Sunday, October 30, 2005

I need crap

If by any chance somebody who is selling or thinking of selling their homebrew equipment reads this, I am looking to buy some homebrew equipment. Specifically:
  • Large stainless steel pot w/ lid
  • grain mill
  • refractometer
  • maybe a stainless steel fermenter?
Email me at if you want to sell something. I'm sure we could work out a deal that works for both of us :).

Aside from that, I reviewed some beers over the last several days, all from Okanagan Spring:

Friday, October 28, 2005

Various Notes

Man, I have to get up and be on the phone for a sales conference call at 7:00 am on Fridays. I speak for about 1 minute then listen to a bunch of other people talk. Good thing speaker phone exists... now I can type this while I wait.

Good news: I apparently am out of Fort St. John for sure by the end of November and back to Calgary (for now), word of mouth tells me that there is somebody to replace me. Sweet.

As for nerdy beer stuff... sent me this awesome book I've wanted for awhile, Designing Great Beers by Ray Daniels. Its a really in-depth book for advanced homebrewers or professional brewers. Lots of sceintific background, lots of graphs, charts, tables, and even references to scientific papers in journals. I've read 1/2 a chapter and already learned a few things!
  • For malt extracts, use dry malt extracts. Liquid ME is hydrated and chemical reactions occur faster.
  • For all my extract brewing to date, I had always mini-mashed the specialty malts together, sparged, and then boiled with a bunch of Light DME to get the initial SG up. However, I think from now on when I do my mini-mash I will add a bunch of 'regular' malted barley (likely pale 2-row). I'm thinking this would help with starch conversion in the mini-mash, and using real grains instead of DME apparently does provide some improvements and better control. I figure if I replace 1/3 or 1/2 of the DME I'd use normally with 2-row I might like the results.
Anyway, I also took a look at a well known program, ProMash. I wrote a whole crappy spreadsheet that did some of the things this software did. Its just easier to spend the money and get this program! Anyway, check it out, its kinda fun to play with... well, depending on how dorky you are...


Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Subjectivity of Beer Reviewing

Ug, I don't seem to have any energy today. bleh

One problem with websites like is that (I think) people discriminate against anything from a large macro brewery. Its funny because large breweries win festivals in blind judging... for example, the Great American Beer Festival. Its not like they can pay off the judges, its a blind test by very experienced certified judges. Lets just take one example:
Michelob Pale Ale won gold for the "Classic English-Style Pale Ale" category, a common and popular beer style. Michelob is owned by the same people who bring you Budweiser, Anheuser-Busch. But on BeerAdvocate, this beer is rated as 75 from 22 reviews. 75 is considered "not recommended". 22 reviews isn't a lot of reviews for the site, but enough to be valid. So... a beer considered by professional judges as a gold medal for a popular category is "not recommended"?

I just think that people are prejudice against the larger breweries. I'll admit guilt in that too, of course. And I'm probably guilty of giving higher scores to smaller breweries or lesser-known beers. I think people like to take pride in something that is special... a beer you can only get in your home town has a certain appeal.

Anyway, I think people also tend to not analyze beers by their style, but compared to all other beers. You can't compare Molson Canadian to any other beers other than American style adjunct lagers. I think people tend to give the American lager bad scores because they don't like the fact the fact that it doesn't have much flavour... but the style isn't supposed to have much flavour... so you can't really complain!

Well... thats my rant for today. I also added a review for Molson Canadian (why not? I think its good for its STYLE).

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Beers Reviewed

Oh yeah, and I did do some beer reviews too, all from Alley Kat:

Weekend of Firsts

Ug, that drive is long. ~660 km to Edmonton from Fort St, John, and then back again. To get back I left at 4:00 am BC time from Edmonton today. That's not a drive you wanna do on 4 hours of sleep.

On a negative note, I got my very first speeding ticket (I guess it had to happen eventually...). 128 km/h in a 100 zone :P. But the cop put it down to 118, so my ticket was only $113.

On a positive note, I played curling for the first time. Its a pretty cool sport, but my leg hurts... I need to learn how to slide better.

