Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year!!!

Here is to a great 2012!

Drink good beer with good people!

Twitter: @adammmills

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Toasting the New Year

I have spent some time thinking about what beer styles are most appropriate for most our NYE celebrations, and I have come to some conclusions. Let me first state that this is all my opinion, but please be aware that I agree with all of my opinions that are about to be voiced.

It seems that a lot of NYE partiers fancy spirits or champangne on this occasion. Fine play, but we are talking beer here. I prefer to go with the theme of champagne as it seems more New Year's Eve-ie to me.

 Some champagne?

I am sticking with the recommendation of pale and fizzy, no worries I will not utter the forbidden BMC words. Rather I would like to suggest the country of Belgium. Think Belgian Golden Strong: light in body, effervescent, slight pale fruit notes like pear. They also usually feature slight peppery or spicy notes. Very crisp and dry. In this style I love Duvel. Other options that can be available across the USA are Russian River's Damnation, Delirium Tremens, and North Coast's Pranqster. All are really great beers. Be sure that you decant these beers into some appropriate glassware, because you don't drink champagne out of the bottle (we hope). Another note on decanting: some of these beers may have dregs in the bottom of the bottle. Store them upright, and pour the bottle all at once into your guests glasses so as not to rouse the lees. One last note, when Golden Strong's are done right they mask their substantial alcohol well, they can be 'sneaky' in that regard for their drinker.

Another option is a saison. Saison is a wonderful style sometimes referred to as a farmhouse ale. Saison is not a style that sports a ton of availability. Some classics are Saison Dupont, Saison Silly, and some American versions: New Belgium Saison, and Ommegang Hennepin. These are crisp, occasionally strong fruity and spicy ales, that are again, pale and highly carbonated. The fruitiness of these beers can be described as lemony or orange-like. The spice character in these beers can be derived just from the yeast, or from the actual addition of spices like coriander, grains of paradise, star of anise, etc. Personally I was really impressed with New Belgium's Saison.

I would also like to suggest a few unique beers that are in the wild or sour category, but do not write off these beers by their classification. If you have a good bottle shop around you, also contemplate getting a Flanders Red (Rohdenbach Klassiek, Monk's Cafe Flanders Red, or Duchesse de Bourgogne), a Flanders Brown (Leifman's Goudenband - perhaps my desert island beer), or a Fruit Lambic (Boon Framboise, Leifman's Kriek, Cantillon Lou Pepe).

Pair your beer choices with a wide assortment of cheeses and mix and match your beers with them. Make 2012 they year you ring in the New Year with great beer.

Drink good beer with good people!

Twitter: @adammmills

Monday, December 26, 2011

Year in Review: 2011

This has been a pretty big year for me both professionally and personally. As 2011 winds down I would like to touch on some of the highlights.

Isaac Andrew is highlight number one. This is the first baby that I have been able to spend a lot of time with. As a teacher I always had summers off. Our first three kids were born in either January or February, making them four to five months old by the time the summer came around. We never did the daycare thing, but being able to be home with Isaac right from the start has been a special experience. Babies are amazing. They develop the same way, from the squirming to the squawking. It is fun to see our children's personalities form even as little ones. With Isaac, I feel that he was the first baby that I was really prepared to be a father to. With our other three children, I did a lot of grasping at straws. I don't know. Maybe I am still doing that, it just feels like parental acumen now due to repetition.

2011 was also the year that I began my sabbatical from teaching. Over the past several months I have immersed myself in helping to launch Cranker's Brewery. As part of that, I spent two days a week for three months at Arbor Brewing Company. I learned so much and made great friends. Bill, Mike, Dave, and Brian were all very good to me and made working there not just a great professional experience, but a tremendous personal one as well. Special thanks goes out to Bill, as he is the person that I will always think of as my guide into professional brewing.

The end of 2011 also brought about some great plans for 2012. Bill and I will be brewing our collaboration beer: End of the World IPA, hopefully in December of that year. We are gunning for a big, dry, red IPA that explodes with hoppy goodness. Kevin, Lou, and I will be knocking out #TGBBR in January. We are really excited about it and there will be lots of blogging that comes forth from it. It remains a secret for now, but I will not be lacking in content later. Of course there is Cranker's Brewery to look forward to in 2012. We are shooting for a March opening and things are really coming together. The second half of the brewhouse will be delivered in mid January and Jim and Co. just picked up the bottling line.

In closing, I would like to thank all of those who have supported us over the past year, and those that have been following my blog and twitter feed (@adammmills). In the coming year, if you get a chance to stop in to the brewery or get my beer in bottles, please contact me and let me know what you think! Until then...

