels at $2.00 per pint. Mike O'Brien saved the day by filling in for a Pabst speaker who could not make it. (Fred Scheer is in China, opening a brewery) Mike held an interesting Q & A covering everything from HSA to Yeast starters. Next was a homebrew break with all of the 2nd and 3rd bottles from this competition spread out around the room for random sampling. Kind of neat. but if you find two of your own, wen you get the picture!
Next was the Final Round Best of Show Judging. The panel consisted of Michael Jackson, Fred Eckhardt, Bob Morton from DME, and our very own Dave West! If he had any butterflies, he didn't show it after the first beer. But we were especially proud of Dave when during the Mead entry Michael, Fred and Bob all confessed to not being Mead savvy. Michael then said I am not really a mead freak, and handed the mic to Dave, who with a big grin said, "Well, I don't know if I am a Mead freak, but I do have about 25 different Meads in my cellar!" Of course, those who know Dave know about the quality of Dave's Mead!! Fred Eckhardt later said to me, that he thought the Michigan region was becoming the mead center of the country. Hello, Ken!
Lunch was followed by the excellent Beer & Chocolate. Michael Jackson then presented a lively humorous talk about his books and the brewing revolution in this country. He first wanted to do a book on the American scene 12 years ago when there were 40-50 Brewing companies in the country, but his publisher kept saying no, you need to write about Heineken. Now there are over 400 brewing companies here and the task is almost impossible! A session of roundtable discussions with exhibitors and guests went well and was followed by Frankenmuth Brewery tours and another homebrew break. Pico Brewing Systems were sporting new pico shirts. Get yours today! Mike sez a shirt with every system!! Before we knew it it was time for another German feast with more beer. Len had joined the group and we had a secret tap into the 1/2 barrel of Bell's Java Stout for dinner. This ensured the caffeine would cancel the alcohol, you know ;) :) Michael Jackson gave an after dinner talk full of anecdotes and great stories. Next was the awards presentation. (See winners elsewhere)
Michael Jackson was interviewed on WRIF'S Nightcall, Sunday night at 11pm, after tipping a pint or two at Ashley's with Mike O'Brien. Cool. Unfortunately for the Traffic Jam, and the Berkeley Front, they were closed. Hal taped the interview and can duplicate for those that are interested. See him at the next meeting.
Fred Eckhardt led a Beer and Chocolate tasting session. The Merchant of Vino supplied the chocolate, and Larry Bell, via Mike O'Brien, supplied some of the beer. Augsburger Oktoberfest and orange flavored chocolate: hops balance the orange.
Frankenmuth Bock and Planters peanut-shaped chocolate & peanut butter: Yum!
Bell's Java Stout (brewed specially for the occasion) and 3 different Belgian chocolates with coffee beans. Wow!! (Caffeine buzz >= espresso or cappuccino.)
Bell's Expedition Stout and vanilla ice cream float. A big hit!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Chocolate chip cookies were also thrown in for sampling at random.
Fred E. commented on other beer and chocolate tastings he has done and cited some good combinations like: Lindemans Framboise and brownies, Orval and chocolate chip cookies, and Mackeson Triple Stout and any chocolate!! He said that any chocolate goes with any beer, but the fun is to find the perfect marriage.
Of course the uninitiated think the whole idea is ridiculous anyway! Beer and chocolate????????????? You have got to be kidding, right????????????
I think all in attendance were convinced what a wonderful marriage beer and chocolate can make!
I bought 100 pounds of grain in the club grain buy. How should I store it? I don't think the big paper bags it came in will work very well.
-All Grained Out
The main consideration in storing malt is to keep it dry, and keep the vermin out. We suggest tight-sealing plastic or metal containers, lined with plastic garbage bags. You can buy plastic containers intended for storing stuff in various sizes, or you can use a trash can. We've included a picture of 120 lbs of grain in "square" 5- and 10-gallon plastic containers, below.
AHA AHA AABG Competition Deadline Judging Specialty Quest Dec. 5 November Hail to Ale January January Bock is Best March March Smoked Beer May May Weiss is Nice August July
[Editor's note: This was originally written in July , 1993 by Kinney Baughman (BrewCo proprietor, inventor of the BrewCap, and originator of the phrase "Beer is my business, and I'm late to work.") to describe how he and some colleagues put together a brewpub operation "on the cheap."] What happened to all that free time I was supposed to have this summer?
