Wednesday, November 24, 2010

An Idle Thought

 A real woman is a man's best friend. She will never stand him up and never let him down.

 She will reassure him when he feels insecure and comfort him after a bad day.

 She will inspire him to do things he never thought he could do; to live without fear and forget regret.

 She will enable him to express his deepest emotions and give in to his most intimate desires.

 She will make sure he always feels as though he's the most handsome man in the room and
 will enable him to be the most confident, sexy, seductive and invincible guy around.

 No wait... sorry.... I'm thinking of beer.

 It's beer that does all that.......

 Never mind.
 

Friday, November 19, 2010

Beer Bloggers

So, I've become aware of Beer Bloggers lately.  It never really occurred to me that there was such a creature before.  If you look over at my "Blogs I Read" section on the right of this page, you'll see quite a few home brew related blogs that I have been following for some time ( The Screwy BrewerBeerSmith HB BlogBN Army BlogBearded Brewing BlogBlog entries from Chris ColbyHomebrewers Association).  So, I read beer-related blogs quite a bit.  I just did not know there were people out there who officially call themselves "Beer Bloggers". 

A beautiful beer.
I guess technically, you could call me a "Beer Blogger" because I blog quite a bit about beer.  I don't really consider myself a "Beer Blogger", though.  Maybe I should.  If you count mentioning SheppyBrew (and why wouldn't you?), I probably write more entries that mention beer on my blog more than do most of the "official" beer bloggers I've come across.  But then, this isn't really a beer blog.  It is a blog about Sheppy, who just happens to brew (and drink) beer.

Somewhat recently, I discovered "The Beer Wench" on a video that The Brewing Network took from the GABF.  She was on a panel talking about social media and how it is helping to promote craft beer today.  The name "Beer Wench" intrigued me, so I headed over to her website:  http://drinkwiththewench.com/.  You may have noticed I've mentioned articles on the Wench's site a couple times recently.  (BTW ... I'm going to keep mentioning The Beer Wench because every time I do, she comes by and leaves a comment ... it's like my readership on this blog doubles every time I mention The Wench).

Because of The Wench, I discovered that there was an official Beer Bloggers Conference that took place in Boulder this year.  The Wench has also been doing a series of articles profiling real live beer bloggers.  Because of her, I have come across some interestingly named blogs such as "BeerSnobchick" and "Brewgasm" .  I've also added some Colorado Beer Bloggers to the right side of my blog:   Starting a Brewery and  Jenn and Beer.  I've also looked at many other Beer Blogs that have either been featured on Drink with the Wench or linked from http://beerbloggersconference.org.  I think I've come across even more on my own since discovering the existence of "Beer Bloggers".

Long story short, there are a ton of people blogging about beer.  Tons and tons.

Of course, as a home brewer and beer geek, I think this is great.  Beer interests me.  Reading about beer is fun.  Writing about beer is fun.  Everyone should blog about beer from time to time.

One reason that I don't consider myself a beer blogger is that I am bad at describing flavors and aromas.  I'm probably getting better, but a lot of my descriptions come about because I can detect a specific ingredient that I have used in my own beer.  For instance, I know exactly what Munich malt tastes like in my beer, and if I taste a beer where I detect Munich malt, that is part of my description.  "This beer has a nice rich Munich malt flavor."  But, other than if I am talking to brewers ... is that a good description?  Maybe, but probably not.  Or, (and I do this a lot), when I detect a Belgium yeast, I will say it has a Belgium yeast flavor.  Or sometimes I'll just say it tastes "too Belgium" or has just the right "amount of Belgium character".  Most beer geeks, at least, know what I mean, but when someone asks what I mean by "Belgium", I really struggle to come up with something more descriptive.

Another reason I cannot call myself a "Beer Blogger" is that only my sister reads my blog, and she doesn't even drink beer.  Well, the Beer Wench will read this entry too, since I linked to her site above, but you can hardly count her as a regular reader.  Actually, I did notice today that I am up to 13 (yes, count them ... 13) followers.  Last time I noticed, I had 10.  I don't know which 3 are new.  One of the new ones is Ms. Hunter, and she is probably only following me because I starting following her.  She, also, does not drink beer.  Oh ... and I have quite a few Facebook friends who follow the blog through Facebook notes. Some of those people are actually beer drinkers.  If you are one of these people, you really should read from http://blog.ericshepard.com to get the full effect.  Good gosh, maybe this blog is more popular than I thought!

