Tuesday, May 27, 2008

29th Birthday

I actually had to be reminded this morning that I am 29 years of age today. Not the most exciting birthday... one more year and I'm no longer a twenty-something. In the past couple of years I've already began to notice some key indicators of an aging body & mind:
  • I don't care as much about what other people think anymore. That goes for what people think about me or what people think about in general. Its really a waste of time.
  • I can't drink as much in one sitting as I used to be able to. Or I just have no desire to... hard to say which. Not that getting drunk doesn't happen once and awhile. But more often than not I find after a couple of beers I don't feel like drinking anymore.
  • I've been reading a lot more in the last year. But that may be because I don't have a TV here in residence at school (although the internet is pretty bad for taking up my time). In any case, I think when I move back to Canada I'm going to get rid of the cable TV.
  • I can't stay up as late as I used to be able to. I've tried to pull a couple of all-nighters here at school, but I end up feeling absolutely horrible by about 5 am. Maybe I just need more practice.
  • I can't stand hangovers anymore. I used to be able to go out the night before work, get in at 3 am or something, get up and be at work at 8 am(ish). And I'd feel ok. Now the times I do get drunk it just kills my next day. Maybe thats another reason why I don't get drunk much anymore. Although "much" is a relative term.
  • I feel like cooking good food. Although that could be my girlfriend rubbing off on me.
  • I might be lazier than I used to be... not sure about this one. The brewing program here doesn't push me very hard, so I don't feel like I'm working hard. Maybe I still have hard work ability in me, but I just need a good reason to do it.
Anyway, thats my birthday thoughts for now. Unfortunately I have an exam at 9:30 tomorrow morning, so any celebration will be delayed until after that event. Speaking of which... I should probably be studying for that.


Wednesday, May 21, 2008

SAVOR Craft Beer & Food Experience Coverage

I'd just like to point everybody to Craft Beer Radio's coverage of the Savor Craft Beer & Food Experience in Washington DC last week. I've listened to a few of the sessions, and they are very informative on the nuances of tasting good beer with good food. I highly recommend listening to the sessions given by some of the most knowledgeable people in the industry. If you haven't yet been converted to the fact that beer is better with food than wine yet, listening to these sessions will help.

I've vowed to start cooking with beer as well as pairing beer with food... I'm working on something right now, I'll post the results later tonight ;)


Monday, May 19, 2008

The Cyclic Nature of Beer CO2

I was asked the other day why more breweries don't recover their CO2 from fermentation. After all, quite a bit of CO2 is produced in the process, and a lot of that gets vented to the atmosphere. So I thought I'd address this briefly.

First of all, CO2 recovery is not easy. You don't just attach a hose to the top of a fermenter and send it to a tank. You need compressors, scrubbers, distillation columns, and more compressors. It takes quite a bit of energy to recover and purify CO2 from brewing sources. So when you balance the CO2 'saved' from being emitted to the atmosphere you need to subtract the CO2 generated from power plant to make the energy to recover the CO2. That being said, it seems that this process usually works out positively for larger breweries who can afford the huge capital cost of a recovery system.

The main point I'd like to make though is this: beer production has a natural CO2 recovery system. Beer is made from malted barley. The sugars that the yeast break down into CO2 come from the barley grains. The barley grains produce their sugar with -- yep, CO2 from the atmosphere. There is a cycle there.

In theory, the barley needs to take in more CO2 than we are releasing to the atmosphere during fermentation, as not all the sugars are fermented completely. But perhaps thats an oversimplification. For 'carbon neutrality', we'd also need to consider the CO2 from transport, malting, energy needed for brewing, more transport, etc etc etc. So I'm in no way arguing that beer is carbon neurtal, but that there has been a natural recovery system already in place for many hundreds of years.


Sunday, May 18, 2008

A Fine Scottish Walk

I've been meaning to do more walking around the rural area near where I live on campus just South of Edinburgh. So I went for a decent 3 hour walk today, towards the Pentland hills. I brought along my iPod and caught up on podcasts from Quirks & Quarks, the science show from CBC back home.
hike - May 18  005 Currie Fields Perfect Sunday Lunch
So those are a few photos from the relatively short hike. I ate some food by a reservoir, it was rather peaceful, although it started to get pretty chilly. Sometime this week I think I'll try to hike right into the pentland hills, which could be an 6-8 hour round trip depending on how many photos I take...

