Lafayette Homebrew Supply Blog

Store Closing Sale and Info

After 4 unforgettable years as Lafayette Homebrew Supply, its time to close our doors. If you’re not on our email list and have arrived here without the info in the email, let me first point out the following:

– The pro-am competition with The Post Brewing Co will proceed as planned and nothing about the contest, judging, prizes or awards ceremony will be affected.

– If you have outstanding gift cards, now is the time to come in and use your credit before its too late. Closing sale discounts will apply to purchases made with a gift card. We will not be selling any more gift cards.

– Beginning this Thursday, October 26th, everything in the shop will be 25% off regular prices. Our last day of business will be Saturday, November 11th. When we are out of something, its gone for good, and starting in November we will no longer take returns. Our current hours will continue (11-7 Wednesday through Friday, 10-5 Saturday, 10-3 Sunday, closed Monday and Tuesday).

– We will still honor Spoton rewards only if the discount redeemed through that system is greater than our closing sale discounts already in place. In other words, you get whichever discount saves you the most, but we will not combine both in one transaction.

– If you are interested in any shelving, fridges, etc. just make me and offer and we’ll see if we can work something out. You would have to be able to pick up any of these items between 11/12 and 11/14.

– For now, we’ll keep our facebook page up and maintain our lafayettehomebrew.com website and email to stay in touch. Many of you have become more of a friend than a customer and that way we can still communicate or at least stay connected as a home fermenting community.

 

So, allow me to say a few words about our decision. First off, we are not being kicked out by Flatirons Community Church. They did explicitly say they would not be renewing our lease when term ends, but the time line of our rapid closing is my choice. Please do not ask any more questions to me personally regarding FCC. I am legally bound to not disclose any of the details of our recent legal agreement. Out of respect, please honor that I can not talk about this.

The real reason we’re shutting down is that its becoming increasingly difficult to compete with the internet. As you know, multi-million dollar retailers are going bankrupt right and left recently. The combination of the overwhelming majority of Americans now owning smart phones and the monumental shift to online shopping is really hurting us, like so many brick and morter stores. Even some of my best customers over the last couple of years come in talking about how they got x, y or z piece of equipment online, despite our carrying these products. More and more people are getting brew kits online and just coming in for yeast. Its near impossible competing with online prices these days. In some cases, an online retailer will be selling a product for less than my wholesale cost of the product. We’re making ends meet, but have seen a serious downtrend in revenue since 2015, especially in equipment and we wouldn’t survive selling ingredients alone. I don’t blame anyone for the situation, it is the way of the world. It is a sad announcement for me, although it honestly was not a very difficult decision.

We had previously planned to relocate and open a BOP (brew on premises) and keep the homebrew shop going as well. With a new shop/BOP opening in Longmont and a BOP just south of us in Westminster, market research shows that we would be hard pressed to be profitable in the Lafayette/Louisville/Erie area.

Simply moving and making some minor adjustments to the homebrew shop operations and signing a new multiple year lease just doesn’t really make sense right now looking at our numbers. I’ve maintained my businesses plan that I would run and manage this shop myself, and I’m still not willing to turn it over to someone else. I wanted it run my way with the best possible customer service I could possibly provide, and hopefully you have appreciated that.

If I could go back to 2013, I would do it all over again absolutely! No regrets. I’ve learned so much, helped lots of non-profits and charities, worked with excellent breweries and other businesses, and gotten to know so many of you great people. It’s been an absolute pleasure helping people learn brewing science, ferment their best, troubleshoot issues, expand their homebrewery, learn wine-making, come up with creative ideas, and many times really just connecting with people who love what I love. I will miss this job, but life goes on. Homebrew shops come and go, but your passion for fermentation shouldn’t!

Thank you for the support and the memories….

October 24th, 2017|Brewing Supplies|

Still Dealing with Flatirons Church as Landlord

The following is what has happened since my last post regarding our landlord/tenant situation. If you didn’t read the blog post last year, “Dealing with Flatirons Community Church..”, it is still up on our website and will help explain our conflict last year, but is not essential to understanding the position we’re in now. Please share with anyone who would want to know about this, especially members and staff of FCC who deserve to know that this is going on. It is long, but I want to share the story and am asking for help.

