Archive for the ‘Beer’ Category

Well it isn’t the best example of Northwest ciders but the Seattle PI saw fit to spotlight Spire’s “Dark and Dry” cider in a beer blog. Spire’s D&D is Dark but ‘taint Dry by any means. I drink it semi regularly as I work a block and half from the brewery and eat lunch there from time to time. Being not much of a beer guy any more I lean towards their sweet concoction for some lunch time refreshment and attitude adjusting.


Once you finish reading the blog post check out the first comment made… I couldn’t have put it better myself and he nailed all the great NW cider makers so far.

You can lead them to traditional cider but you can’t make em drink it.


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While writing my last cider entry I inadvertently exposed a pet peeve of mine regarding the bottling practices of a few micro-breweries and wineries. After a little thought I was thinking I’d like to go into the topic a bit more.

Besides my momentary tastes and the quality of the product there is another huge factor that drives the purchase of my specialty fermented beverages. Being home brewer I’m always on the look out for bottles (much to my girlfriend’s dismay) that I can use for my brewing projects.

Buy bottles new at any given home brew store it will cost you 50¢ a piece for 12oz and $1.00 each for 22oz… maybe a bit more some places. Since they purchase in bulk it doesn’t cost the commercial brewer 50¢/$1.00 per bottle however if the contents are good and if those bottles are able to be reused they have an extra “added value” to me. I suspect a good number of loyal craft beer customers like myself are home brewers too, so breweries… Listen up if you care.

There are certain bottles and styles I prefer however and I’d like to review those first.

Rogue Stoneware BottlesFlip Top Bottles (EZ caps).
Man I think flip top bottles are always nice to use when home brewing. Most or pretty big which is nice, they are fairly easy to use when bottling (no capping) and I feel really they just add a classier touch to some company’s packaging and identity. Without a doubt I always end up gifting my flip top bottles out first, or saving them for the best occasions.

Besides a few examples like Redstone Meadery’s cool cobalt blue flip tops and Rogue Brewery’s kick ass stoneware flip tops they use on some of the premium beers, it is hard to find something delicious in a flip top. It is even harder to find something drinkable and affordable. They are expensive to purchase and bottle in regardless of who you are, and it should be understood that cost is passed along to the customers.

Big Bottles
Old Quart Size Beer Bottles22’s and their larger cousins seem to make bottling time a whole lot easier and faster. They hold more volume which means less bottles to clean, less bottles to sanitize and less bottles to cap. And let’s the face facts if I’m sitting down to a cold bottle of home brew, 22+ oz bottles are a better size. My all time absolute favorite bottling bottle ever was the now extinct (I think) 1 liter beer bottle. Now those kicked ass. They were huge. And better than that I liked the dimensions of these bottles, they remind me of the Olympia or Lucky Lager”Stubbies” in a way. I don’t recall what happened to the rest of my stash but they are gone and out of my life forever I am afraid.

Orval BottleUnique or Custom Shaped Bottles.
Provided they don’t have branding cast into them I like funky and different bottles. Some don’t ever leave my collection or are reserved for “special gifts”. Some of my favorites are Anchor Steam’s 12oz (pre-twist cap) and 22oz bottles, Sam Smith 20.4 bottles (I excuse the branding in this case) and I really dig the shape and heavy dark glass of the Orval Belgian Trappist beer bottles. So cool.

Domestic Sparkling Wine (Champagne) Bottles.
What is a domestic champagne bottle and what is the difference? Well European are often the standard and their larger bottle opening does not accept the standard beer style bottle caps. For reason I don’t know or question there are cap-able wine bottles that now accept standard bottle caps. My favorite Washington cider Wescott Bay Orchards recenlty converted from 22’s to a cap-able flat bottom, green glass wine bottle now and I bought a ton of their cider this year when I was trying to stock up on larger cap-able wine style bottles.

Production Bottling Mistakes 101 for Craft Brewers.
For the craft brewer that is interested in the little details and is interested in going the extra mile to please their customers there are a few rules you should consider when designing your bottle packaging.

#1) Twist Tops and Caps are the Number 1 No-No.
So what is the deal? The bottles can’t be any more or less than standard cap-able bottles. Is the bottling equipment cheaper? Think about this they saving you any money if they are costing you sales? A little detail like a twist cap could be a deal breaker when it comes time to buy. So often I’ve passed a great tasting beer with a twist for another choice because I had a bottling coming up. Remember this brewers, there are plenty of awesome beers/ciders that use cap-able bottles.

#2) Heavy Duty Industrial Label Adhesives & Painted Bottles.
Few things are worse than a stubborn label with heavy duty glues that won’t come off a bottle easily. I understand the need for labels that don’t fall off the bottles happen to get wet or “break a sweat”. However adhesives of that caliber can’t be cheap to buy nor can they be good for the environment I imagine. I only need try to dislodge a stubborn label once or twice before pass that brand up. A quick session in the dishwasher should be more than adequate for label removal.