Drink good beer with good people!

Twitter: @adammmills

Monday, December 19, 2011

Online Store: The Goods Are In!

I put up the online stores today. They are available both from the Cranker's Brewery website, and from the Cranker's Facebook page. We ended up using the Intuit website designer, which proved to be pretty user friendly. One of the features that I did not expect was the store being available on Facebook. I thought that was pretty cool. We put up: hoodies, men's and ladies t-shirts, Mug Club memberships, and gift certificates.  It is so exciting seeing everything come together.

I have been doing some tweaking and refining to the beers in our lineup. I have just started working with WLP090 as a potential yeast strain. I am brewing test batches of Torchlight and Bulldog Red with it. I am trying to test it's boundaries, by fermenting Torchlight at 60*F, and Bulldog Red at 68*F. I will be interested to note both it's attenuation and ester production. I will report back with my findings.

The brewery build is going quite well. All of the walls are now up, with the hope of getting the roof up very soon. It is so awesome driving by it and watching it come together. I am a bit of a stalker in that regard; I drive by it four to six times a day :) Other than that, I have been busy with the four kids and getting ready for Christmas. I hope you and yours have a wonderful Christmas season!

Drink good beer with good people!

Twitter: @adammmills

Monday, December 5, 2011

Shirts Are In!

Well here they are. As of right now, they are only available from the Cranker's in Big Rapids. The online store on will be up by the end of the week if all goes to plan. The logo is the creation of David M. Phelps. We are very excited with how the shirts came out.

Click here to check out our Facebook page that has pictures of the shirts, sizes, and prices. Like our page to get the latest updates on everything Cranker's.

More to come...

Drink good beer with good people!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Good Friends

I have a lot of amazing friends. This is one of the main lessons I have learned during the process of helping to open a brewery. Today I am especially thankful for my friends David and Andy. They have volunteered their talents to help me create the visual feel that I want for the brewery. David is behind the logo concept, and Andy has made awesome visuals like the one below to pitch my concepts to my boss. They make me look good.

Below is a mockup of what the glassware we will be selling at Cranker's will look like. The style of pint glass is called a Willi Becher. It features a slight angle in around the logo that aids in capturing aromas and it is an all around solid beer glass. 

Glass shape really does play a large roll in how the beer tastes and smells. Test it out. Compare a craft beer poured into a water glass like this:
Try it side by side with a glass that has a lip that curves in, like these:

Great glass from New Belgium

Even a classic brandy snifter can be great for craft beer

Anyhow, this is a topic that can receive a lot more attention, so I may dig in deeper in a later post. In the meantime...

Drink good beer with good people!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Merchandise Coming Soon!

I just saw the previews of what the Cranker's Brewery shirts are going to look like and I am pretty excited! The first order that we made are for brown t-shirts, ladies t-shirts, and pullover hoodies. It has the brewery emblem on the front with Big Rapids, MI wrapping the bottom.

The phrase "Drink good beer with good people will be on the back.

I will get pics up of the shirts as soon as possible. There will be a larger lineup of merchandise in the coming months: stickers, bottle openers, glassware, winter hats, etc.

Drink good beer with good people!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Torchlight Munich Blonde

Torchlight is an example of what 'light beers' are supposed to taste like. It is inspired by the Munich Helles style using pilsner malt and german hops to create a crisp, yet flavorful pint. Truly a taste of Bavaria right here at home.     4.9% ABV  -  20 IBU

Drink good beer with good people!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Professor IPA

Professor IPA is a label and beer that I am very excited about. It might be my favorite in the series of labels that we have released. The Professor is going to be one of the beers we package, so you might be able to get your hands on it even if you do not live super close to the brewery.

Now on to the beer. The Professor IPA follows in the tradition of west coast IPA's in that it is pale, dry, and hop forward yet still maintaining a pleasant malty body.

Drink good beer with good people!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Throw Back Brew Day

I am going homebrewer old school today. I have been homebrewing for five years, and I have been brewing all grain for all but three or four of my first batches. But today, I am going back to my roots.

Today I brew extract.

Extract brewing is the process of adding either dry or liquid extract to water to create the (sweet) wort.* In all grain brewing, the brewer creates wort by steeping crushed malt in hot water (148 F - 159 F) allowing the starches of the malt to be converted into sugar. They then drain the wort into the boil kettle and begin the boil. All grain brewing allows the brewer more control over their process.