To quickly recap the situation outlined in the blog last year, we were questioning CAM (common area maintenance) fees that increased significantly in my reconciliation of 2015’s actual expenditures from FCC, despite multiple inputs that should have reduced them or at the very least maintained them as they were. These increases were never explained by FCC. I was provided with invoices of services rendered, but many of them were quite vague and not determinate between capitol improvements which I have zero financial responsibility for as a tenant, and actual Operating Expenses which I am responsible for my share of. No actual benefit received reflected these increases and FCC could not point out any either. In our meeting following the reconciliation, I brought to light 2 instances in which I had been overcharged based on the data that I did have. These were resolved without ever an apology from them to me about having admittedly overcharged me. See the actual post for a very detailed explanation of all this.

After that post, the Daily Camera featured our dispute in an article which included this: “What Otteni fails to understand is that a large portion of this increase was property taxes, which Boulder County increased significantly, according to Flatirons Chief Financial Officer Michael Koehn, adding that those costs are out of the hands of the church.” As you will see in last year’s post, property taxes are not any part of what I was disputing and I do not ‘fail to understand’ that that taxes are not determined by my landlord. Property taxes were never mentioned by me in our original meeting in 2016 or at any point since, verbally or in writing between us, ever.

I was told in writing on 2 separate occasions early 2016 that specific steps were being taken by FCC to reduce CAM fees in 2016 and that would happen 6 months into the year. When this time came, I inquired and Koehn responded that fees would not be reduced despite what they had promised. I hired a CPA entirely at my own expense and we requested an audit, a 3rd party review of this accounting to ensure I wasn’t being overcharged (details of this outlined in last year’s post). The lease allows me this opportunity in the 60 days post-reconciliation. We were technically past that time period, but I asked Koehn to please honor the 6 month point of promised re-assessment and reduction of those fees as the 60 day starting point. He declined and refused to cooperate with the audit, though it would have cost FCC nothing and would only ensure the accounting was fair and appropriate.

If you go to the financial page of FCC’s website, you will find this: “the Church’s accounting records are open to anyone who would like to examine our books…”. When I asked Koehn why I did not qualify as “anyone”, he replied that he was unwilling to allow the audit to “maintain the integrity of the landlord/tenant relationship”. I paid what was demanded of me in good faith.

Fast forward to this year’s reconciliation. Charges were outlined that Koehn claimed I am solely responsible for as they purportedly applied to my unit specifically. Later that month, they hired a management company to handle payments and I began paying rent through an online portal with this company. Base rent and CAM fees had increased with this transition and therefore, I assumed this company had appropriately reallocated the amount they were demanding from me personally into the amounts shared by all tenants and therefore this is why there was an otherwise unexplained increase in my share, reflected on my portal. I had no idea they were still expecting me to pay a lump sum since I was told ALL payments going forward were through this portal and my rates had increased here. It only resurfaced when a recent email from a financial officer of FCC inquired when I would be paying the amount originally requested of me originating from service to the HVAC system servicing multiple units.

Here is a quote from my email in response to the person handling this: “Our suite does not have its own HVAC unit and therefore is part of all HVAC service/repair (see articles 5 and 9 of the Lease) that should factor into the total that is split between tenants based on square footage, not billed to me individually. Accordingly, this is how it has always been done every other year under previous and current management.”

From the same email from me: “Furthermore, had this been my financial responsibility as an
individual tenant, it should have been up to me to handle the repairs. For instance, when (name omitted) was managing the property, I had two separate plumbing issues that he determined were my responsibility, I took care of them on my end. Had these HVAC repairs actually been my
responsibility, then I would have been responsible for arranging this and payment (see Article 10a)…..I am responsible for paying my share of these repairs, but not the entirety. If these fees are factored into the whole and recalculated (and presumably other charges that have been requested of other individual tenants), I will, of course pay my fair share of the recalculated monthly. ”

Their response was to find another way to demand even more money from me which I won’t go into detail of here. So, now yet again this year they are demanding thousands of dollars from me on top of the drastically increased CAM fees I paid monthly in 2016.