I promised to summarize some of my experiences at the Tumbleweed Grille for the forum. I received dozens of requests to do so, so here goes... Sorry it's taken so long. I apologize in advance for the somewhat rambling nature of what follows but there's a lot I'd like to say and if you wait for me to organize it into MA thesis form, it'll never get posted!!
Before getting down to all the numbers, allow me to set the stage for you. You'll never understand why we did what we did if you don't have a grasp on the problems as they were presented to us. I'd hope that anyone who decided to take the jump into commercial brewing would have more money than we did. At the same time, what follows is proof positive that you can put together a commercially viable brewpub on a shoestring budget. From the beginning, the prime motivating factor behind what we've done at Tumbleweed has been the fact the operation was designed and built without borrowing a single red cent!! If the operation folds tomorrow, we haven't lost any money. We've capitalized all equipment as the need arose. To me, this makes what we're doing at Tumbleweed unique and is why I'm boring you with the details. We have almost 30 years combined brewing experience among the three brewers. And yet 7 months ago none of us could have imagined that we'd be doing things the way we are now! But what we're doing is working, so what can you say?
A bit of background on Tumbleweed. The business started in 1989 as a Southwestern foods restaurant and is firmly established as such. Tumbleweed is a restaurant first. It is not a bar and doesn't pretend to be one. This is important to keep in mind when one considers our weekly sales. I think beer sales are significant despite this fact. I sometimes shudder to think what could be happening if we were a bar.
The restaurant is located in Boone, NC, a small mountain town in the northwestern corner of NC. Population of the town proper is about 13,000. Appalachian State University has an enrollment of 11,000. I think there are about 30,000 people living in the county. Boone is a summer and winter vacation destination point. Believe it or not, Boone is the ski capital of the South. There are 4 major slopes (at least for us) within 30 minutes of town. In the summer, people come up here to escape the heat off the mountain. Last I heard, some 2,000,000 tourists come through town each year. Much of our business comes from this tourist crowd. We get hardly any business from the students. We're beginning to get a decent following among the faculty and staff.
Bart Conway, the proprietor at Tumbleweed, began reading about the brewpub movement in restaurateur publications and thought it was a great idea. Bart is as enthusiastic a person as one could ever hope to meet. He's a man who definitely appreciates good beer. But as he contemplated starting his own brewpub I think it's fair to say he didn't know the difference between malt and hops. So here's a man who likes the brewpub idea, owns a restaurant, and wants to try it, fully admitting he doesn't know that much about making beer. I have a lot of respect for a man with his intestinal fortitude.
Not knowing the ins and outs, he did not want to invest 100's of thousands of dollars into a business about which he knew very little. One day he was drinking coffee with a homebrewer here in Boone who said, "Sure. I can brew beer. Let's do it." And so it began. In February of 1992, Tumbleweed served its first beer.
They bought a used gas stove, a 10 gallon enameled pot, and turned out the first few batches of Tumbleweed beer *5 gallons* at a time, bottled them and walked them down the hill to the restaurant. (Tumbleweed is officially a microbrewery because the brewhouse is not attached to the restaurant itself. We walk the beer -- now in 5 gallon cornelius kegs -- down to the restaurant when they run out.) Shortly they moved to 10 gallon batches. An assistant brewer, Cam Hedrick, came on board in the May of 1992, is still there, and is the only member of the team who is indispensable. He works forty hours a week, monitors the day to day operation: kegging, transfers, keeping the restaurant in stock, keeping records straight so the BATF stays off our backs, etc. In July, Cam pushed production up to 30 gallons where things stood when Burton Moomaw and I were invited to join the operation in November.
When Cam arrived, they were using an immersion wort chiller. When the 30 gallon kettle was put on-line, I helped them design a counterflow wort chiller (1/2" copper tubing inside 5/8" garden hose) which they began using in August.
Being the good mountain man that he is, Bart is an inveterate "horse trader." And with his own beer on-line, beer was a hot topic of conversation at the restaurant. During the course of one of these "rap" sessions, he scrounged a 30 gallon stainless steel pot that had been used in a restaurant at one of the country clubs close by. Now he needed a gas burner. Somehow this came up in conversation with the guy who sells the restaurant after dinner mints. He knew where there was a 350,000 BTU burner that wasn't being used and gave it to Bart. The moral of the story here is that for a couple of free meals, the brewery had a stainless steel pot and a gas ring.
