Perfection in Five

I’ve been slowly progressing through what I call my “Perfection in Five” series. I haven’t been brewing the same recipes often enough to really dial them in.  By that I mean I haven’t defined a repeatable recipe and process.  Perfection in Five challenges me to produce one perfected recipe within five brewing sessions.

For years I’ve been brewing 10 gallon batches per session.  As I’m sure I’ve said before, it takes the same amount of time to brew five gallons as it does 10, so why not brew 10?  If I make a good beer, I want to drink it and I want other people to try it, so it works out well.  But if I don’t think the beer is good… well… it sticks around too long and becomes a burden.  Since Perfection in Five is an experiment that was meant to be completed quickly, I didn’t want a bunch of beer hanging around, so I decided that five gallon batches made the most sense.

Except I disposed of all of my “small batch” equipment when making room for my new equipment.

I’ve invested in a system where even a 10 gallon batch is small, so trying to produce five gallons really is asking too much.  I understand now that I want the option to scale back, so I decided to buy an industrial 10 gallon Igloo cooler for a mash tun.  This cooler is designed to keep water cold for a few days at a time, which tickles my fancy for mashing in a near-freezing garage.  My assumption is that it will do just as good of a job insulating a hot mash as it would a cold drink.  Yes, temperature control is a fetish.

I wanted another control for this experiment to be the ingredients, so I put together the recipe and calculated how much of everything I would need to produce five 5-gallon batches.  I gathered up enough grain and hops so that every run of my experiment would use the same batches of those ingredients.  Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough yeast available at my LHBS, so the control is slightly less controlled in that I will be using two different batches of the same yeast.

This is going to be fun for me, and it’s a great time of year to brew the German pils style I’m trying to duplicate with this recipe.

Sea Change

aquarius-wallpaper-11778-hd-wallpapersThey say that the only constant in life is change. According to my wife, that’s doubly true for an Aquarius, which, unfortunately for her, I am.

dude question

That doesn’t look like a beer, Dude.

I’ve been thinking hard over the past few months about what I need to do with my business.  Starting a brewery is capital-intensive, which means it’s expensive.  Yes, I could brew a barrel at a time, but I wouldn’t have time to do much else.  If I want to be efficient (and profitable) then I have to buy a larger system, and that takes money, which means investors or loans, which means increased risk.  I knew this going in, but I chose to look past it.

I’ve always been concerned about how I will make money during the down time between applying for my brewer’s notice and the point when I can sell beer.  I bounced a few ideas around in my head but never came up with something that really made sense.

So my wife asked me the question, “What are you really trying to accomplish?”  Truth is, I had been asking myself that same question over and over.  The answer was much clearer in my mind than I expected:  I want to run an establishment where people want to go to drink really good beer.  Not just my beer–any good beer.  That’s different than what I’d envisioned.

I love to try new beers.  I make it a focus to try every new beer I find in a tavern or restaurant.  I know other people are like this, too, and I can’t think of a better quality in a customer.  Are you like this?  If so, I’ll make you a deal:  You keep coming in, and I’ll always have something new for you to try.

cheers

Where everybody knows your name… and only occasionally get up in your business.

I love a place where I can be comfortable by myself or when I’m with a group.  Sometimes I want to tuck myself away in a corner to read or write, sometimes I want to sit at the bar and chat with the beertender and other patrons, and sometimes I want to sit at a big table with nine of my friends and celebrate the end of the fantasy sports season.  That’s a tall order for one establishment, but that’s what I want to offer.

And I love to teach.  Sometimes to a fault.  I want to help my customers understand and appreciate beer, and that has to be a fun thing to do when you have a wall of taps behind you, through which flow some of the best beers in the world.  Or… I can take your order and piss off so you can enjoy it in peace.  Whatever works for you.

A successful tavern could pave the way to starting the brewery, especially if I can find the right location to make that easy.

The Taxman Cometh

And I’m not even talking about the looming U.S federal income tax deadline, rather, I’m talking about the 500% increase in taxes on beer production that’s been proposed by the Governor of the State of Washington, Jay Inslee

As I’ve gotten older, I gotten more cynical about government — who hasn’t, right?  But cynicism doesn’t change the reality of any situation, and I realized that I’m not doing anything to change that reality.  Today I sent a message to three representatives in our state House, Mark Hargrove, Pat Sullivan and Joe Fitzgibbon, and the text of my message is included below, if you’re interested in reading it.  Hargrove and Sullivan are the representatives for my residence and the desired location for the brewery.  Fitzgibbon appears to be a potential champion of the cause, and he’s on the House Finance Committee.