Here is the entirety of the next email I sent them2 days ago: “I will gladly pay this amount in full if you will allow a 3rd party audit of the reconciliations of 2015 and 2016. I have plenty of reason to question FCC’s accounting based on history and it is not in my best interest to unquestioningly pay you thousands of dollars. Again. If the accounting is appropriate and fair here, this only works in your favor. The audit would be a CPA hired at my expense. Let me remind you as I reminded Michael Koehn when he refused to cooperate with an audit in 2016 that this is taken directly from your website: “the Church’s accounting records are open to anyone who would like to examine our books…”. Certainly that would apply here, as I am ‘anyone’.

I got no response at all to this request for an audit. Instead, I got a hand delivered letter yesterday from their lawyers threatening eviction and claiming I am in Default (a status that allows them to kick me out and still make me pay them monthly rent).

Let me reiterate that I have paid every single cent of rent and other fees demanded of me up to this point not one day late, ever, throughout all of this. I have also, as you have now read, agreed to pay every cent determined due of me, if confirmed by an independent 3rd party as is outlined in my lease as the appropriate next step when fees are disputed.

It is important to remember here that, as noted earlier and outlined in last year’s blog, I had to point out 2 instances in which they did overcharge me and one that they falsely claimed they could have, they just ‘decided’ not to. That was merely what I could actually prove last year. There were also incorrect claims of what I had been paying through the portal in our recent interactions quoted by their financial representative that I had to correct them on.

So, there is a history of accounting mistakes resulting in my being overcharged, and ALL I HAVE ASKED FOR BOTH YEARS IS FOR AN AUDIT PERFORMED BY A CPA THAT I WILL PAY FOR MYSELF, SIMPLY ENSURING THAT THEY HAVE NOT MADE OTHER MISTAKES THAT NEED TO BE ALTERED. Now they have lawyers involved. I have never accused them of overcharging me intentionally, I just want fairness.

The above is factual and I have proof of everything. There are two sides to every story, sure but there are not 2 sides to factual information.

Anyone reading this who could help me with legal council here, please let me know asap. I can not afford paying traditional legal representation fees, but I believe I have rights here that are being threatened.

To put things in perspective, this is a large, powerful, wealthy organization. On their financial page they claim ‘total assets’ in 2016 as $42,998,028. They’re getting lawyers involved here over a few thousand dollars from a small business owner who they’re meanwhile forcing out of the building like other businesses before me (they have already said they will not renew my lease). Considering all that together with the fact that they are a church, is baffling to me.

I have no problem with anyone who is a member or staff of this church not directly involved in the poor treatment of me and other tenants here past and present. I have friends who are staff and members. I give people the benefit of the doubt, and I know there are many, many good people at FCC.

I assure you, regardless of what happens here, we will not be evicted. If the strong arm of this organization is too powerful to fight, so be it. Its only money, and I have forgiven them. I can only do my best to stand up to this. Again, please help if you have landlord / tenant law expertise and care about this.

Thank you for your time!

September 8th, 2017|Brewing Supplies|

The Future of LHBS

Well, my right hand man quit abruptly last week which leaves me without any help currently. Friendly, and exceedingly knowledgeable customer service is an absolute must for me in this shop. In the past, it has taken us on average 2.5 months to hire someone when we start looking. That does not include training once they are hired. So, staying open 7 days a week right now would likely have me working every day for the entire Summer. Aside from being far from ideal for me, not fair to my wife and family when the kids are out of school! Know someone who would be a good fit here? Please have them bring by a resume in person. We’ll be closed Monday and Tuesday until we can get staffed up again.

Now the good news. We’ll be moving in Summer 2018. We won’t be going far from our current spot and don’t know where yet, but definitely moving in one year. The move will initiate ‘phase 2’ of Lafayette Homebrew Supply. Still working out details, but it will likely include a BOP (Brew On Premises), Wine On Premises, specialty bottle shop and some fun things to do while you’re brewing on our equipment! Our core homebrew shop will remain the center of all we do and will get a few enhancements as well. I’m choosing to adapt rather than give up in what has been leaner times in the homebrew industry since about mid-2015, but for now just holding out until the move/transition in a year.

Thank you and sorry for any inconvenience on the change in hours, and we’ll get back to 7 days a week as soon as possible without compromising our dedication to the absolute best, most knowledgeable customer service possible. Hours of operation Wednesday – Sunday will remain unchanged.

