Enough Not Fun News, Let's Talk Beer!

Ever since I started this amazing and sometimes maddening adventure of opening a brewery I've been agonizing over what beers I want to brew. I've covered this subject in a few previous posts, so I will try very hard not to repeat myself or say the same thing again (see what I did there?). Well, I'm happy to say I have a much, much clearer vision of what I think will be Panic's (now named Alarmist) two flagship beers at launch. First, I'm not going to divulge exactly what they will be because the marketplace is getting more and more competitive and I'd rather wait until the brewery is almost ready to begin operations. Once I'm ready to roll, I'll go into great detail about the beers and supply enough info that homebrewers will be able to get very close to the final recipes.

How hard can it possibly be to sell another APA in the market place?

The first beer is an American style pale ale. Now that doesn't sound very interesting, does it? You can't go outside without tripping over an American craft pale ale (at least at my house, since I just throw all the bottles onto the front porch or into the yard). Who in their right mind would brew one of the most popular styles of craft beer in their start up brewery?  IPA is actually the most popular craft beer style I believe, but APA is up there somewhere. This APA is hopefully going to be quite a bit different than just about any other APA in the Chicago market. I have a very specific hop profile I'm going for and I'm getting close enough now that I'm moving from small prototype batches to regular 5 gallon and soon 10 gallon batches. I'll cover my prototype process in a later post.

I've really mulled over this recipe and brewed it multiple times. Each iteration has gotten a little bit better but I've recently learned a few things which will help me to get it exactly where I want it. I should point out that Nate was extremely helpful in formulating and iterating this recipe and brewed a tasty 10 gallon version of it back in March.

The first thing I've learned is how to calculate late hop IBU contributions. I didn't know what the exact theoretical IBU contributions should be and my beers kept coming out more bitter than I wanted. I finally finished reading Stan Hieronymus' "For the Love of Hops" and about fell out of my chair when I got to the late hopping/whirlpool hopping section. There is lots of good data from Stone and Firestone Walker and others regarding hop utilization at lower temperatures in the book. Then I started an email thread with the creator of the brewing software I use, BeerAlchemy 2 on both Mac and iOS (the syncing feature between Mac and iOS is absolute killer). I asked him about how to calculate IBU's from late hopping and he kindly pointed to the feature built right into the software (it's the "Hot Steep/Whirlpool" parameters, which I had never noticed for some damn reason). Since I had never filled in the two fields for whirlpool time and temperature, the software never calculated the IBUs from those hop additions. Duh. These very recent discoveries have been extremely helpful in providing at least some kind of guidance on how much bitterness I can expect in my beers. Remember these numbers are all theoretical, but that's better than nothing.

The other beer is going to be Englishy. I love English bitters. This beer is not an English bitter. It is absolutely informed by English beer styles and there are other craft breweries doing something like this, but I'm going to make it my own. It will be very low hopped, very low in alcohol, and easy quaffed by the gallon. I'm really excited about this beer.

Oh, almost forgot to mention. My local homebrew club, Square Kegs, has an entry in this year's Beerfly Alleyfight which will be taking place at Haymarket Brewpub. All competitors will be brewing a porter. I created the recipe with fellow homebrewer Jordan von Kluck based on the ingredients provided and some tweaks to help us bring home the gold or whatever it is. I brewed it a couple of weekends ago, which turned into quite a fun Square Kegs party in my back yard. This is a big, fun competition that's hard to explain, so go Google it and try to make it if you can. I'll be there for sure.

As usual, I have lots more to share covering everything from SBA loans to licensing. I'll blog all this stuff as we continue.



Once upon a time...

...there was a homebrewer and he loved to brew beer.  He started brewing beer in 1991 using extract and pitching old dried yeast directly into a bleach sanitized bucket.  The beer was terrible but he didn't know it.  All he knew was something amazing was afoot.  He could make something few others could. After a few years of sporadic brewing and sporadic daydreaming about becoming a professional brewer, our homebrewer's focus moved away from beer .  Perhaps it was the fact that he was an undisciplined twenty-something with little ability to focus on anything but drinking, chasing women (usually unsuccessfully), and peeing in alleys (usually successfully).  Perhaps he just needed to mature a bit. Age like a pungent cheese. Fast forward to Fall, 2008.  Having lived in his house with a basement for several years, the homebrewer finally decided that it was time to brew again.  Something was different this time.  There was focus.  Excitement.  A thirst for knowledge – and good beer.  Passion.  Extract quickly gave way to all grain.  Bottling gave way to kegging.  Yeast was placed in starter wort in an Erlenmeyer flask and placed on a stir plate.  Meads were fermenting.  Saccharomyces cerevisiae gave way to lactobacillus and brettanomyces. Within a few months, the basement was filled with glass carboys, grains, mash tuns, temperature controllers, pipettes, flasks, chest freezers and much more.  The beer was excellent ... usually.

Outside of homebrewing, "microbrews" became "craft beer" and craft beer was everywhere.  New bars were dedicated to serving it.  New festivals focused on regional craft beer offerings.  And Chicago, which for many years languished behind many major cities in craft beer culture, finally embraced it.  Metropolitan and Half Acre re-blazed a trail that had been previously traveled by Goose Island, Chicago Brewing Company, and Golden Prairie (remember that one?).

It's now October 4, 2011 and boy have things changed for our intrepid homebrewer.   This blog is about those changes.  If you've ever dreamed of opening your own brewery or perhaps any kind of small business to pursue your dreams, follow along.  This is going to be a hell of a ride.

And just so we're clear here:  Failure is not an option.