***Standing on Soap Box*** 
Extract brewing is sometimes looked down on by some know-it-all brewers as an inferior form of brewing. I believe that that notion is incorrect. I believe that if you use fresh extract and understand proper fermentation you can make great beer with extract. In fact, every year an extract beer medals in the National Homebrew Competition. 
***Dismount Soap Box*** 

The main benefits I find with extract brewing are speed and less clean up. Today I am extract brewing for speed. Check out Northern Brewer or More Beer for access to these goodies shown below.

Munich Liquid Malt Extract (LME)

Pilsner Dry Malt Extract (DME)

The real goal of today's brew session is to do some research into the hop called Palisade. I plan on using pilsner extract with a touch of munich extract for the malt bill, then a bit of Magnum hops at 60 minutes and Palisades from there on out. Palisade hops are supposed to have a floral, fruity, and "pretty" flavor and aroma. I think that pretty is a terrible descriptor for a hop. That aside, I am looking at using it as a substitution to cascade hops in the Professor IPA. I would like to use some hops that aren't just the same old, same old when it comes to IPA's. Also, I would like to be utilizing hops that will be easily accessible in what can be a sometimes difficult hop market.

Anywho...I am hoping to find this hop expressive enough to be a part of my IPA recipe. I will report back with my findings.

Drink good beer with good people!

* I think the term "sweet wort" is creepy. However, I love uttering the phrase "sveet, sveet, vurt." Imagine a bad german accent.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Many Hats

I have been Captain Mulitask the past few days. I have been working on the Cranker's website, prepping to start meeting with Chef Eric to develop the menu, brainstorming design concepts for Cranker's apparel, and flying solo with the kids while Peggy has been working. I have also turned into a worksite stalker, creeping past the brewery construction site at every opportunity. None of the workers have seemed to notice yet, I guess I should try and keep it that way.

Why would they notice?

I am looking forward to working with Eric on the menu and beer pairings. I am of the mind that good beer goes with good food. With that said, there are some beers that pair better with certain dishes. I have tried to create a line up that is especially food friendly by style, Irish Red, Helles, Marzen, American Brown, Sweet Stout, and an IPA. All of these beers, with the exception of the IPA, are malt driven beers. For my taste, malt oriented beers can pair more universally across the food spectrum.

One particular beer I am excited about working with is our Sweet Stout. I am very proud of this beer. It was a beer that finds it's roots in Brewing Classic Styles by Jamil Zainascheff. It has undergone some tweaking and modification over time, higher mash temperature, more chocolate malt, a lighter color crystal malt, and a different yeast. What this recipe yields for me is a stout that features a lot of coffee, dark chocolate, slight dark fruit, and a creamy finish. This is one beer that we will probably work into the dessert menu. The other night I was enjoying a glass of it and noticed that my wife bought some Oreo's. It may not be the classiest pairing you can think of, but the cookies really made the roast jump out in the stout. However tasty, you will not be finding that cookie/beer pairing on our menu.

Oh, yes.

We will also be working on some sauces that will accompany different entrĂ©es. I threw together a stout BBQ sauce that I am using on a pork tenderloin for tonights dinner. Being no fool, I also have another tenderloin marinating in our regular soy sauce, garlic, brown sugar, and ginger concoction that we already know to be a fan favorite with the kids. I ran a test batch of IPA mustard sauce that I poured down the drain. I want to bring a few concept stuff to my first meeting with Eric to at least have a starting point. 

Well, I should probably get back to one of my other hats.

Drink good beer with good people!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Shifting Gears

My boss told me last week that when I went to Arbor Brewing that Thursday, that it would be my last trip down there. My new focus is going to be working with our chef in developing food and beer concepts. I am looking forward to this new direction in prepping for the brewery, but that doesn't stop that fact that I make the transition with a bit of a heavy heart. It was tough leaving Arbor, I made some friends on staff there, and those two days that I was spending there each week was something to look forward to. However, I don't see this as an end of my time with Arbor.

Bill and I have been talking about our first collaboration beer: End of the World IPA. As you may know, the world will totally cease to exist on December 21, 2012.

Thanks Mayans

We plan on making a big dry IPA, then loading it up with multiple dry hops. We figure that we don't have to worry about wasting hops because we won't need them on 12/22. Stay tuned.

We are also closing in on getting some Cranker's Brewery clothing out there. It looks like we are going to start with men's and women's t-shirts, and hoodies. They will feature the Cranker's logo:

The handiwork of David Michael Phelps

Personally, I love the logo and think that it will make for some rocking brewery swag. There have already been people requesting Dickie's work shirts with the logo. As we move forward we will add more and more variety to our merchandise lineup. Our plan is to make our merchandise available in the Cranker's Restaurants, and eventually, on our Cranker's Brewery website that is in the works.