You all are the best friends/customers anyone could ask for!

cheers,

June 14th, 2017|Brewing Supplies|

Microbiology and Homebrewing

For the second time in my homebrewing career of many years, I have a snake in my boots. I mean, there are some critters getting into my beer that I didn’t invite to the party! Recently, I’ve had 2 beers accidentally start to sour and/or form a pellicle on the surface (a bio-film usually formed by lactic acid bacteria).

This is not the end of the world. The first was my Belgian peach ale, which I’m just aging now to see how it evolves over many months. I’ll probably use some oak eventually and possibly more peaches and/or a tad of lactic acid, since the IBUs may be a bit high to really get much lactic acid produced (if you are making a sour by traditional methods, keep your IBUs below 5!).  Sometimes accidental sours can be amazing. Crystal Springs Brewing Company last Spring had a dark beer aging in barrels that soured unintentionally and the beer was absolutely amazing.

My fresh hop beer gained a funky fruitiness that actually went well with the beer and was not present in the other half of the batch that my brew partner took home and fermented on his own. It was noticeably more tart than his clean half as well, and the pH was about 0.4 points lower when we tested with a pH meter.

I’m lucky to live in a town with such an awesome brewing community. I was talking to Bryan Selders, formerly head brewer at Dogfish Head and currently brewmaster of The Post Brewing Company about this and he said, “bring by a sample, I’ll plate it and see what you have”. So I did and here’s the scoop: Acetobacter – no surprise here, the fresh hop beer as it warmed had a noticeable vinegary flavor in the background. But Bryan also found a very vigorous wild yeast strain. This was very unexpected since the media on the plates he used is yeast inhibitory and intended to isolate bacteriums instead. It’s very easy to tell the two apart with a scope, so no doubt it was yeast. This wild isolate grew incredibly well in an aerobic culture and less so in anaerobic. Well, there you go. Homebrew long enough, especially if you make intentional sour and funky beers as I do, and you’ll get a snake in your boots too eventually! This is one of the good things about kegging – you don’t have to worry about bottle bombs due to contamination over-carbonation. One final word, no pathogens can live in even low abv beer, so you are always safe to drink your homebrew no matter how contaminated it is. Yay!

October 27th, 2016|Brewing Supplies|

Dealing with Flatirons Community Church as landlord

It is time for some words about our current tenant/landlord situation and our future. Many of you who are our customers (and in many cases have become friends) are understandably unclear on what is going on here lately. Almost every day for the last year and a half we’ve been getting this question, “So, when is the church kicking you out?” Let me clear some things up. This is long, but it is only the major parts of the ongoing saga. If you really care, please read.

We opened our doors in September 2013 and had a very positive relationship with property owner Jim Quinlan and the Jax organization through February 2015. Flatirons Community Church (FCC) then officially took over as landlord. FCC purchased this center with the exceptions of the Jax Ranch and Home, and Herbal Wellness businesses with intent to move church offices into a large portion. At this point, I scheduled a meeting with representatives of the church regarding effects of this change and what I could expect going forward. Paul Brunner and Michael Koehn from FCC were polite, professional and accommodating and assured me that they wanted my business here and had no intent to disrupt or uproot myself or any other abiding, rent-paying business here-in.

A lot has changed since then – way too much to print here. There is plenty of press surrounding the FCC vs. Lafayette Music disputes if you are interested in that. In addition to FCC’s attempt to move Lafayette Music out of this center, they have refused to renew leases with Crossroads Tavern who has moved to Erie, and Lunada Eatery and Cantina who has moved East to the Forest Park area in Lafayette. Both of these businesses very much wanted to stay. FCC has recently stated to me in writing that they no longer wish for my business to remain here either – more on this further along. So what exactly is going on here? I can’t speak for any other businesses but I will present our experience for the last year:

In April of 2016, we received our reconciliation of Common Area Maintenance (CAM) fees for 2015. This is the actual expenditures by landlord within the calendar year compared to what I paid as part of my monthly rent that year which is estimated prediction of what was to be spent. Landlords typically overestimate the monthly, and tenants are reimbursed a small amount at the time of reconcilliation. This was the case for us for 2014’s reconcilliation. 2015’s reconciliation under FCC’s management apportioned Lafayette Homebrew Supply’s fraction of CAM fees to a sum that was a more than 500% increase compared to 2014’s.