But I went with some friends to a the Alley Kat Brewery for an Oktoberfest open house event they were having. Kinda felt like we were crashing the party for awhile, since I was invited "second hand" by a group that was invited. But hey, Neil the brewmaster was really nice and made us feel welcome (we also showed up right as the event started so we couldn't even blend in!). Our presence was legitimized a little more by the fact that a friend of mine is using Alley Kat to contract brew test batches of a new beer for a brewery he and some investors are planning on opening. Its a 50% wheat ale, light in body and flavour. Kinda aimed to be a refreshing summer style everyday beer. So we got to try it right out of fermentation (and get to be the first and only people to try it!). Seemed pretty ok, but it also depends on the demographic. For your "average" person who would drink Canadian or Bud, this would be pretty ok. But for people who like beers with a little more flavour or interesting qualities it could use a little more something. So it was decided to dry-hop the beer with more Saaz hops to add more aroma and a bit of flavour. Should be good to try when it comes out after dry-hopping.

Other good news though, talking to the brewmaster they might be looking for somebody in a few months, it would be interesting to get in there. I love their beer, they have a pretty good following, and their operation is relatively small which I like. And I kinda like Edmonton, especially the area around the University, and I know a lot of people around there. So yeah... sweet :).

Anyway, I should get to work, I just had a little nap ... for 3 hours.


Saturday, October 22, 2005

Epic Journey!

Well, its not really all that epic, I suppose. But Fort St. John to central Edmonton is about 660 km. So thats about 6-7hrs of driving (my kind of driving anyway -- I skip past Grande Prairie just South of Hythe and only make one stop on the whole trip in Valley View! Skipping GP saves about 30-45 minutes I think).

Anyway, it'll be good to get out of here for a bit again. Gonna stop at a few breweries. Maverick brewery opened up recently there, I think my friend made an appointment with the brewmaster to come by and chat. They only have one beer for now. An american style lager, but all malt, no adjuncts. Apparently pretty good. And then there is this open house for the 10th birthday of Alley Kat brewing. I don't know if its so much of an open house, but I got an invite via CAMRA Calgary chapter. Hopefully I'm not crashing the party!

Well, its late, and I plan on getting up at 4 am to leave FSJ by 5.... ug.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Qucik Post

Added a couple of beer reviews:
  • Blackheart Oatmeal Stout (Nelson Brewing). Pretty good!
  • Munich Mild Dark (Okanagan Springs Brewery) - Damn good beer, best rating I've given so far!
  • Helles (Okanagan Springs Brewery) - from memory, which is only a couple weeks old, but apparently I didn't like it as much as other people. Meh. Maybe I'll try it again and it'll be better.
None of these had pictures, so I added them too. Anyway, check em out.

Man, I need some good stories.

Thursday, October 20, 2005


Sweet, my postgrad prospectus / application form from HWU (Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland) arrived today. I finished filling out half of it already :). Not really all that bad. Just gotta figure out how to get a "Statement of Financial Garantee".
(see my last blog for info about why I'm considering HWU)

I noticed one odd thing at UofC though... I went to look online for the list of all of my courses, and none of my courses that I transfered to UofC are on there anymore (they used to be). I hope they appear on the transcript sent out. I guess it doesn't really matter, I have to send them my MRC transcript too.

Now I just need a time machine to skip time forward until Sept 2006 :)


Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Not about beer

Well, usually at this time I'm swimming, but the pool is closed again. For the last several weeks the pool has been very murkey and people had been complaining. Finally, they closed it to fix the chlorine levels. Bout time.

Anyway, I thought I'd post a few pictures of a condo in Kelowna my parents just got.

Yep! Cheers.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Resume, Stuck Fermentation, Hophead

Its early in the morning and I should be sleeping. May as well mention a few things:

1) Finished off my new resume, finally sent it off to Wildrose in Calgary. It would be great to work there, but we'll see. That would be awesome though.

2) The crappy batch of beer I started seems to be stuck in fermentation, or fementing with something non-yeast. Heh. Well I don't care, I'll see what it comes out to!

3) Added a review for Tree Brewing's Hophead IPA. Man, thats a damn hoppy beer!


Monday, October 17, 2005

Resume Crap

Well crap. There was a small oppertunity at a brewery in Calgary a couple of weeks ago, they were looking for some help. I fired off what I had for a resume, or at least I thought I did... just found in in my "drafts" folder today. That sucks.

But I had decided to write a new resume and cover letter for myself... I'll give it to all the alberta breweries and hey, maybe something will come up. Its not like I'm in a rush to leave my current job (which I like), but at some point I gotta take that first step.

