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  • Crafting Beer with (512) Brewing Company
    Crafting Beer with (512) Brewing Company
    by John M. P. Knox

    "Definitely worth adding to your collection – it’s as good a visual record of the brewing process as I’ve ever seen." -Dave of 33Beers.com

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Thursday
Sep092010

The Story Behind 33 Beers

Dave of 33 Beers penned a nice story about how he started a business selling beer journals. I love hearing the story behind a successful entrepreneur, especially one who seems into two of my other interests: beer and making things.

In case you missed my earlier post, 33 Beers makes a pocket-sized diary for recording all the critical data about each beer you drink. It has little stars to color in, a place for notes, and "flavor wheel" for quickly recording the beer's flavor profile. I reckon that if you spill some beer on the page, it'll save the stain for posterity too.

I hope that Dave and I have a chance to talk at GABF. Perhaps I can pry some insights from him to help with my book sales.

Wednesday
Sep082010

Behind the Scenes at the 2010 Austin Chronicle Hot Sauce Festival

The 2010 Austin Chronicle Hot Sauce Festival has two different components: the festival itself, and a hot sauce / salsa judging. The celebrity hot sauce judging itself divides into two stages, the eliminators and the celebrity judges. The eliminators narrow down the playing field for the celebrity judges.

I got to hang out and participate in the eliminator stage, and boy was it crazy. Heaps of mexican food from Serrano's, many cases of St. Arnold's beer, thousands of tortilla chips, and a roomful of hardened foodies. After a few hours we had cut the towers of salsas down to a reasonable stack of awesome salsas for the celebrity judges to taste.

Caution! My video reveals the brutal truth: judging salsa takes lots of beer and antacid. Also, you might notice the important role aroma plays in a Salsa's success. Stinky salsa has an uphill battle against all but the bravest and strongest judges.

Tuesday
Sep072010

Canning Craft Beer: is it Cheaper?

Dale's Canarchy in the USAThere are many technical benefits to beer in cans: no light, less oxygen leaking in, lighter and cheaper to ship, less breakable, and less damaging to foreheads. The beer heads have started to sing the praises of canned beers, but there still aren't too many craft beers available in them.

My initial thought regarding bottling versus canning was that canning would be more expensive for a small brewery. A recent article in the Houston Chronicle contradicts my theory and claims that canning lines are cheaper than bottling.

Canning lines are cheaper? As a home brewer, I've filled a lot of bottles. Bottling can be exhausting, but it doesn't require much of an investment to do it by hand.

Let's look at the can equivalent of crimping caps. Cask.com offers a manual canning system which has a nice video of a "manual" canning process.

To my untrained eyes, the "manual" canning process doesn't look much better than bottling by hand. In fact, it looks a lot worse, since those fancy can filling, seaming, and 6-pack ringing machines probably cost a bit more than my red plastic bottle cap crimper and leaky filling wand. At this level of automation, I don't think there is any way cans are cheaper than bottles. I'm going to declare bottles the winner. 

At a larger scale the equipment becomes automated. Cask's automated system makes for a much more impressive canning video. It fills and seams at the impressive-to-me rate of 30 cans per minute. Unlike the manual canning line, chill background music is paired with the clanky machinery for the automated system. Nice upgrade!

Could this be cheaper than the equivalent bottling line? I'm not sure. This slightly higher capacity bottling line looks larger and more complicated. The canning line has a 1800 cans per hour rating. The bottling line is rated for 2000 bottles per hour, about 11% faster.

I'm not equipped to do a cost comparison for the more automated systems, but I think I can believe the canning line might be cheaper. Sorry, without getting quotes, I can't say for sure. I suspect that the biggest consideration for the craft brewer will probably be the marketing concerns of cans.

My suggestion for the marketing issues? Put your beer in big cans like Guinness or Young's, or in tiny cans like Red Bull. Another idea? Package the cans in cardboard carriers like bottles have. Hang a paper tag from the pull tab. Ship the cans in coozies or with a shoulder strap. Canned craft beer will need to do something a little unusual to pull attention away from the bottle section of the beer cooler.

Friday
Sep032010

A Few Interesting Exhibitors at GABF

Hop Candy

A Beer in the Hand is Worth Two of AnythingOne of the universe's most lingering mysteries involves two of my favorite ingredients. What do you get if you combine chocolate and hops? Now we know: you get Hopolates!

I have no earthly idea what these candies will taste like, but I hope to learn at GABF. Hop Candy Inc. well be selling their hop-infused chocolates at booth 123.

Unfortunately, Hop Candy's Website seems to be having a few issues, but you can find a review of the Hopolates here.

33 Beers

33 Beers may sound like a competitor to 37 Signals, but the 33 Beers apps run on paper instead of Ruby on Rails. Sorry, nerd humor.

Judging from their website, these guys make nice looking beer journals. The Moleskine of the beer world, perhaps. Each page has space for beer hipsters to record the vital statistics for a beer, including a cool flavor-profile wheel to rapidly record your impressions of the flavor.

I joke, 33 Beers won't turn you into a hipster. I hope. With more than 2,000 beers to try at GABF, taking notes is the only way to keep track of what you like. I expect to see many beer heads filling these out as they wander the floor of GABF.

Extra points to anyone who profiles the Hopolates in their 33 Beers.

Thursday
Sep022010

Beer and Food Pavilion at GABF

Have you peeked at the Great American Beer Festival's Beer and Food Pavilion Schedule yet? Holy mole sauce Batman, I want to go to all of the sessions!

Chef Teddy Folkman will be back to put on another awesome show (see photo on left). Last year's pairings were wonderful. I expect this to be packed.

Sam Calagione will probably fill the house with his pairings of exotic-wood aged beer and food. Exotic woods? That's news to me. Wow.

Hosea Rosenberg and Adam Avery will pair street foods with Avery beer. Street foods? Sign me up!

The other sessions look great too. Don't miss the other shows just because I didn't mention them here.

Some hints on the Beer and Food Pavilion:

 

  • Get there early. Be in a seat at ten minutes before the start at the earliest. The seats fill early.
  • Sit near the table off to the side of the stage. You'll probably get served first.
  • Sit in a chair. Folks who stand often get served last, and only if there is beer and food left.
  • Hang around after the show. The speakers are often available to chat for a few minutes after each show.
  • If your plate or glass is empty, you might get seconds. Cool!
  • Bring your own fork and napkins just in case. Supplies can run out and things can get messy.
  • These sessions are awesome, go to at least one even if pairings aren't your thing.

 

There are nine different shows over the three days, and they all look delicious to me. Be sure to look at the schedule and let me know which you'll attend.