Tuesday, April 28, 2009

This One Writes Itself

I Am A Craft Brewer on Vimeo

Wow! Made me both proud and thirsty. And a little bit misty.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Whisky in a Jar

I finally grabbed the pictures off my iPhone, which serves as my only camera. It's also a great phone, browser, mail client, and it plays music, but that is fodder for someone else's blog. What I was attempting to retrieve were some of the pictures from casking up day of my Spring seasonal one-off. It seems that some oak chips got accidently crammed into a quart canning jar, which was (accidently as well) filled with a peaty Bowmore single malt whisky.

They lingered in said fashion for a month.

Then one day I was casking up an extra special bitter that I specially brewed for the coming days of sunshine and outdoor recreation, and I got a clever idea - probably the second or third time this has happened to me. Consequently, the whisky was extracted from the chips, revealing a darker color than the original.

The math was easy - as I brew 2 UK BBL, which is eight firkins, I separated up the chips into eight piles. Astute observers might inquire as to the contents of the other containers on my sophisticated brewery desk. The white stuff is isinglass finings being blended. Followers of previous posts will be delighted to know that I've figured out the correct mixture. The amber liquid on the far right in the pitcher is a finings adjunct that works together with the isinglass to produce yummy bright beer.

It will probably be Memorial Day weekend before I tap the first cask of "Whisky in a Jar". I want time for some of the tannins to work their way into the beer, and the end of May will give it about two months. ABV worked out at 5.7%, so it will be the highest gravity ale on for the summer; my IPA's are working out at around 4.0% to 5.5%. It is also time to work on some nice low gravity summer session ales, so I better get busy.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Honest Pints and the Strong Arm of the Law

In the last week and a half I've had two conversations about whether THE LAW should be involved with the notification or regulation of the discrepancy between the amount of beer nominally dispensed in a glass, and the ofttimes unsuitable amount actually dispensed. The first was with a well-known whisky and beer writer with whom I had the pleasure of entertaining at my pub last Friday. This was the point at which I first became aware that our elected lawmakers were even considering generating paper, perspiration and poo-poo over over this issue. Shortly thereafter I received a phone call from a writer for the Eugene Register-Guard over the same topic, which resulted in an article in the Register-Guard and a subsequent expurgated version on Fox News.

I had been aware of the Honest Pint Project for some time. It seems that a large proportion of beer vendors dispense a measure inferior to the stated amount. I know this is true, because a cursory scan of the standard shaker glass (16 oz. American pint) often reveals a large glassy bit at the bottom and a whitish foamy bit at the top, neither of which qualify as one of our favorite liquid refreshments (although the foam does contain trace elements). Maybe this is OK for some, such as the pitcher punters unaware that there is no volumetric definition of a pitcher, but for me it is just plain dishonest. Who, after all, would be satisfied with 19 gallons of gas for the price of 20, or a perceived inferior ratio of the so-called "berry" to the little yellow sugary pillows in my Cap'n Crunch Crunchberry box.

At first I was afraid that the State Gummint busybodies were going to attempt to turn this kind of behavior into a crime, much like the OLCC prohibiting me from enjoying a pint (proper, in a lined glass) of my own ale produced in my own brewery after closing time while I do the till, or allowing a youngster to come up to the bar and ask for another creme soda. If they were to take that approach, then the liberation of the proverbial worm-laden can suggests a tsunami of honesty legislation. Or maybe manners mandates? Hmmm. Now we're talking. I would love to have a law requiring customers to be polite, read signs, and say "Please" instead of "I'll have...". Violators would be clapped in irons without bail and sent to the pokey for three years until they can learn to wait twenty minutes for their food.

The second twang of uneasiness in the stomach was that they (The Gummint) might force every one of us to use exactly the same size glass. This would spark my own personal revolutionary insurrection. I already have a significant investment in my glassware, which I had custom-printed in the spirit of the British Imperial Pint, notably the 23 oz. overisized, lined glass. I like my glassware. I REALLY like my glassware. It feels good in the hand, and I know exactly how to fill it. It is eminently grippable and painfully honest. It is not to be messed with, Gummint or otherwise.

As I understand it, though, the proposed legislation takes the approach of certification. If your dispensed volume equals the stated volume, if you walk the talk, then you get a sticker or something. That might be alright, as long as I don't have to pay for it or otherwise waste taxpayers' money. I admit to really appreciating the Cask Marque designations at British pubs, but then I'm a snob for real ale and don't want to wander into a pub bereft of my favorite beverage. So, I'd put a sticker on my door, provided that it was free, large, and colorful.

Sadly, though, I'm not sure the American consumer, for the most part, really cares. Some do, though. My hope is that an awareness and appreciation for honesty and friendliness, for civility, for decent pubs and real ale and good music and nice slow-cooked meals, will continue to grow. Honesty is self-regulating, and the customers that appreciate these things will find us, Gummint or no.