So I forgot how much I hated writing resumes and cover letters. Half the time it seems like I'm wording things that sound so fake just to be professional. But whatever. The cover letter was hard until I decided I'd talk more about my passion for brewing/beer rather than talk at length about my education or prior work experience (al lot of which is irrelevent).

Anyway, so maybe its ok that the email wasn't sent... at least now I can send something thats relevent and sounds better than what I threw together in haste and excitement. I wrote this about what I love about brewing and beer in general:
  • Brewing is scientific. It is an extremely complex process of biochemical interactions. Even a slight change in one parameter can change the final product for better or worse. This complexity intrigues me; the amount there is to learn is enormous.
  • Brewing is an art. Despite all of the biochemistry and physics that can be applied to brewing, there are still things that science has trouble explaining. Beer is as subjective as any art – a beer that is loved by one person is hated by another. I love the challenge of designing something that others and I will enjoy.
  • Beer is about happiness. When enjoyed responsibly, beer brings people together. I’d bet that almost every culture in the world has a custom for sitting down and socializing over a beverage. People catch up with old friends, celebrate the team’s big win, develop new friends, and generally have fun. And beer is often a part of that. I love making a batch of brew, inviting my friends over, and giving it all away for their enjoyment. Although giving beer away generally doesn’t work for a commercial brewery, I would love to see people enjoy something I made and be a part of their happiness.
Yep. Anyway, we'll see how it goes.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Brewing Again

Well, since I've been stuck way up north in Fort St. John, BC, I haven't done any brewing. I couldn't really stand it anymore, so I finally went down to the homebrew shop here. Their supplies were... minimal, at best. They had cheap starter supply kits. I didn't like the quality of the plastic in them, and the carboy was plastic too. Phew. They generally just suck.

Anyway, the woman there had a stout kit from BrewHouse that had been sitting there for awhile and was expired. Well, normally I'm a stickler for fresh supplies. And even more anal about sanitation (I usually wear latex gloves and a dust mask over my mouth and nose to prevent breathing into the wort). But I figure for just once I should try making a beer using lax sanitation, old wort, and crappy equipment. Well, the woman gave me the stout kit for 50% off, replaced the outdated yeast with fresh yeast (albeiet crappy Coopers "Brewer's" Yeast... ale? lager?? doesn't say), and gave me an ounce of Fuggle 4% AA hops she just got in. I figure it'll be the cheapest beer I've ever made, and the new fuggle hops will help replace the hops in the wort that would have expired. All in all, this is just a batch to play with, no regrets if it goes wrong, since theres a good chance it will no matter what :).

Ok, so its a 15 L kit so I start to boil up 8 L of additive water to clean it up. But I get this idea to add a few dashes of pepper and 1/2 of the fuggle hops to the boil. And then I added a bottle of Sam Adam's Boston Lager for fun. I boiled the whole thing for about 20 minutes and then let it cool. I found this clover honey I bought at a farmer's market a few weeks back, so I decided to boil up 500 mL of that with about 300 mL of water.

After sanitizing everything about half as diligiently as I normally would, I dumped in the wort and the additives (water + honey water), aerated the wort, cooled it, added the other 1/2 oz of fuggle hops as a dry hop, aerated again, then added the yeast.

We'll see how this goes... I'm interested for sure.

Initial Gravity: 1.051 @ 22 C. The initial wort actually tasted better than I expected. Firm and dry maltiness and just the hint of the extra fuggle hops in the background (this was before dry-hopping).

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Beer Reviews

Well, I started doing some beer reviews over the last weeks. I plan to post these to
Here are some I did:

Black Sheep Ale
Wells Bombardier Bitter (apparently out of circulation... but my store had it... odd)
Wynchwood Hobgoblin
Hacker-Pschorr Hefe Weisse

Those have all been reviewed quite a few times by other people. I was please to add the 5th review ever for Tree Brewing's Spy Porter from Kelowna, BC.

The links have info about the beer and reviews from people better at reviewing than I. Check out the site, its awesome.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Edinburgh or Berlin?

So for the past 6 months or so I've been looking at some brewing education possibilities. Now there is the debate about weather its better to just get experience working at a brewery and learn from that, or if formal education is a good idea. I'm not going to get into that right now...

Very brief intro to my background: I have a BSc in Biochemistry, have been homebrewing for more than a year, and I currently work for an environmental lab where I have learned a great deal about water chemistry.