Beer Float
By the way, Sheppy Brew recently bottled up the highly experimental batch of Bluefield Chocolate Ale .  It is very chocolaty and not very "beer like", which was pretty much the point.  I am looking forward to giving it a try in a couple of weeks.  I do not know how much I'll like drinking it, but I do think if nothing else, it will make good Beer Floats.  If I hate it and have to get rid of it, I bet I can find enough people who are at least willing to try a bottle so none of it will go to waste.

Sheppy Brew is also finally moving to 5 gallon batches.  My first purchase was a nice big 8 gallon brew - pot.  This past weekend, I brewed up a double all-grain batch of Buckwheat's Belgium Pale Ale.  I split it into two of my small fermenters.  Just for the fun of it, I used the regular safbrew S-33 yeast for one and T-58 in the other.  T-58 should give a more "Belgium" flavor.  The brewing day went very smoothly with the larger boil.  My mash efficiency does seem to be much higher with the bigger mash, so both these beers will be higher in alcohol than I intended, but that is certainly ok.

This was going to be my 101st blog entry of 2010.  I have reached this number only because there were some months I tried to "keep up" with the number of posts in my sister's blog.  I was only successful a couple of months and at least one of those was because she "let me win" (not that it is a competition).  I've decided to go back and remove some.  There is just something about that over-100 post level I don't like, and I still have a month and a half left in the year.  I've already removed a couple so that this will look like the 99th post.  Sort of weird of me, right?

X-Mas Ales

Tonight, I popped open one of my 2009 X-Mas Ales and one of my 2010 X-Mas Ales. Both were delicious. The 2009 is the oldest of my homebrews that I have ever tried. It was bottled 8/30/2009, and it aged very well. It is malty with a nice clove aroma and flavor. I think I even detected a hint of cherry in it. I only have 2 left, and am wondering if I can let those sit until next year.

The 2010 is just a touch drier and seems to carry a bit more bitterness. The apple pie spice taste is very festive. I like it. I do not taste the cherry as much, but I recall that being the case last year as well, so maybe that will come through more with age. I will have to save some of these for next year to see.

Merry Christmas to me.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Fizzy yellow beer

In general, craft beer drinkers are snobs.  Yes, I resemble that remark.  And, you might say I am a bit of a hypocrite since I do drink fizzy yellow macro-brews from time to time even though I make fun of BMC (Bud / Miller / Coors).  I have been known to have a Coors Light while sitting watching a game at Coors field.  I drank Miller Lite in Miller Field.  I had various Anheuser Busch beers in Busch stadium.  I've grabbed a Budweiser American Ale while watching the Avalanche in the Pepsi Center (can't bring myself to drink a Pepsi at a sporting event).  I've even tried the absolutely awful "low carb" beers like Michelob Ultra, or MGD 64.  When at a party or someone's house or a restaurant where my adult beverage choices are BMC beers or wine (or mixed drinks or shots), I will choose the beer.  Luckily it is less and less common to be limited by lack of choice, but if I "have" to, I will "lower" my beer standards to BMC beers.  When my wife's family visits, I will even let her stock Coors Light at our house (although I WILL complain about it).

Great, now I'm going be ostracized by any craft beer drinkers who read this blog.  Luckily, the only person who reads this is my sister and she is not a craft beer fan at all.



The BMC breweries are not bad at brewing beer (oooo... if I wasn't going to be ostracized before, now I sure am).  As a matter of fact, they consistently make exactly the beer they want to make.  Their quality control processes are second to none.  Every American Light Lager they make is exactly perfectly matched to every other of the same type of beer they make.  If you like Bud Light, you will never get a "bad" Bud Light.  I have, however, had bad craft beers.  And, quite frankly, really light colored / light flavored beers like Bud / Miller / Coors light and especially those absolutely awful "low carb" beers are difficult to make.  Since there is so little flavor in the beer itself, there is literally no place for little nasty flaws to hide.  Trust me, every home brewer knows you don't even try to brew a subtly flavored beer unless you have your brewing processes nailed down perfectly.  A nice flavorful full bodied stout, on the other hand, will cover up an awful lot of issues.