Drink good beer with good people!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Next Step

Great news, they have started construction on the brewery! I couldn't be more excited to see that bare earth.

Scoop putting in work

As soon as I found out the happy news I packed up the baby and Therese and drove over to check out the progress. While there I utilized my top flight photography skills as you can plainly see from today's post. For evidence please reference Item 2.1a.

Item 2.1a

Note how I captured the dirt mover machine (technical term), the current restaurant, and the finance sign. You can probably tell the I once audited a photography class at GRCC.

In related news, it seems as if things are falling into place nicely. I am excited with how my pilot batches have been turning out. There are still a few rebrew tweaks and concepts that I want to try out, but over all the beers are where I want them.

I was told that we are shooting for early 2012 for a completion date. I can't wait to start making beers and giving the Schuman tour.

Drink good beer with good people!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Bulldog Red Label Competition Winner

Presenting the winning entry for our Bulldog Red. Thank you for all that made submissions!

Drink good beer with good people!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Ambrosia Honey Kolsch

Ambrosia Honey Kolsch is the perfect summer drinker. This beer features german pilsner malt, a portion of wheat, and locally sourced honey. We use a traditional german kolsch yeast strain that helps to accentuate the light floral character of the honey and back those aromas up with very subtle fruit notes.

Drink good beer with good people!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Summer Beers

Here is a link to a good video with Justin Crossley of The Brewing Network. Check it out!

Home With Lisa Quinn: Great Beer for the Party

Drink good beer with good people!

Friday, September 30, 2011

In the Lab: Recipe Formulation

I have received questions about where my recipes come from so I thought I would post on it.

Let me start by stating that The Brewing Network is the single best source of brewing knowledge available to anyone with an internet connection. PS - All of their content if free as well. Listen, learn, love it, donate.

I am a student of The Brewing Network (The BN) and of many of their guests. For years my homebrewing recipes and practices were an attempt at mirroring Jamil Zainasheff. I listened to every podcast, interview, and read every article I could that had Jamil attached to it. Three batches into my homebrewing career, I was brewing all grain and following Jamil's recipes that are available in his book Brewing Classic Styles. I brewed those beer for four years, trying to brew every style in the BJCP guidelines. Now that I am applying myself to commercial brewing I have put all of those recipes aside as I try and forge my own path in the world of zymurgy. However, that does not mean that I have moved on from the BN.

I am familiar with brewing american pale ales, but I have only brewed one american IPA. The reason I have shied away from them is that it is a difficult category to enter in competition and come away with a win. Your IPA's MUST be fresh, after six weeks IPA's are in decline. Also, judging order in an IPA flight is a wild card that is tough to overcome. Being placed late in an IPA flight can take a standout beer and make it taste like an average beer due to palate fatigue for the judges. It is just part of the game with competition brewing. So when I came to formulating my Professor IPA for Cranker's I found myself once again leaning on my original source of brewing knowledge, the BN podcast archive.

I went back and listened to interviews from brewers like Vinnie Cilurzo (Blind Pig IPA), Matt Brynildson (Union Jack IPA), Chuck Silva (Green Flash IPA), Mike "Tasty" McDole (Every Beer He Has Ever Made), and Nathan Smith (Dankness IPA). All of these guys are amazing brewers who give freely of their own knowledge for the betterment or craft beer. It is fascinating to look at the various approaches to creating amazing IPA's. After learning what each brewer is trying to accomplish with each ingredient and technique they employ I was able to create my own beer.

The Professor IPA batch number one will be boiling away in my kitchen in a few days. Sure it will take some iterations before I get the beer just where I want it, but I know the service that the BN provides has me well on the path to the beer I want to pour from the taps at Cranker's.

Drink good beer with good people!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Crankenstein: Fall Seasonal

Crankenstein is perfect for ushering in the season of fall. It is an oktoberfest style beer with a little something extra. Pilsner and munich malts blend together with spicy and herbal german hop varieties to make this 6.5% ABV beer the perfect beer for the season.

Drink good beer with good people!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Strongarm Stout

Strongarm Stout is an ale inspired by the traditional sweet stouts of England. Dark and rich like sweetened espresso, a pint of Strongarm is smooth enough to entice the next pint and roasty enough to satisfy that stout craving.

Drink good beer with good people!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Old Siberian: An English Style Strong Ale

Here is a look at the first in a line of seasonal beers that will be offered by Cranker's Brewery. Old Siberian is an English style Strong Ale that features rich complex malt, dark caramel, a touch of roast, with a sizable dose of British hops to balance this 8% treat.