Anyway, after doing a lot of looking around the internet for brewmaster schools that offer English classes (there are several that require German, which I don't speak enough of to get by!). I narrowed it down to (links to program description):

I’ve sort-of ruled out UC Davis for now because I think I'd like to do this in Europe. VLB Berlin is a technical program (certificate) that runs 5 months from January to June 2006. They seem to cover all the topics I want to make sure I have. There are only 20 spots, first-come-first-serve with no real entrance requirements.

Heriot-Watt offers a diploma (9 months, Oct 2006-June 2007) or a full MSc (Oct 2006-Sept 2007). The diploma and the MSc offer the same courses, but the MSc includes a longer research project. A bachelor's degree is required for entrance, preferably with bio science background.

So, the question is do I want to go to Berlin very soon for a short amount of time to get the basic certificate (and guaranteed to get in) or wait to get into HWU and possibly not get in...

The VLB program seems to cover all the basics, but its lack of entrance requirements makes me question how much detail they go into for the biochemistry and microbiology of brewing, which I think is very important. I figure their program must really concentrate on the actual technical process of setting up and running a brewery and the engineering. Which might be all I want, because I already have the bchem and microbio background under my belt...

The HWU program also covers all they key topics for running a brewery and the engineering stuff. They have intro to bcem, microbio etc, but for people like me with a previous degree in biology they offer substitute business courses (also a good thing). Having a full MSc would be great and would allow me to do research if for some unlikely reason I wanted to do that. But I do worry about getting out of the program and being over-qualified for a lot of jobs, or being all education and little experience.

Anyway, so its still up in the air. The letters are in the mail. I think I'm leaning toward HWU, but maybe my impatience will win out and I'll head to Berlin.

As a side note, I've been to both Edinburgh and Berlin, and they're both awesome cities, so no help there :). Although Berlin does have the world cup of soccer in 2006 ... hmmmmm!

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Beer Kits

Wow, my first day and already a question from a friend.
What beer kits are good?

Well, I've only tried two real full "kits" and one "can kit".

Baron's kits is what I started using. I found them for ~$23-30 depending on the kit or if there was a sale. There’s no boiling involved, just mix the wort with water and add yeast and 'dry-hops' (instructions provided). I've made about 8 of these kits myself. They're 7.5 L concentrated wort, which means you have to add 15.5 L of water. I've never had a problem using Calgary city water. Since its 7.5 L, you can actually boil up more malt or specialty malts or adjuncts and add them to the wort in place of straight of water. So, you can change the beer flavour or raise the alcohol content. But if you're going to go to all that trouble you may as well not use the kit really. The quality I got from these was pretty good and well received by friends.

The BrewHouse Kits come in 15 L boxes. This means you don't have to add as much water, perhaps your beer could be a little more consistent (?), and you could still boil up some additives if you wanted. Similar process the the Baron's kits. I haven't tasted my beer from the Brewhouse kit yet, still in production ;).

"Can Kits" - I tried these once, I really didn't like it. You buy a can of pre-hopped, very concentrated malt extract. Then you boil it up with a lot of corn sugar or dry malt extract. I found the beer I made from it was very weak bodied and cidery. Maybe I just need to do things differently, but I don't think I'll try it again.

There are several other simple no-boil kit brands too.

First entry

Well, I suppose its time for me to start a blog. I mean, seriously, I've been a computer nerd my whole life and I'm one of the last people I know to start a blog. Maybe I just never had anything to say before.

So what do I have to say? Well, I like beer. I like drinking it, I like talking about it, and I like making it.

Drinking Beer - No, not getting wasted off of a few cases of Bud every couple of days. Not sitting infront of the TV sipping can after can of Canadian. People who like beer just to get drunk off of don't like beer, they like alcohol. Alcohol is just a small part of beer. I like tasting beer, smelling it, looking at it, judging it. But I can get more into that later.

Making Beer - Well, I've been homebrewing for about a year. Last time I checked my logs I had made 13 or so batches ranging from simple kits to extract / mini-mash batches. So I'm really just getting started. I dream of one day being a brewer, and part of this blog will tell the tale of my progression toward that dream :).

Right now I am stuck waaaay the hell up North in BC, Canada, in Fort St. John. I'm from Calgary, however, and am supposed to move back there by December of this year. So needless to say, its hard to find good beer and brewing supplies up here. Oh well.

So... thats it for now. Maybe I'll remember to update this, or maybe I'll just end up a single post with nothing from now on ;).