Now, that type of year to year difference is unheard of in commercial real estate, but that is not the half of it. Before I name a few line items that increased drastically, here are 3 points that illuminate how it is inconceivable that fees wouldn’t have DECREASED:

1. 2015’s reconcilliation only covers February 15th through the end of the year (I already paid the first 6 weeks to my previous landlord), so actually less than 90% of the year.

2. Jax Ranch and home was over 50% of the square footage covered in 2014 and is not included in 2015’s since they are supposedly completely covering all their own operating expenses.

3. Of the remaining square footage that IS included in 2015, over 50% of that was vacant for 7 months of 2015, about 40% vacant for the other 5 months.

In other words, in 2015 when compared to 2014 – less than half the square footage to cover/manage, greater than 50% vacancy in that remaining square footage necessitating less management, cleaning, etc and the “year” covered was really only 10.5 months.

Just to name a few items that increased inexplicably despite the above points which by all rationality should have REDUCED CAM fees: Building repairs and maintenance including HVAC increased by 400% (even though 2014’s included a major roof repair), snow removal and landscaping doubled (despite Jax staff maintaining their own grounds and parking areas), management fee and janitorial fees doubled despite the drastic reduction in total square footage and tenancy within. I of course met with them about this and, in an hour and a half meeting, the SINGLE instance they could point out in which services have actually been improved is that they have prevented homeless people from staying in the atrium overnight. This did happen a couple of times during the transition of ownership when maintenance lagged a bit. How much did this cost, you might ask? Interestingly, $0. They had volunteers from their congregation patrolling. They have no explanation as to how these increases have occurred and have called me “disrespectful” for trying to get answers. I have seen absolutely no increase in services received. Meanwhile in the atrium, they have painted all the natural brick dull gray, taken out the huge planters full of living tropical plants, and are proceeding with their huge build-out for their offices while our parking spaces in the back don’t even have visible dividing lines. When I asked why they would remove the planters of tropical plants, they said to make it more “modern”. A habiscus plant used to bloom outside the shop once a year.

Part of that major increase in building repairs and maintenance sum is a “major upgrade” of the HVAC system which, as per my lease, needs to be amortized over 15 years as it is a capitol improvement. They tried to hit me and my few remaining neighbors with paying in full for that on the spot. In addition, they were asking me to pay property taxes for January through February 15th which I had already paid to the previous landlord. I had to point these 2 things out to them. The letter from FCC accompanying the 2015 reconciliation included this sentence: “Lastly, a portion of the space at Lafayette Marketplace is vacant. We decided to include all of the square footage in our calculations, even the unoccupied space. This saved you $xxxx in CAM charges.” As is commonplace, my lease contains an article allowing for us to pay LESS in times of increased vacancy, not more. They didn’t “decide” anything here, they had absolutely no right to charge me more due to vacancies. In a telling moment, at one point during our meeting, Paul Bruner actually said, “this is our first rodeo”. He also said they hadn’t even looked at CAM expenditures for this building in 2014. At all.

The above information is absolutely factual and I’ve taken care not to include my opinions regarding competency, integrity, honesty, etc. of Paul Brunner, Michael Koehn and FCC.

So, as I said in the beginnig, FCC has officially expressed their desire for my business to vacate the unit we’re occupying. Now, I’m at a loss trying to figure this out. First of all, I have paid every cent of rent and all other “due” amounts to them not one day late, including the huge sum demanded of me resulting from the 2015 reconcilliation and the resulting grossly increased current monthly CAM fees. I have never caused any problems or disturbances to the general property or any business neighbors here. Why a landlord would not want to retain such a tenant is a complete mystery. Second of all, FCC has stated to me several times that their final plan for this center is an “entertainment district”. Removing businesses such as Crossroads Tavern and Lunada Eatery and Cantina while moving in a huge amount of church offices is the opposite of creating an entertainment district.

So, since they officially want me out, naturally I asked if they would consider renegotiating terms of my lease term allowing me to terminate the lease giving them 90 days notice before officially vacating if I am able to find a new location. They have refused this.