In November Brett Deal, the head brewer moved from Boone, Bart called to ask me if I was interested in working in a kind of head brewer/consultant capacity. Already working two jobs, I actually turned him down, promised to find someone for him, called my brewing buddy, Burton Moomaw, and we decided to form a very loose "partnership" and split the responsibilities with each other. When I'm busy, he brews. When he's busy, I brew. And Cam, our brewery operations manager, always brews.
So here we were. A couple of homebrewers who had never brewed more than 15 gallons at a time. Full of ideas and enthusiasm and no commercial brewing experience. There were a number of changes to be made. In fact, it's fair to say that no part of the existing brewing operation resembles what was going on in November. We've changed everything.
On to the brewing equipment decisions we've made.
In the winter we used a thermostatically controlled heater to keep the fermentation room around 65 degrees. This past winter we had temperature fluctuations of plus or minus 5 degrees. This isn't ideal, I know. But it works. We've made some modifications to things this summer, so I think we can do better next winter and hold temps within 5 degrees. That's good enough by anyone's standards.
During the summer, we use a common, garden variety window air conditioner. We just put a 11,000 BTU air conditioner in a couple of weeks ago and with temperatures above 90 degrees, the fermentation room has been staying right at 65 degrees. Again, pretty good.
But what to do? Glass is one of the best materials in which to ferment and carboys weren't working out. Stainless steel would have been great but we couldn't find them much less afford them. Bart, on the recommendation of someone in the brewing industry had purchased three 31 gallon black HD polyethylene drums back in October but we were reluctant to use them, being well aware of the complaints about fermenting in plastic. At the same time, I also know of some world-class brewers who ferment in plastic. Darryl Richman comes immediately to mind. I had always figured that most of the problems people have with plastic fermenters stem more from not cleaning and sterilizing them immediately after using them than anything having to do with the plastic itself. So with Bart hounding us to give the drums a try, we took the plunge.
I'm happy to say that, on the whole, they've worked very well for us and I would heartily recommend them to anyone wanting to brew on this scale. We use open-head fermenters. That is to say, the entire lid comes off the top so you can get down inside them and scrub off the resins and junk that forms during primary fermentation. These jewels cost about $50 each delivered. Can't beat the price. Once used, they never see the light of day again. Immediately after using them, we fill to the brim with Clorox and water and let `em pickle until the next time we use them. We've had no infections and I don't anticipate any -- at least from the fermenters.
We are currently using 18 fermenters. We always need one free for transfers so we can have 527 gallons of beer fermenting at once. Total investment in fermenters is roughly $900.
Cam makes up homemade dollies to put them on and we wheel the drums around the brewhouse from that point on. The dollies cost about $35 each to make. Total investment: around $600.
Having covered the equipment we're using at Tumbleweed, now I'm really going to bare my soul concerning the brewing procedures, ingredients, and recipe decisions we faced. I find this part particularly interesting because here is where we found it necessary to scrap ideas that had been cast in stone for us as homebrewers. All sorts of factors caused us to rethink basic procedures. Clearly, our main concerns were the change in scale and the economics of trying to make money. It's funny how money (or the lack thereof) can influence decisions!
So we decided to brew with extracts. Since this was, in some sense a "cheat," we figured we'd cut no corners on the rest of the process. We would use pure yeast cultures, fresh hops, specialty grain infusions, and filter our water.
Extracts were appealing because (1) storage was easy, (2) it cut our brewing day down to 6-8 hours, and (3) we could count on a certain stability in the malt product and didn't have to worry about the variability in the quality of grain and the headache of wrestling with our water. We had enough to worry about already so far as redesigning the equipment and getting used to brewing on a larger scale was concerned. Later, after we got all these factors under control, we figured we could consider the move to all-grain.