Old Siberian: Making five months of winter a little more palatable. 

Drink good beer with good people!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Local: A German Style Marzen

Introducing The Local. The Local is a Marzen style lager that features complex toasty maltiness, a hint of sweetness, and noble German hops to strike a crisp balance. Below is the label for The Local, let me know what you think!

Drink good beer with good people!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Logo and Label Release!

Here is a sneak peak as some of the design concepts that we will be using as our brand at Cranker's Brewery. Below is a mock up of what our coasters will look like. We are very excited about our labeling lineup and will be periodically releasing the concepts. Let us know what you think!

Drink good beer with good people!

Denial With a Side of Intimidation

I have denied it in the past, but it is true. I was talking to a pro brewer friend of mine at the Michigan Homebrew Festival and I was eager to pour my beers for him and get his feedback on them. I ended up getting advice that far exceeded the beverages in our glasses. He told me not to be intimidated.

There are a lot of things that I am afraid of. Fire, water, animals in general, heights, Thai food, and the WNBA. When it comes to beer my only fear has been when it comes to beer quality. Every time I pour a beer for someone, I try to play it cool, but I am feverishly scanning their face to gauge their beer drinking experience. I have grown confident in the fact that I can make solid beer at home. But translating my knowledge of brewing at home to the pro side has left me a bit intimidated. Sure the stainless steel of a 15 barrel brewhouse looks awesome, but I have asked the question of myself: Can I make it work?

This is the part where I get to be grateful for the people in my life and the friends I have made. A few years ago while beer judging I met Bill Gerds, now of Arbor Brewing. This summer as I was starting to feel a bit desperate for brewery experience, I shot Bill a message on Facebook and asked I could get some time in with him at Arbor. He agreed and has been a terrific mentor. We share a common brewing education: The Brewing Network. I listened to BN podcasts on my 140 mile commute, while Bill was listening to their podcasts and doing factory work. We have been taught to share brewing information with anyone who wants it, to be focused on the small stuff with the goal always being to make better beer.

Over the past few months I have gained a wealth of knowledge from Bill and his assistant brewer Mike. It is because of their kindness, and that of the Greff's, that I will enter my new enterprise with more confidence than I thought I would. Will it still be intimidating the first time I mash in on my new system? Sure. But now I know that I have some experience under my belt, and a network of people to support me along the way.

The next time you find yourself in Ann Arbor, head into Arbor Brewing. They have great beers, great food, and are good people.

Drink good beer with good people!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Face for Internet Radio

I was fortunate enough to be a guest on the Brew Bubbas podcast. Craig and Jerry were very welcoming hosts and shared a lot of wonderful beers from their collection at the end of the night. Brew Bubbas has quite a backlog of great brewing information so check them out. If you feel like hearing me ramble on about beer and brewing click the link below.

Thanks again Craig and Jerry!

Brew Bubbas Episode #117

Drink good beer with good people.


Tuesday, August 30, 2011

One Small Step for Man, One Small Leap for Construction

The metal construction fence has been put up around the future location of Cranker's Brewery in Big Rapids, MI! It is just one small step toward groundbreaking, but it is still very exciting to see.

Break on through to the other side.

In other Cranker's news, we are rounding out our branding and logo concepts. They are coming along nicely and I am very excited to get some beers into packages with these labels!

Until next time kids, drink good beer with good people!


Monday, August 22, 2011

Friends, Beer, and Food!

I just got back from the Michigan Homebrew Festival and had an amazing time! The organizers of the event are to be congratulated. The festival is in it's second year and really beginning to define itself as a must for craft beer drinkers and foodies alike. Despite some rough weather the entire event was a success. This year the festival doubled in size, filling up 50 campsites for the duration of the multiday festival.

The addition of the Friday Feast was perfect. Participants created a wide range of foods incorporating beer. There were excellent chili (shoutout to Shawn Richardson), gumbo (kudos to Lee, Kim, and the Cass crew), smoked salmon, pizzas, rabbit stew, pasta salads, and more. It was interesting that there seemed to be no dish done twice; there is a tremendous amount of creativity in the homebrewing community. Of Friday, Redwood Lodge generously donated some of the Mild they brewed with Lee Cruppenink. This beer will also be entered into the Great American Beer Festival (GABF) as a Pro-Am beer. I would not be surprised to see it medal.

However, Saturday still remains the heart of the festival. The Homebrew Festival serves as the host of the Michigan Beer Cup's awards ceremony. The rain whipped up something fierce but brewers are a hearty sort. As it poured down buckets, a member of the homebrew club I belong to, The Brewing Network, took home the highest honor. My buddy Nelson Gomoll hauled in Best of Show for his american pale ale! This is even a greater accomplishment considering the other 706 beers he was up against!