I actually believe that the problem craft beer geeks (including myself) have with BMC is mostly in their heads.  Well, the biggest problem is that BMC corporations tend to brew flavorless, colorless, boring beers such as American light lagers, and those absolutely awful "low carb" beers.  But the big corporations have noticed the trend toward more flavorful, interesting beers and have recently been adding to their lineup.  And, obviously, someone out there likes the light lagers because BMC sell a bunch of them.

Now, there are beer-snobs who look down on some of the larger craft breweries.  I had an online argument with a guy who claimed New Belgium was no longer a craft brewery because they have "sold out" and basically are too big (and successful).  "New belgium is way to big to be called a 'craft brewery' anymore in my opinion. When you are in every Safeway on the planet, you are macro. Period."  This, of course, is ridiculous.  For one thing New Belgium is only distributed to about half the states in the country.  Plus, if you want an interesting beer, go out and get any of the NB "lips of faith" series of beers (if you can find them). 

And, of course, I occasionally hear beer geeks bashing some of the "gateway beers".  Most brew-pubs have at least one beer they brew that they use to "hook" the BMC drinker.  It is lighter in color and lightly hopped, but still has a decent body and flavor.  Those are called "gateway beers" (or at least that is what I call them).  Most experienced craft beer drinkers will mostly stay away from those.  For the most part, I will too.  Although, I will have a taste (or two or three) of my wife's.  Some beer drinkers will snicker at and make fun of those who order the "gateway beers".

I wonder if eventually the "average" craft beer will be ridiculed the same way BMC light lagers are today.  There are so many completely wild styles, and experimentation goes on all the time.  It is almost ridiculous how hoppy (and bitter) you can get a double IPA now-a-days.  You have sour beers and spice beers and just wonderfully intense beers out there.  Hard-core craft beer drinkers are always looking for unique things.  And the difference between something like my Phat & Tyred and some of these radical tasting beers is a greater difference than the difference between my Wetta's Blonde and an American light lager.  Someday, are people going to be lumping my Buckwheat's BPA in with bud light or (Ninkasi forbid) MGD 64? 

Quite frankly, who cares?  Drink what you like.  Don't let me or beer bloggers or Anheuser Busch brewing company tell you what you should and shouldn't drink.  Find what you like and drink it.

---

Speaking of intense flavors in a beer, I went out to Wynkoop Brewery last night with a couple of friends from high school.  One was from out of town, and the flight was a bit late, so I waited at the upstairs bar waiting for them for quite awhile.  While waiting, I had a Patty's Chile Beer .  Last time I had this beer, was right before the GABF.  Last night, this chile beer was actually spicy hot.  I don't remember that being the case before.  The bar tender agreed that this batch was particularly strong.  He didn't know why.

Today, I noticed on Facebook that the Dry Dock Brewing Company's Friday firkin tonight was a
Green Chili Double IPA.  I have to wonder what kind of person would say to themselves ... "hmmm... I wonder what a Double IPA with Green Chilies would taste like.  I know ... I'll make it and see what my customers think about it."  I really should have gone to the tasting room after work instead of heading home.  Chances are, I will not get a ton more opportunities to try a Green Chili Double IPA.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Zoo Zoo Zoo

We went to the Denver Zoo today.  It was a very nice day.  Mid to Upper 70s, which is pretty warm for November in Denver.

Here is Connor Showing us his map.
I walked ahead of Mommy and the kids just a bit while going to see the lions.  I heard the male roar really loud and run after one of the females and then got mean with another of the females.  I guess they were nagging him just too much and he snapped.  Mommy and the kids heard the roar, but missed the spectacle.  It was sort of exciting.  Lions roar very loud.

Here are a couple of lions
There are a few baby tigers in with their momma.  We had never seen them in there before.  It was sort of cool to see them playing today.

Momma and Baby Tigers

A couple more babies.

The Beer Model's Babies

A dragon that really cooperated for the photo op.

A kid who really cooperated for the photo op.

A kid who sort of cooperated.

The asked me to take this picture.
Here is a video of a fox who was searching for a little bone.  The zoo keeper had hidden it for him as we got there.  It did not take the fox long to find out where the bone was.  If you are a facebook reader of this blog, you will actually have to go to blog.ericshepard.com to see the video of the fox.

video

Tonight I tried one of the all-grain recipe versions of my world famous Phat & Tyred Ales.  I compared it to a bottle of the partial mash version.  Visually, these are right on.  They taste almost exactly alike.  There is a slight difference in the AG version that is hard for me to describe.  I guess I would say it is smoother.  Maybe better blended.  Not sure, but it does have something extra that makes me like it just a bit better.  I am sure this is something I would not notice unless I was tasting these side-by-side.