The decision to brew with extracts still bothers me. I could see myself making excuses (like I'm doing now) to my brewing buddies and my newly acquired peers in the commercial brewing world. But this was no time to be dogmatic. Instead we had to be realistic about the physical brewing environment and the market we were trying to crack. I've had enough bad all-grain beers to know that the decision to go all-grain was not going to ensure a high quality product. And I've had enough outstanding extract beers to know that it is possible to brew a decent beer using extracts. Technique is everything. We inherited some pretty sorry ingredients when Burton and I signed on. The extracts were old and stale. The hops were pelletized and God knows how well they were stored before we got them. Still we brewed with what we had and the difference between what we brewed and what was brewed before was noticed by all. The quality improved even more once we started getting fresh malt, fresher hops, and instituted the hop back.
Regarding our market, we had to be realistic about what the common drinking public was going to expect from us. We figured they wanted a beer that was a huge cut above Budmiller. No problem. But I didn't really expect them to come in and be disappointed if they weren't drinking beers comparable to Pilsener Urquell, Sam Smith's Oatmeal Stout, or Liberty Ale.
Neither did we expect, nor have we found, very many beer drinkers that are going to get down to the level of criticism that we have come to expect from ourselves and our fellow homebrewers. So, what the hell, we resigned ourselves to the conclusion that the extracts, though unlikely to produce that godalmighty awesome beer we all dream about, would allow us to turn out a reliable, quality beer that would be as good or better than anything the average guy ever drank out of a bottle and would impress 99% of the people who walked through our door.
And they have. Most of the home brewers who come into Tumbleweed are surprised to learn they're drinking an extract beer.
We started out using Premier's 100% malt extract. It comes in 5 gallon pails and is as clean as a whistle. So far we've found that it doesn't attenuate below 1.012. The color is not as light as Alexander's, which we've been experimenting with. Alexander's is very light in color and attenuates below 1.010.
Our present feeling is to use the Alexander's on our lighter beers and stay with the Premier for our heavier ales when we want the higher terminal gravities. We like the idea of using two extracts because this gives us some diversity in the different beers we brew. We're also playing with Briess at the moment but the results aren't in as yet. If we find that they all produce clean beers then we'll play around with mixing them together for single batches to add more complexity to the malt side of the flavor profiles.
Of course, these aren't just straight extract beers. We only buy light malt extract and depend on specialty grain infusions/steepings as the water comes to a boil to add grain character to the beer. Nothing new here. 1000's of homebrewers have been doing this for years.
In reference to the cost of brewing beer at Tumbleweed, Jim Busch remarks:
I agree with this concerning the labor efforts/costs, but I cant follow the raw ingredients costs. A domestic 2 row malt runs about $12/50 Lb sack.
Perhaps I should interject at this point. Tumbleweed is a small brewery. It is now a 4 bbl. brewery. Though bigger, we're not big by any stretch of the imagination which means we still buy ingredients at basically wholesale homebrewing costs. We can get pale malt at $17.60 a 55 lb. sack. Plus, it costs us another $13.50 to get it shipped to Boone. That's $31.10 for 55 lbs. of grain (.56/lb.) and there's no way around it for us. We live in the extreme northwest corner of the NC mountains. This is not your everyday metropolitan center! :-)
By the time we get our malt extract, it costs us .95 a pound.
Jim says: Using a 50Lb sack of domestic per one Bbl, an extract of around 1.050 can be attained.
OK. Plugging in these numbers: approximately 4 sacks of grain for a 4 bbl. brew would cost us $124.40. Our extract costs us $142.50.
Now consider that IF we were mashing, we would have the extra expense of a mash tun and lauter system in terms of equipment and the extra time and labor of mashing and sparging the grain. Realistically, given the scale we operate on, I don't see us grinding, mashing and sparging that much grain in less than 4 hours. So toss in another $50-80 worth of labor and the difference between all-grain and extract is eclipsed. Ironically, grain costs us more. That's the cold, hard economics we had to consider when deciding which path to take.
Some might say, what's 4 hours to take the chance of making a better brew? Well, that's an extra day in a two brew week. Personally, I have another life, in fact two other professional lives outside of Tumbleweed. I don't have an extra day in the week, plain and simple.
I would be the first to admit that we'd have a better chance of brewing that Godalmightygreatest beer if we were doing all-grain. But with that possibility comes a whole host of variables that can contribute to brewing the batch that gets deep-sixed down the drain. (We ditched ONE barrel of beer last year. You can't afford to screw up when you're brewing commercially. Money is at stake here. Somebody else's. Not just your ego.) Town water departments are notorious for playing with the water. That translates into wildly variable extraction efficiencies. We can depend on a certain stability of flavor and fermentability with extracts. So we can produce a beer with some degree of consistency from batch to batch.