Saturday also features the various Michigan clubs pouring their beers. Several clubs set up booths of varying levels of sophistication. The Cass River Homebrewers took the People's Choice award for their efforts. The BN booth that we had was decidedly less complex, but beer came out of our taps nonetheless. We had beer donations from several homebrewers and it is much appreciated as we spread the word of the Brewing Network.

I was excited to pilot the beers that I have planned for Cranker's Brewery. I poured our Bulldog Red, our American Pale Ale (as of know un-named), and our Munich Helles. The beers were received well with many people asking for beers that others told them about and had many people returning for specific beers. I was able to pour my beers for some pro brewers, homebrewers, and judges that I have a lot of respect for. I am thankful for their honest and thorough feedback. I was actually pretty nervous pouring this year because a lot of people knew about the brewery and I wanted to impress with my beers. Overall it was a blast! A big thanks to Shawn, Nelson, Pat H, Ray, Raybeard, Phil, Jason, Isaac, Mrs. T, Pat C, Lee, Mike, Rachael, and Rockne!

Even when I am pro, I am going to commit to turn out some homebrew and keep pouring at future MI Homebrew Festivals. As always, the best thing about the festival was drinking good beer with good people!


Monday, August 1, 2011

The Smell of Stainless in the Morning

Exciting day! A good portion of the brewery was delivered today and put into storage. To be honest I wasn't very helpful. I am not sure trusting me to move heavy machinery is the best idea.

Here is one of the fermentors:

It is crazy to think that for years I have drooled over the homebrew sized version of these, and now I am going to have the production size at my disposal.

15bbl and 30bbl fermentors

Someone is excited


The temperature gauge read: AWESOME!

If I post anymore pictures of brewing equipment, I will officially have put more pictures of stainless steel than I have my newborn son. I better stop there.

Drink good beer with good people!


Saturday, July 30, 2011

Beer is Food

Beer has gotten a bad rap as a second class beverage. We can thank our ancient roman ancestors for helping to establish beer as a beverage of the barbarians. Wine was the prefered drink of their region and due to their prolific territorial expasion, cultural diffusion passed on the concept of wine being the choice of the aristocracy. Over the last seventy years, we as beer consumers have driven this concept home by falling for modern beer advertisement. Thanks to the Bud Bowl, frost brewing (which is impossible), clydesdales, 'twins', blue mountains that tell us when beer is cold, and bikini clad volleyballers, beer has been relegated to cookouts and frat parties. We have been taught that wine is for white cloth dining, fine cheeses, and glass swirling philosophical exhortations. Notice that there are no wine bongs. Beer has become fast food, McBeer is pervasive.

I believe that beer is food. Food is meant to be enjoyed and savored not slammed down our gullets in super sized portions. The same holds for beer. I love food the same way I love beer, and this love of food comes from family.

In my family, we eat. We eat well and for long stretches. We make noise when we eat, not lip smacking, but sublingual utterances. Others around the substantial table return serve. Then when one course is done, we lean back from the table and talk, laugh, and reminice. Then we do it again. This is what family is to me.

This is how we eat:

The first course is the antipasto course. Platters of cheeses, soft to hard, pepperoni, olives (with pits or stuffed with cheese), roasted red peppers, roasted garlic, bread (always bread), marinated artichoke hearts, etc.

The second course is usually pasta. The range is of pastas and sauces are wide: penne, linguine, raviolli, gemelli, rotini served with marinara plain or with various meats, white cheese and cream based sauces, or various vegtable based options. Oh, and bread.

The third course is often times the meat course. Beef, pork, chicken, or fish. One this to be sure, there is always more food than those assembled can enjoy at one sitting. There is usually a salad and another vegetable to accompany. Did I mention bread?

Dessert for my First Communion party, and for all of the parties in our family is The Cake. It is a multilayer cake, chocolate filling in the middle layers, heavy whipping cream frosting, all on the base of a fluffy and moist white cake. 

I don't care for cake, but The Cake is something different.

When my family gets together, they do so around the table. We eat, talk, rest, and repeat until the host decides that enough food has been served. We laugh and we laugh loud. We hug, we pinch, and we punch as well. It might sound strange, but food seems to be at the root of our familial bond, because it is there around the dinner table that that bond is forged.

This is why I think beer is food. I love beer, but I rarely crack open a bottle unless I have someone to share it with. No one throws together a five course meal just for themselves, it is a waste of something good. The same stands for beer.

That's why I say, drink good beer with good people.