I also realize that a sternly-worded letter isn’t likely to change reality any more than cynicism is, but I am voicing my opinion to my representatives, right?  Isn’t that how it’s supposed to work?

This tax increase is an extremely hot topic in the WA brewing industry right now, as you might imagine.  The potential economic impact to small brewers is, from my perspective, staggering.  Let’s take a look.

You know what?  Let’s not.  You should, though.  Washington Beer Blog did it better than I would, and I have other work to do.  Educate yourself, beer drinker, for the sake of all that is local beer — seriously — then talk about it with someone else and let the legislature know if you think it’s the right thing to do.

Text of my email to my representatives:

I am writing to ask that you reject any bill or proposal that will increase taxes on beer production, and that you provide vocal support to the WA Brewers Guild’s request to exempt microbreweries from the permanent $23.58 per barrel tax proposed by Gov. Inslee.

I am in the process of starting a brewery in the city of Auburn.  My residence and my desired location both lie within your jurisdiction.  Having just been laid off my from job at <some local company>, I have an incredible opportunity to focus on starting a business that will source its raw ingredients from Washington agricultural producers, and will provide jobs to local residents, tax income to the city and state, and fantastically good beer to the residents of the city I’ve lived in for over 26 years.  This proposed tax increase puts my dream at risk at a time when I can little afford to see more money go out the door.

The mass producers of beer have already been paying this tax, but the small producers have not.  This exemption has not given the small brewers any real competitive edge against the big boys, who have tremendous economy of scale, but it has allowed the small brewers to retain more of their earnings, and virtually all of them have invested those earnings back into their businesses in the form of equipment, real estate and labor (jobs!).  An $18.80 increase on each barrel of beer is a HUGE increase in costs to these small businesses — well over 5% on every keg they ship out the door.

I applaud the directive to properly fund the education system in Washington, but I’m asking that you don’t do it at the expense of one of America’s fastest growing industries.  Because all of the new breweries in Washington are “microbreweries”, this change in policy will affect EVERY SINGLE NEW BREWERY in the state.  Washington’s beer products are widely-known, but we have a long way to go to compete with states like Oregon and Colorado.  I feel strongly that Washington, the largest producer of hops in the world and among the country’s leaders in barley production, has perhaps the greatest potential of any state to provide world-renowned beers that could be household names like Microsoft, Amazon and Boeing have become.  If you allow Gov. Inslee’s proposal to to move forward in its current form, you will dilute that potential.

Today I happen to be working on outlining my production costs.  These numbers will determine my fate with investors and creditors, and ultimately will decide if I can afford to start this business.  Right now the spreadsheet says that state taxes will cost me $4.78 per barrel, and the totals look okay.  When I type $23.58 into that field, the numbers change — and so do my chances of success.

Tower of Power, Redux

After weeks of frustration, I finally have an answer regarding the problems I’ve been having connecting my Blichmann Tower of Power controllers to my laptop:  It’s the controllers!

Today I took my laptop and communication cables down to The Beer Essentials (thanks to Bruce and Robert for offering to help) and I connected everything to the demo system they’re using down there.  What do you know?  Everything worked just fine.  Whew!  I had started to worry that I was losing my technical prowess…

Come Monday morning, these controllers will find themselves on the road back to Lafayette, Indiana for a warranty repair or replacement.  In the meantime, tomorrow I’ll be brewing a new beer, this one a clone of a well-known local amber ale.  I’ve had mixed results with ambers in the past, but I’ve been on a roll over my last few batches, so I’m expecting the best results.

Submit

Today I submitted three bottles of my Oktoberfest Märzen (actually brewed in May, so…  Oktoberfest Maien?) to Larry’s for an upcoming homebrew competition.  Join me in Enumclaw next Saturday to indulge in some beer, food, and good times at Oktobeerfest, and check out the awards ceremony if you are around Saturday evening.  Git yer tickets here.

A personal plug for my favorite folks at Lind’s Custom Meats, who will also be at the festival.  Lind’s sold me the pork bellies I used for my bacon and pancetta project a couple of months ago.  Over the summer they were also a regular stop on my Saturday morning Kent Farmer’s Market runs.  Pepperoni sticks, beef jerky, steaks, sausages and smoked cheese are just a few of their regular offerings.  I was stoked to find out they are also “processing” the piggy I recently purchased from Whistling Train Farm.  Locally-produced pork, raised and butchered within five miles of my home, is what I call a recipe for sustainability.