All grain vs Partial Mash of Phat & Tyred Ale

So beautiful.  So delicious.
I think I better brew some more of the Beer Model's favorite beer (Buckwheat's BPA).  According to my Inventory, we are down to 7 bottles.  We do have a whole "party keg", but that needs to be something we drink over a day or two.  It would be nice to bring it to some sort of party so others could help us drink that.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Belgo India Pale Ale

Tonight I had a 22oz bottle of Belgo India Pale Ale.


This beer is one of New Belgium Brewery's "Lips of Faith Series". It is full of piney citrusy American hops in both flavor and aroma. It has a pretty typical IPA medium-bodied mouthfeel and a pretty decent malt backbone. For its grains it is mostly pale malt (I'm guessing American 2-row) with some honey malt and just a touch of Caramel 120.

Unlike most American IPAs, though, it is fermented with a Belgium yeast, which gives it a bit of that musty / funky Belgium character. But, the hops in this beer really push that yeasty character to the background. If I did not know about the yeast, I don't think I would have noticed that it was a Belgium yeast.

It is a nice interesting beer.


The Beer Model doesn't much care for it. Too hoppy for her.


Tonight, the food pairing was Tracy's world famous "Pita Pizzas".  Yum.  I'm lucky to be able to come home to such wonderful food.


Paired with her pita pizzas, the Beer Model had a Girly Berry (we're almost out ... I probably need to make more sometime soonish) and some the all-grain version of Buckwheat's BPA.

I also had a bottle of Quarter Life Crisis Hoppy Red Ale, which in case you have not been paying attention to my blog or my SheppyBrew website, is the best beer ever brewed.


This weekend is the AHA Learn To Homebrew Day.  I am not teaching anyone to brew.  I probably won't brew anything this weekend, because my fermenters are full with Fox Sox Knox Rye Pale Ale and Bluefield Chocolate Ale.  I might bottle up the Fox Sox Knox Rye Pale Ale, but probably won't actually brew anything.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Halloween Pics

Halloween was a huge success this year.  Here are some pictures of the kids for your enjoyment.

Con's K class:
He is Darth Vader, but the school frowned upon "scary" masks for the parade, so he left his off.  Note the kid behind him is wearing a mask, but I guess Iron Man is not that scary.
Ty's Class.  He is the wearing a scary mask in the back.  I guess it is ok in your own class.
Waiting for something outside in costume.
A school project thing.
Dad's project.  Rocktoberfest Lager.  Very tasty.
We had "Ghosts in the Graveyard" for supper Halloween night.
The trick-or-treaters before going out.
Another shot.
And, their Ninja friend from down the street joined them.
A close-up of the scary mask.  It actually looked cooler (and more frightening) in person.
The kids got TONS of candy.  Even though Tyler could not have a large portion of the candy he collected, he got too much.  This year Mommy paid Tyler a nickle for each piece that he could not have.  Connor decided to sell some of his candy too.  Can't have big brother accumulate wealth without the little guy getting in on the action.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Beer Ads

So, a couple of days ago, I mentioned an article that "The Beer Wench" has on her website.   Her first sentence pretty much sums up the whole point of the article:  "If you are a self-respecting woman and, after reading this post, you still want to drink corporate beer. Well, then. I don’t know what to think."

I am not a self-respecting woman.  I am pretty much a male-chauvinist pig, so I actually enjoyed looking through the adds that the Wench was complaining about.  I'm not proud of it, but I am totally guilty of being the kind of guy who is meant to be the target audience of those ads.  However, and I guess this shows why I will never understanding marketing or advertising on a philosophical level, I don't buy any of those beers, and no matter how many of these ads I see, they won't change my mind. 

I spend much of my Sunday afternoons during football season in front of the TV.  I also watch a bunch of hockey.  TV sporting events tend to show lots of beer commercials.  Usually, I use the DVR to zoom through most of the commercials, but if I glimpse  one of those "Here we go" Bud Light commercials, I will quite often go back and watch it.  Actually, I do the same thing for most of the BMC (Bud / Miller / Coors) commercials.  I find the mega-breweries do really entertaining TV commercials.  Some objectify women, but most of them I enjoy just because they are amusing.  So, the corporate beer advertising people did their job and got my attention.  But again, I do not buy their product.  So, really, what is the point?