Friday, July 29, 2011

I Heart Stainless

Hey all!

I've just received word that half of the brewhouse is being delivered on Monday! You can be assured of many pictures of some sexy stainless steel upon delivery! Stay tuned...

Drink good beer with good people!


(Apparently this is my all '!' post.)

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Selling Craft Beer

Here is a great video from Stone Brewing CEO Greg Koch. He makes a compelling case for the profitability of craft beer when compared to BudMillerCoors products. Check it out!

Until next time, drink good beer with good people!


Friday, July 22, 2011

To Helles Or Not To Helles

I am a bit of a beer purist. Magnify that by the fact the I teach and love history and you get some pretty old school beer style dogma. I am all for innovation in beer, but the old school styles are something special. Pilsner, munich helles, bock, vienna lager, dortmunder - all are beer styles that organically grew out of the agricultural and environmental necessity of their respective birthplace. I find it fascinating that german pilsner's color, malt, and hop profile are largely a result of creating the beer that went best with the water profile of Plzen (Pilsen). Talk about drinking locally. To me beer is history as much as beer is food (more on that on another day).

Every brewpub has it's light beer. Let me say first of all that there is nothing wrong with a beer that is gently flavored. If you are a BudMillerCoors (BMC) drinker that is fine. Those beers aren't for me and I would argue that they aren't for you either. In my opinion, all BudMillerCoors drinkers should be drinking well made fresh munich style helles. First of all, it tastes like beer. We all have a conception of what beer is supposed to taste like and a crisp helles hits those marks better than the BMC products. Munich helles has a light bready pils malt flavor with just a hint of herbal hop aromas. That leads into a low hop bitterness that provides a gentle malty sweetness that serves as the beer's focal point. It is light, crisp, and easily quaffable. Better yet, it is real, it has roots and history, and it is delicious.

It is a goal of mine to have the light beer of Cranker's Brewpub to be a munich helles. This can be tricky. A helles is a lager. That means that it uses a style of yeast, lager yeast, that is traditionally fermented in the 48-52F range. Ale yeasts ferment in the 60's to low 70's range. Because they work at lower temperatures lager yeast takes a longer time to ferment. As a homebrewer time is no issue. As a pro brewer on a production schedule time is more vital. It will be my challenge to produce a quality lager efficiently.

Now to the beer. I decided to go with all pilsner malt with a small portion of light munich malt. The munich malt is meant to add a slight malt complexity to what is a very straight forward pilsner malt base beer. I have been kicking around different concepts when it comes to hopping. I can either utilize a hop that has great bittering power called magnum, or use a hop that has less bittering power called hallertau. If I use the magnum, I will be adding less hops to the kettle. This will mean less hop mass which will lend less hop flavor and aroma to the final beer. If I use the hallertau, that means more hop mass in the kettle to achieve the same amount of bittering as the magnum. However, the greater portion of hallertau will lend pronounced hop characteristics compared to the magnum only beer. I brewed the beer with hallertau the first time and I feel as if it took the beer out of range style wise due to the hop profile, not that that is a serious concern for a professional brewer. I have kicked around the idea of blending the magnum and hallertau to dial down the hop impression. I am going to go with the all hallertau version for the upcoming Michigan Homebrew Festival and see how it is received there.

That's all for now. In the meantime, drink good beer with good people!


Thursday, July 21, 2011

Being the Bulldog

My employer Cranker's Brewpub has been interested in an amber ale to be our first beer in package available to the public. Throughout my homebrewing career I always stuck with recipes from a great book called Brewing Classic Styles by Jamil Zainasheff. Jamil was really my brewing mentor. Aside from his book on recipes and beer styles he also hosts a couple of shows on The Brewing Network, a homebrewing podcast that I have spent countless hours listening to. (Did I already mention my 135 mile commute?) Jamil has won every homebrewing award and medal you can win and he is gracious enough to share any and everything he has learned with the public.

As a homebrewer and a father of three, now four, I couldn't brew whenever I felt like it. With the lag time between now and the opening of the brewery, I am branching out with the concepts that I learned from Jamil and forming my own recipes. Case and point: Bulldog Red.

There are a few ways to go with amber ales. Malt driven, hop driven, or a give and take of both. For my own personal preference, and per the style guidelines, I prefer this beer style on the hoppier side. The competition brewer in me is driven to brew that beer because that is what will score best with beer judges. The flip side is that I am not brewing for competition anymore, I am brewing for the public who will pay for my beer (hopefully).