Painted bottle are impossible and a huge no-no. I don’t buy them normally, or if I do they get kicked to the curb and recycled. There are a few exceptions to this rule too. The aforementioned Rogue Stoneware and occasionally the larger 22oz or whatever Red Stripe bottles. The exception to the exception… I don’t give them away.

Damn guys! Use some common sense when choosing your bottles and labeling supplies. You were home brewers once yourselves and maybe not so long ago. Did you forget what it was like trying to obtain usable bottles? You must remember spending endless hours scrubbing labels off bottles? Do you care? Show us. Use “home brewer friendly” bottles and labels.

Now playing: Stringbean – Threre’ll Be Moonshining in Them Old Kentucky Hills
via FoxyTunes

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As someone who was once desperately trying to find good cider information the internet seems awash with blogs and content this year.

Just got dropped this pretty cool blog link about easy cider making from my girlfriend Heather… Thanks babe! http://forfood.rezimo.com/?p=409

She also sent this link yesterday about the country’s first all cider pub. Cider Pub, America’s first and maybe only

It is called Ace-in-the-Hole Pub from Ace Cider in California. Now I’ve had Ace Cider before a few times and while it is not my favorite, it is not last on the list by any means. The Cider Pub on the other hand is a very bold and interesting concept. I don’t hate the concept and I most definitely in to the whole spotlight on Cider thing, on the other hand I would hate to alienate my beer drinkin’ brethren by making them go elsewhere. I’ll be interested to see how it all works out for Ace.

I’m headed to Portland today for work. We (Espresso Parts) are headed down this afternoon to do 5 espresso machine PID installs in three places. Two Fresh Pots, and possibly a stop at Stumptown for the last three. Portland is my favorite place town to get coffee in but you can bet I won’t be missing my chance to pick up some of my favorite Oregon Ciders from Ford Farms Cyderworks and Wandering Aengus Ciderworks.

I suspect a review of my Oregon cider acquisitions will be in order.

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Beer Goggles…

Okay… I don’t usually make it a habit of posting videos however this is an exception. Watch a first six days of the fermentation of a stout beer in 3 minutes, if you have the time you have to watch it. It is a great video with a hilarious soundtrack selection.

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Gravity Beer Market ~ Olympia's own beer store!

As of about three weeks and possibly $150+ (of my money) ago Olympia was gifted with it’s very own specialty beer shop, The Gravity Global Beer Market located at 1001 4th Ave E. Besides copious amounts of premium beers from near and far they also are even offering a quite few ciders I’m happy to say. Here is a Google map link for the locals.

For those who don’t live here (or those who don’t go out) I should explain that we are far from destitute. As small as we are here Olympia has it’s share of notorious bars and world class microbreweries that serve up the best of the best. We have Fishtale and Dick’s Brewing companies which are both renowned all across the Northwest for the quality of their fermentations. But until that fateful afternoon a few weeks ago, going out was the only way to get guaranteed quality and selection.

I don’t recall how many pilgramages I’ve made so far to our new oasis appropriately named The Gravity Room. I do know I’ve dropped $15-30 on each visit and I know these folks are getting a good chunk of my paycheck from now on. The Gravity Room owners, a husband and wife team are really great. Not only are they very sociable, they know their stuff when it comes to the brew and during a recent conversation I found out one of them was former employee of Columbia Distributing, which is one of the bigger beer distributors in our area carrying 80 varieties of beers on a regular basis.

Gravity offers up a great selection of beers as I mentioned earlier with more on the horizon I’ve been told. I’ve expanded my horiszon and had some great beers from the Gravity Room. I’ll share one of the highlights so far.

La Gunitas Brewing CompanyLagunitas Undercover Shutdown Ale.
Among some of the finer beers I’ve picked up is Lagunita’s Undercover Shutdown Ale. Lagunitas for those who haven’t had the pleasure, could be Northern Cali’s premier brewing company at the moment. Now that is my opinion and with out a doubt it is saying a lot. I’m a longtime fan and advocate of the beers brewed by our near neighbors to the South. Anchor Steam, Northern Cali has it’s share of great Mendocino, Anderson Valley, North Coast, Lost Coast. Anyway Lagunitas Brewing Company’s Undercover Shutdown Ale as advertised is a really bitter beer with tons of fruity fermented flavors. I caution you anymore than one of these bad boys and you are likely to need a cab or better yet just enjoy these at home. If you live in Oly and near the Gravity Room, or if you have a great beer store in your town or region I highly recommend you pick up this 9+% especially bitter ale.

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