So, the Beer Wench got me thinking about why I buy the beers that I buy.

The last beer I bought (TommyKnocker Cocoa Porter) was because I wanted a beer to use as a comparison of my own chocolate beer (which I brewed this past weekend, by the way).  Lately, that might be the number one reason I buy a commercial beer, because I am brewing something similar and I want to be able to make some sort of comparison.

The beers I bought before the Cocoa Porter six pack were some of the Lips of Faith series from New Belgium Brewery.  I bought those, because I was looking to buy some Eric's Ale or La Folie, and the liquor store did not have any of those in stock.  At GABF, I really enjoyed those 2 sour beers and wanted to grab some to enjoy at home.  Since the liquor store didn't have the ones I wanted, I decided that I might as well give these other beers a try.  New Belgium got my attention by giving me a beer that I enjoyed, and closed the sale because they had the benefit of the doubt based on my experience other beers they had done.

New Belgium is a pretty big craft brewery, but it is tiny in comparison to any corporate mega-brewery.  I don't ever remember seeing a TV ad for New Belgium, and I know for certain I've never seen a scantily dressed chick try to sell me a New Belgium beer.  But, I've probably bought more New Belgium beer in the past 10 years than any other beer.

Boston Brewing Company (Sam Adams) is a huge craft brewery (it is actually on the verge of technically being too big to fall under the definition of craft brewery).  I have seen Sam Adams TV commercials, but never one that compares to the entrainment value of BMC commercials.  All the Boston Brewing commercials are pretty much the boring spots with Jim Koch talking about quality and taste and innovation or how his company is a group of home-brewers at heart.  Jim is never dressed in a bikini in any of the TV advertisements I've seen (thank goodness).  But, I do buy various Sam Adams beers because I know I can get a bunch of styles, and I know that I have liked the taste of most of what I have tried from Jim's brewery.

Another big reason I buy the beers that I do is because they have been suggested to me by someone whose opinion I respect.  Quite often this is someone like the Beer Wench or one of the beer bloggers you see on the right side of this blog.  Or, it could be a beer spotlighted on one of the Brewing Network shows.  Or, it might be one from the Zymurgy's Best Beers in America poll.  I have also been know to try a beer that the Beer Model asked me to try (don't tell my wife that I respect her opinion on beer).

So, I guess I'm wondering:  does anyone actually buy beer because of amusing or sexually suggestive commercials or whatever clever hook the marketing people can come up with?  I guess the question can be expanded to other products as well, but beer is really a great example.  I think beer sales in our country is pretty flat over the past few years.  Craft beers are doing very well (double digit growth in sales), and the mega - brews are down in sales.  So, it seems pretty apparent that the clever commercials don't necessarily translate to growth in sales.

Who knows?  This seems like a fundamental flaw in corporate advertising, but what do I know?

BTW ... I brewed my Bluefield Chocolate Ale this past Sunday.  Fermentation is going well today, and the chocolate aroma is very nice (and strong).  One thing I did not take into account in the recipe is how much the unsweetened cocoa would increase the starting gravity reading.  Based on the fermentable sugars and the lactose in the recipe, I expected an OG of 1.061.  The pre-boil gravity was pretty much right on track, so I am assuming that without the cocoa, I would be pretty close to 1.061.  With the cocoa, my OG reading was 1.088.  That is a huge difference.  I am assuming that the cocoa is all unfermentable, so I am looking at a really thick, full-bodied beer.  I'm afraid that will be disgustingly thick in a beer.  I won't know for sure until I can give it a taste, and that won't be for awhile, so I guess I'll have to just RDWHAHB.  Assuming I am right, the very first adjustments I'll have to make are to leave out the lactose and to significantly reduce the amount of cocoa.  I should probably make my mash temperature lower as well.

But, my sister did ask for a beer that doesn't taste like beer, so maybe this will be exactly what she is looking for.  I think she likes hot chocolate and chocolate milk.  I'm thinking this will be similar in the mouth-feel to chocolate milk.  I guess we will have to see.
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