Lafayette Homebrew Supply Blog

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.

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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.

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.

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|

Drinking in N.C.

Vacation is a beautiful thing. Recently, I took a much needed one to Sunset Beach, North Carolina. My family stays at a house there called “The Happy Nest” (all the houses on the island have names). I tried several brews from NC breweries, and I must say, very nice work y’all. Here are 3 that I would definitely recommend:

 

“Sweet Josie” from Lonerider Brewery in Raleigh. This is as good as a brown ale gets. Just enough dark caramel and toasty flavor to go great with grilled shrimp or blackened fish at the beach, but completely smooth and sessionable. Finishes clean unlike some American brown ales. Also, if you’re into cartoon vixens, you gotta see the label.

“Gaelic Ale” from Highland Brewing Company in Asheville. Every beer enthusiast in the area knows this beer. And for good reason. It’s a red ale that is perfectly balanced. Malt and hops coming together in a perfect embrace. Delish!

“Southern Pale Ale” from Natty Green’s Brewing Company in Greensboro. This was my favorite. To me, there is not much better in the whole world than a perfectly hoppy 35 IBU pale ale. This beer has awesome citrus notes and a little bit of a simcoe-ish piney aroma. And guess what, the bitterness doesn’t punch you in the face. In fact, it’s not even bitter. It’s perfect. Take that West Coast! That’s how we do it in the South baby!

 

Finally our house drink – THE DUPONT DONKEY – Mix 2 ounces grapefruit vodka, 1 ounce Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur, and a generous squeeze of lime. Fill the rest of the glass with ginger beer. My mouth literally waters thinking about this amazing treat. My mom, Susan is the master of these. She ain’t bad with a mojito either!

June 24th, 2014|Brewing Supplies|

Brewing is like school

A homebrewer I know just applied for an assistant principle position. For his application presentation, he talked about how brewing a successful beer is like creating a successful school environment. He based his talk on relationships. In beer brewing you have to nurture and support relationships between yeast, hops, water and malt; as in a school, you have to foster and support healthy, positive relationships among students and faculty. Pretty cool – I hope he gets the job!

May 22nd, 2014|Brewing Supplies|