We cut no other corners in our brewing process. We use LOTS of hops and we get plenty of hop aroma with our hop backs. This may sound like heresy to you left-coasters but when Tumbleweed's owner came back from a trip to Seattle, his main comment on the beers he had was that there wasn't as much hop character in the beers he tasted out there as we have in ours. Granted, he didn't try a Liberty Ale on tap. I'd die to get that kind of hop character in our beers. But I'm not sure the average beer drinker in Boone, NC would appreciate it.
Which gets to the final point. Our task is to produce a beer that the local clientele enjoys. And they enjoy our beers. We've been to beer tastings where mega-buck brewpubs were present and our beers stood on a par with theirs. Heck! Because we're small, we show up with more varieties of beer than the other guys do! That makes a big impression on the people who come to those tastings. You're not going to find many 10 to 20 bbl. breweries who are going to experiment with cherry and smoked porters, raspberry wheat beers or coffee stouts. But we do. All the time. And our customers love it. I think that says a lot for a small little mountain town where 99.9 % of the people have never heard of, much less tasted, a fruit or smoked beer before.
Believe me, folks, I was as surprised as anyone else when I finally sat down and crunched the numbers and tried to determine the best of all possible worlds. A year and a half ago, if you had told me that I'd be brewing beer at a 1 to 4 barrel brewery, using scavenged cheese and cough drop pots, stainless steel pressure cooker hop backs, copper-tubing in garden hose wort chillers, HD polyethylene fermenters on wheels, fermenting in an old living room with an air-conditioner and kegging in cornelius kegs, I would have told you that you were off your rocker! BUT, here we are. We can't brew it fast enough. We're getting regional attention, been on TV twice, and had dozens of newspaper articles written about the operation. We have so many people wanting to come to Boone to check out the operation and pick our brains so they can start up similar operations that we have had to start charging consulting fees.
Yes, we're proud of what we've been able to do. And just as amazed as anyone else that it's working.
I have paid out $45.90 to Beer Across America for the September and October selections (yes, even that awful Buffalo piddle, but under protest!); I paid $87 to the Postmaster for three rolls of 29cents stamps; I reimbursed Spencer Thomas $74.48 for September copies and $32.66 for October copies and a few stamps, which made for a total paid out of $240.04. This leaves a balance of $357.26; the club owned 300+ stamps before this newsletter went out.
Don't forget: if the meeting is at your house, you don't have to drive home, and you get to keep all the bottles folks leave behind. We've had meetings in big places and small ones, and somehow, we always seem to fit just fine.
Any of the meeting dates with no name are available. Reserve your favorite date now, before it's too late!
Thu, November 17 Jeff Renner Specialty Quest Tue, December 13 Tue, January 10 Hail to Ale Thu, February 9 Tue, March 14 Bock is Best Thu, April 11 AHA National
The Meeting: How to Get There
Thursday, November 18, 7:30PM
797 Scio Meadow
Jeff Renner's House, 665-5805
From Ann Arbor -- Go west out of town on Dexter Rd. 1.4 miles past the Wagner light to Scio Meadow. Turn left. 797 Scio Meadow is the third house on the right, on the far corner of Hensley, with the driveway off Hensley. A three car garage is your landmark with 797 over the middle door. Park along the road if the drive is full, well off the pavement. Come to the back door.
From I-94 -- Take Exit 169, Zeeb Rd. Go north on Zeeb about 1/2 mile to the second right, Pratt. Go right on Pratt about 1/2 mile to the stop sign, Dexter-Ann Arbor Rd. Go right ~200 yards to Scio Meadow, turn right and follow above directions.
Guide for New Members Bring 1-2 bottles per batch of your beer that you'd like to share, or an interesting commercial beer. Bring tasty munchies to cleanse the palate and sop up the alcohol. Feel free to share and sample with other members and make and accept constructive comments; making better beer or curing ailing ales is our interest! Please observe good judgment while imbibing and don't drive while intoxicated.
Ann Arbor Brewer's Guild
c/o Rolf Wucherer
1942 Steere Pl.
Ann Arbor, MI 48104