They also said in writing to me on 2 occasions that they are taking specific steps to reduce Operating Expenses in 2016 to reduce our CAM fees and they were to reassess after the first 6 months of 2016. They reassessed, and guess what – they aren’t reducing the CAM fees.

We are locked into this location for another 2 years (til Summer 2018) for better or for worse. Please continue to support us and understand we’ve had no control over the take-over by FCC and are now stuck here in a location in which we’re not wanted by our landlord, yet they will not give us a fair way out. We’re now forced to pay a huge increase in our monthly CAM fees based on the still unexplained horrific mismanagement of operating expenses in 2015, amidst sustained major demo/buildout/construction for their offices and all the problems that brings while my friends in neighboring independent small businesses have to move away one by one. Obviously, there is no way I could have predicted that things would be this way when I signed a lease 3 years ago. So if you’ve made it this far, thanks for your time. I wanted to get the truth out there, and hopefully reduce the frequency of my having to answer the question over and over, “When is the church kicking you out?” Well, they would have already if they could have, but I was smart enough to know how to prevent them from having the power. We added in two 2-year term extensions in our original lease document before signing with Jim Quinlan and Jax. FCC has to honor the terms of those extensions whether they like it or not though it doesn’t save us from these CAM fees. We did look at other spaces earlier this year, but at the end of the day, staying was our best option.

What will things be like here in another year or 2? All I know is, we’ll still be here doing our best to serve our customers. My personal opinion is that not so much an “entertainment district” as it will be a “Flatirons Church Commons”. As long as you’re a member of their church, come hang out. As far as just a cool place for Lafayette residents, I’ll believe it when I see it.

If you are a member of this church, I have no problem with that. I was raised Christian and if everybody lived by Judeo-Christian ethics, what a wonderful world it would be! But just know that these are the facts about what this particular church is up to. Please share if you know members of the church. I think most of their congregation has no idea the negative impact they’ve had on some of Lafayette’s hard-working small businesses.

August 4th, 2016|Brewing Supplies|

Drinking in Estes Park

Our family does an annual Spring trip to the YMCA of the Rockies to chill in a cabin and run around in the woods for a couple of days. We always see wildlife, do lots of hiking, arts and crafts, play guitar and mandolin and sing, and of course we bring some good stuff to drink. Among our beverages this year we brought various local cans. Here is my brief assessment of them.

IMG_3464

10,000 Summers – Saison, Big Choice Brewing: I enjoyed this beer a lot. Aroma and flavor present unique fruit candy notes that are very pleasant without the beer being too sweet, though it did have a tad more sweetness than most highly regarded saisons. Apricot, orange floral notes in the middle. Phenols from the yeast in the finish that are mild and not unwelcome. I could drink a lot of this.

http://oceanadesigns.net/wp-json/oembed/1.0/embed?url=http://oceanadesigns.net/envira/beauty-musk/ Lightshine Helles – Wibby Brewing: Also quite delicious. A style much more specific and narrow than saison of course, and Ryan Wibby nails it. The slightly sweet and grainy vienna malt really shines here. I don’t think you could find a better helles lager outside of Germany.

http://oceanadesigns.net/envira/baltic-brown/ Codename Superfan – Odd13 Brewing: This might be the hoppiest beer I’ve ever had. It’s actually amazing that a beer can be this hoppy. Just insane amounts of fruity, dank, citrusy, earthy hops and a bitterness that, to me, seems higher than the IBUs listed. If you’re a hophead, you need to get some of this. I like my IPAs a bit more balanced with some more malt presence, but this is a remarkable accomplishment in a can. My wife wishes my IPAs were less balanced and more like this!

3-Put Pale Ale – Wonderland Brewing: Balanced, somewhat weak aroma. Caramel prominent in flavor, malty finish. I’m not sure if this is an English pale ale. Definitely not much hop presence for an American Pale Ale (note – I did not drink this one after the hop bomb Codename Superfan so it’s not that my pallet was hopped out!). This could use some dry hopping or something to wake it up a bit for me.

Over The Moon Vanilla Milk Stout – Open Door Brew Co: To me this one was way to sweet. Not much more to say about it, and yes, I know a milk stout is a sweet stout. This one is just cloying to me. I think with better attenuation, a different yeast strain, less lactose, etc this could be a great beer. Good candidate for a beer ice cream float though. Coffee ice cream perhaps?