(click on photos for a larger image)


Friday, May 16, 2008

Brew Dog vs the Nanny State

According to this article in todays Scotsman, Brew Dog Craft Brewery faces a threat of a boycott action by advertising watchdog the Portman group. I'm not going to re-write the article here, you can read the article yourself as its not very long. I just have three points I want to make about this issue:

1. I think that some people live in fear that other people will make bad decisions. Its a control issue for them. Its a beer label. Certainly, no label on any product should boast something that isn't true (eg, if you buy our beer women will want have sex with you). The debate gets into implied product effects in marketing, though. Luckily the nanny state is there to protect the most weak-minded of us, who would be convinced by aggressive marketing tactics. Personally, I find it an insult to my intelligence that the Portman group thinks Brew Dog's marketing slogans are too aggressive for my obviously weak mind.

2. Brew Dog makes some DAMN good beers... I'm a professional in the industry, and I've tasted a hell of a lot of 'average' beers. These guys aren't selling beer because of their marketing, they're selling it because they have an artistic talent that makes their beer far better than most beers. Big breweries rely heavily on their marketing, as associating their brand with different footy clubs seems to be the only way to tell the difference between the brands in the 'uninteresting yellow fizz' market.

3. That being said, the big guys and the little guys still ought to play by the same rules for marketing. Of course, the Portman group has only suggested that Brew Dogs marketing might violate their rules. And all they can do is initiate a boycott, apparently. But I think people would still buy the beer.

I say Brew Dog keeps marketing the same way they've always done, keep doing a damn fine job making their beers, and I'll keep drinking them (when I can find them, that is). If they get more pressure from this Portman group, thats some pretty good publicity and scores high with the 'stickin it to the man' type people.

Anyway, you ought to read Brew Dog's response on their website, its pretty funny and unprofessional. Its a nice change from the PR crap we're used to. These guys know how to sell beer to me... I'll seek out a pint tomorrow.


Thursday, May 15, 2008

Low bit rave

Ok I know I'm way behind in posts... I have a beer festival to review, and some metaphysics to comment on, but I just have to take this brief moment to post an album my friend Mike Verdone made called "Low Bit Rave" that is pretty cool. Just listening to the first few tracks myself... its my kind of music!

I demand you enjoy it.

Or at least download it.


Saturday, May 03, 2008

The next step

I've done a lot of reading of beer and beer related books over the last several years. One thing I've never really touched on, however, was beer and food. I know that there are some great beer-food pairings, and some great recipes, but I've never really read too much about the subject.

So I figure its time to rectify that. I just received "The Brewmaster's Table" by Brooklyn Brewery brewmaster Garrett Oliver, as well as "He said beer, she said wine" by Sam Calagione (of Dogfish head fame) and Marnie Old. Obviously I haven't read them yet, but I can say what I expect. The former is a lot thicker than I expected and its very in-depth on the beer styles, pairings, and history. The second is an interesting presentation of the debate between beer and wine for food pairings, with Sam defending beer and Marnie defending wine. So from that I ought to learn a little more about wine pairings, as well as some good talking points for debating wine snobs on the merits of beer with food.

In fact, I think I'll read some of these right now.


Who is the next big beer writer?

Michael Jackson is unfortunately dead. Roger Protz is getting on in years. Who is the next beer writer for the people?

My vote goes towards Robert Millichamp. Rob is a classmate of mine in my brewing program here at Heriot-Watt university, and he knows his beer reviewing. He is religious about taking notes on every single beer he tries. EVERY beer. I like to think that I rate beer, but he takes it to the next level.

Rob has his own blog of late, too, where you can read some of his comments on beer and brewing. I like to read what he has to say, I think he has an articulate nature that many people lack.

Rob published a post on the types of beer drinkers in the UK, read it here, its quite interesting in my humble opinion. Read his other posts from that link.