With my first iteration of Bulldog Red I decided to go with a complex malt character achieved by using three different british caramel malts. I have heard from the brewers at Fuller's in England that the british caramel malts carry a different level of complexity than their american counterparts. I decided to go with two hop additions, a sixty minute bittering addition with magnum hops for the lions share of the beers clean bitterness, and a late kettle addition of chinook hops to leave a backing impression of citrus. The beer weighs in at 5% ABV with 25 IBU. I used the WLP007 Dry English Ale yeast from White Labs as it is a workhorse and flocks like mad. This is the ale yeast I plan on using for all of my ales brewed at Cranker's. It is very versatile.

I was pleased with the outcome with this beer but found myself feeding a critter in the back of my mind that was trying to get me to make this beer hoppier. I rebrewed this beer twice. Version #2 was the exact same beer as the first batch but dry hopped with amarillo hops to drive up the citrusy aromas. Version #3 used a different blend of caramel malts calculated to give me the same color as the original batch of beer. The goal here was to play with the caramel impression. I have both beers kegged up in the basement and will be bottling them up tomorrow for my employer. I am looking forward to these beers coming together for a week or two to see how they stack up to the original recipe.

I am really looking forward to the Michigan Homebrew Festival ( in late August. I will be rebrewing the original Bulldog Red recipe and I will share the three versions with some trusted palates and use that feedback in going forward with the beer's formulation.

In the meantime, drink good beer with good people.


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The One To Blame

His name is Dave and it is his fault that I am in this mess.

Years ago, my wife Peggy and I were struggling to find a way to get our friends together around the holidays. People were always tied up with family obligations. I am mostly Italian and Peggy is mostly Hungarian, so naturally we decided to begin hosting a yearly Oktoberfest party. After one of the early fests, my good friend Dave suggested that I brew the beer for next years party. I was teaching in Grand Rapids at the time and it just so happens that it is home to Michigan's premiere homebrew shop, Siciliano's Market. They were having their fall sale on homebrew kits so I went for it.

My first brew day was a nightmare. I had no idea what I was doing, I fumbled through the poor directions from the beer kit's manufacturer, made a massive mess in the kitchen, and cursed more than I should have. A couple of weeks later I had beer, bad beer, but beer nonetheless. It was an 'English Pale Ale' according to the kit, and it came out tasting like cardboard flavored beer.

I was thrilled.

I dove headlong into my new hobby. Within weeks I found the best source in homebrewing: The Brewing Network. Through their podcasts and website my beer rapidly improved, it even bordered on decent. I began judging beer and became a certified beer judge. I began entering competitions with vigor. When I first got into judging, I found that other members of the statewide beer scene did not have much interest in talking beer with me. I decided to try and earn my way into beer circles by winning medals in competition. At my peak, I was entering well over 100 entries a year in various local, state, and national competitions. I was a serious beer hoarder, rarely drinking my own beers, stashing them for anonymous judges.

For a long time having my beers poured for judges was a big thrill. Since I have shifted my focus to professional brewing, I have come to get more out of having my beers poured in front of friends.

Thanks Dave.

Drink good beer with good people!


In the beginning...

At the advice of a wise cousin I have decided to create this blog to track the up coming months and years as I transition into a new phase of my career. For the past ten years I have been teaching in Alternative Education, high school for at-risk youth. I had always thought that teaching would be it for me, fun with kids, summers off, and occasionally being verbally berated by my malcontented teens. Teaching always just fit. I love the routine: up early, teaching history, having fun with the kids, time in the staff lounge. Everything about it was intense and that was one of the things that I enjoyed about it. Sure there are ups and downs in teaching, and especially in Alternative Ed, but I always saw it as the highs being higher and the lows being lower. The good always out weighed the bad.

Then seemingly out of nowhere, an opportunity presented itself to turn my hobby of homebrewing into a profession. It was the chance to live the homebrewer's dream: get paid to craft beer. Just as enticing, the pending brewery is close to home, a half mile away to be exact. It makes me twitch to think about the 135 miles round trip I did in order to get to school. So with the support of my wonderful wife I have taken a sabbatical from teaching and taken the plunge.

Leaving teaching was terribly difficult. I am sure to post in the future about that experience. As a parting gift my coworkers had a t-shirt made for me. It read, "Those who can, teach. Those who can't teach, brew." In trying to figure out this blogs title, my wife suggested running with the slogan that my coworkers coined, and it seemed appropriate.

I will be discussing a wide range of things in during the course of this blog: the trials and tribulations of a green horn professional brewer, beer philosophy, recipe formulation, progress on the brewpub, accounts of my teaching withdrawals, and I am sure some family stuff as well.

In the meantime, drink good beer with good people.