June 9th, 2016|Brewing Supplies|

Drinking in New Jersey

Here are a few local brews I tried over the 2015 Thanksgiving week while visiting family in 
New Jersey and New York.

Mad Elf - "Ale Brewed with Honey and Cherries"- Troegs  Brewing Co. Though this beer came 
highly recommended, I am unimpressed.  It pours a brilliant dark amber, the appearance is 
quite beautiful. Though it is an 11% ABV, rich, malty beer, the very weak head inexplicably 
dies almost immediately though carbonation is fine. Cherry is non- existent in aroma, and 
flavor but does linger in the aftertaste. On the pallet, strong plum notes arise in the 
background with deep malty rum-raisin favors dominating the profile bolstered by serious 
spicy phenols from the Belgian yeast. Pretty strong heat. Not a bad beer, but the lack of a 
nice head and the absence of cherry and honey flavors is disappointing.
Exit 4 "American Trippel" - Flying Fish Brewing Co. At first, I didn't know what "American 
trippel" was supposed to mean, but just as in the case of barley wines and IPAs, it just 
means that us yankees throw way more hops into these brews than you would ever find in 
their European predecessors. This beer pours light straw  and is mostly clear, but there 
are some suspended particles in the glass. Earthy hops are evident immediately, as is the 
spicy phenolic aroma of the Belgian yeast. Flavor follows aroma with hops and yeast spice 
blending nicely. It drinks like a Belgian IPA, with hop character a little more restrained. 
Very little malt detectable. Perhaps fruity hops like glacier and galaxy would have added 
benefit to the flavor profile (I'm not sure what hops were actually used). The finish is 
dry with a touch of hop bitterness and a bit of alcohol. I do miss the delicate fruitiness 
of a Classic Belgian trippel, but this beer is quite tasty. I would grab more next time I'm 
around here in a heartbeat.

Rare Voz - "Amber Ale" - Brewery Ommegang.  This unique brew is bottle-conditioned but 
brilliant with an attractive copper-orange hue. It pours with a lacey head and is quite 
effervescent, highly carbed. Aroma is mild - citrus, dark fruit, cinnamon. On the pallet - 
very pleasant spicy notes so delicate, it is impossible to determine if they are yeast-
derived or from the spice additions of corriander and seeds of paradise noted on the 
bottle. It's likely that the two are just perfectly complementary. This one finishes nice 
and dry with lingering spice flavors of cinnamon and corriander. As it warms, spice becomes 
more prominent on the pallet, not in a bad way. Great beer, I presume Summer would be the 
perfect season for this one. To me, this is a perfect example of how it is possible to brew 
with spices and keep flavors subtle and in balance.
November 29th, 2015|Brewing Supplies|

Beer Metamorphosis

I experienced one of the stranger things that I can remember in my world of fermentation recently. I made a split batch of wort, one half of which was destined to become a Dortmunder Export-style lager. I pitched lots of yeast, fermented at 50 degrees, then racked and lagered for 8 weeks. I gave the beer a taste. Excellent – nice and malty with a touch of pear/apple fruitiness from the yeast; smooth, no alcohol detectable, no diacetyl or other off-flavors. The final gravity was 1.012. I was eager to get this into a keg. I brought it out of lagering temp and had the batch sitting at room temp just waiting for a keg to free up.

Several days later, I was doing “beer stuff” as my family likes to say – transferring something, checking a gravity, tasting something, bottling something, you know – beer stuff. I was right by the carboy of lager and I heard a burp noise. It didn’t register at first, and then I froze and realized that I had heard a sound that shouldn’t have been there. I looked and sure enough, gas was coming from this vessel that had been inactive for 2 months. It continued to expel CO2 and I took zero action. It was still bubbling a few days later, then I went out of town for 3 days. Upon my return, the carboy was barely bubbling. I took a gravity reading and smelled: 1.007 and aroma is fruity, but also phenolic, Belgiany. I tasted it – taste followed aroma exactly – pleasantly fruity as it had been before, but now some spicy Belgian phenolics that were totally absent when I tasted this beer a couple of weeks before when it was 1.012.  It did not taste bad. In fact, the more little sips I took trying to assess this beer, I realized it was actually quite delicious.

So, I now had an enigma of a really good beer on my hands. I freed up a keg immediately and got it cold crashed and carbonated (the clarity was beautiful despite renewed fermentation). I didn’t want it to get any dryer, it was perfect. So, what I still have on tap at home is a very clean, crisp delightful beverage. A few other beer nerds have tried the beer, knowing nothing of the beer’s unusual story, and everyone has said that it must be a Belgian beer. So what happened? Some organism, active at room temp, got into this batch of beer and “woke up”  dropping it down 5 gravity points and drastically changing the flavor profile post-lagering. That’s a new one for me. I have a couple gallons left of “Enigma”. I’ll cherish every sip, for it is sure that I’ll never make this beer again.

June 10th, 2015|Brewing Supplies|

Sake Botch

Lets face it, all of our attempts at fermentation are not romantic or noteworthy or even successful. Though I’ve recently become much more spiritual in my reverence and approach to the magic of fermentation, what happened yesterday can only be described as a total disaster. Sake. Sounds like a fun thing to try, right? So, I’ve got my koji (the fungi used for starch conversion in rice for sake), my rice, my steamer, my dechlorinated water. I’m ready. I start steaming the rice and go to do other things while it’s steaming. About 40 minutes later, something is burning. Yep, I let all the water boil off and I’m now smoking and drying the rice.

Oh well, only a small test batch, let’s continue and see what happens. I restarted the steaming and gave it some extra time. Rice isn’t done when it’s supposed to be. I steam it longer. Still not done. It’s a test batch – screw it, let’s see what happens. I cool down the rice to the appropriate temperature and inoculate the rice bed with the koji. It’s supposed to sit at 86 F for 30 hours to grow the koji and convert the starch. Instead of controlling that temp accurately with my trusty fish tank heater in a water bath, I use the oven because I’m lazy at this point, the fish tank heater is all the way in the basement. I kick the oven on for 3o seconds then cut the heat. A few hours later, I kick the oven back on and then off again to maintain the warmth.

A few hours later, my wife asks if the oven is supposed to be on. Oops. It’s been at 350 for 3 hours. I’ve now baked my koji and clearly ruined the batch. I didn’t even want to deal with the clean up of the pot, so just soaked it overnight. This morning, I poured the wasted rice and precious cooked microorganisms down the sink, turned on the disposal, and handfuls of the rice instantly regurgitated back up the other half of the sink. The next 2o minutes were spent fixing the disposal. Then I had a beer.

Time to give up on sake? Neigh neigh reindeer. I vow to make sake. Once I’ve accomplished that after 11 or 12 more attempts, I vow to make GOOD sake. I owe it to the hard-working rice farmers and the spirits of fermentation. I’m taking a couple weeks off first, though.

February 25th, 2015|Brewing Supplies|

Bee Tea

I’m obsessed with honey. I’ve been reading this book, “Sacred and Herbal Healing Beers” by Stephen Harrod Buhner. I haven’t really even gotten to anything about beer yet, but the book is amazing. It turns out, people have been fermenting honey for around 30,000 years. On multiple continents, unbeknownst to each other, people were making heather mead and, in many cases, fermented beverages were an integral part of societies and an essential part of spiritual life. Some of the historical writings and even poetry gathered in the book regarding ancient fermentations is absolutely remarkable.

Even more remarkable is the section on the medicinal powers and health benefits of honey and other “hive products”. If you’ve never heard of “royal jelly”, look into it. It has to be the most powerful substance on earth. There are accounts of societies living thousands of years ago subsisting largely on hive products for food, and it wasn’t rare for people in these societies to live well past 100 years. This was at a time when medicine as we know it was non-existent and you were lucky to make it to 35. For you beer lovers, Pliny the Elder, interestingly enough, studied these cultures. So, I got myself some bee pollen and whole honeycomb. I have given up coffee all together, and I begin and end every day with my Bee Tea – a heaping tsp of bee pollen dissolved in hot water and a generous amount of raw honeycomb mixed in. I plan to live forever.

January 8th, 2015|Brewing Supplies|