Monday, February 28, 2011

Aardvark Beverages

Aardvark is a funny word isn't it. The two A's at the beginning of the word lead to a peculiar look reminiscent of pirate speak. The double letter at the beginning of the word also launch it to the front of the dictionary, prestigiously held by other such double A letter words such as "Aah" "Aaronic" and "Aardwolf."

The aardvark itself is a peculiar animal. Probably even more peculiar than the name itself. Also commonly known as the anteater, the aardvark is a ground dwelling, nocturnal creature, native to the southern 2/3rds of Africa. Aardvarks bodies are suited to hunting out and devouring their prime course in the sub-Saharan wasteland, termites.They use their long, single claws on each leg to dig up mounds, and their long slender nose and tongue to yank termites out of the Earth, just as their settling down to do their little termite yoga. Toga if you will.

Probably one of the most interesting facts about the Aardvark is that it's dental formula is 0.0.2-3.3 over 0.0.2.3...

What???

Aardvark is also the name of a store in the southern part of Orlando. Aardvark Beverages, is located at 2610 Ferncreek Avenue, and offers all the goods you'd need to host a bachelor party. Kegerators, jockey boxes, lots of different kegs, individual bottles, six packs, and porno mags. Yeah I don't quite get that either. First thing you see when you enter this lovely establishment is a big ol' rack of porno mags. Odd. They also have a lot of different keg parts, taps, pumps, handles, etc. Most importantly for my purposes however it's where I get my CO2. If you're looking for a CO2 exchange like you do your tanks for the gas grill, look elsewhere. If you have your own tank that you just want filled, they'll take it and fill it no questions asked. My 10 lbs tank will get filled for about 18 bucks. Considering the number of kegs that services (20-30 kegs on a 10 lbs tank) that's a great deal. Good place to fill CO2, not a good place to take your kids for their big-brother reading material.

If you're looking to draw a link between the store and the mammal, I got nothing. Unless all aardvarks are mid-20s bachelors. I leave you with these fun facts...

Aardvark claws are as strong as a pick axe.

Aardvark tongues can be 12" long.

Aardvarks can eat over 50k termites in one sitting.

Aardvarks are also called "Ant Bears."

Aardvarks do not like porn.

Drop us a line anytime! We love to hear from you and know that people actually read this site.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Headspace: I'm proud to say, I also have gas.

Remember when sneakers had
crazy gimmicks? Oh wait...
I felt a little left out with Gene's last post. Being the less fully equipped brewer in this tale of two: I don't have any hose problems, mysterious off flavors from improper keg washing, or other mechanical troubles. What I do have is lots of gas (that I make myself - heh.) My fascination with CO2 tanks ended around 2 years after Reebok Pump sneakers went out of fashion.

Since you don't need pressure to dispense beer from a bottle (just gravity and thirst,) I'm just going to talk about carbonation. When bottling with priming sugar there's really only one factor that you can change to affect the amount of carbonation: headspace.

I actually didn't know anything about this topic until I received my first issue of Brew Your Own magazine last week. In the March/April issue Ashton Lewis has an excellent answer to a reader question on the topic of carbonation space. That question is longer than this entire post, so let me summarize it for you:

"Does the amount of airspace you leave in the top of the bottle matter?"

Summarizing the answer is "Yes; yes it does," but I'm guessing you wanted a bit more than that. Without really caring about why it worked, but only that it did work I had some hunches about this that I bet many of you share.

Hunch 1: The air at the top of the bottle includes oxygen that the yeast need in order to make gas.
Hunch 2: The amount of air doesn't matter at all and is only there to prevent the beer from rusting the cap.

After reading the article, it's safe to say that both of these are dead wrong. Hunch 1 is not true because brewer's yeast operates anaerobically (that means without oxygen, not without exercise.) Hunch 2 is wrong because the inside of the caps are plastic coated (although the BPAs have more of a chance of leeching in if it's touching the liquid.) So what's the right answer?

A certain amount of head space is required to create the right outside pressure on the liquid so that CO2 created by the yeast is dissolved into solution rather than remaining as a gas. If there was too much headspace the CO2 would have plenty of room to move around and wouldn't get dissolved, too little and the cap might blow off from the pressure. That's less technical than his explanation, but if you want that kind of detail check out the magazine (Brew Your Own.)

So what's the lesson? Don't fart if you're in a pressurized space suit. Also, leave the recommended inch of head space in each bottle if you want a foamy home brew.

I hope you enjoyed this post (it had more poop jokes than usual!) Know a better reason for the headspace? Please leave any comments below! 

Monday, February 21, 2011

I've got gas...

Leaks.

I love my kegerator. Kegging makes life extremely easy. What would normally take an hour to fill 48 bottles takes minutes with a keg. Not to mention, fresh draught beer at all hours of the day, and I don't even have to go to the local watering hole. I truly love my kegerator, it's a huge convenience. It's a pretty good conversation piece too.

This magical device has a dark side though. CO2 leaks. You can't see it. You can't hear it. And if it's a small enough leak (which will still drain your tank quick), you can't even search for it with the good ol' soapy water trick. Searching for these leaks is constant trial and error of isolating part of the system, pressurizing, turning off the CO2, and waiting. I wait 24 hours to see if the system holds a leak. But I can isolate my system into 5 different parts. Which means if the leak is in the last place I look (which it always is, cause why would you keep looking?), it can take 5 days before I can do anything about it.

Needless to say my new keg of wheat beer has been giving me a few issues. I got a new tank of CO2, and I started having a few more issues. So I started back at square one. I took apart the connections between the tank and the regulator, and the regulator and the hose. I slapped some fresh white teflon tape on the threads, pressurized it, and waited. Which is where I'm at right now. It's been 24 hours and the system has held pressure.

I just opened the valve to the stout keg, and since I didn't hear any rushing CO2, that tells me that that keg is holding pressure too. However being a OCD engineer, I'm still waiting to make sure that keg holds pressure. Then it's to the wheat keg and seeing exactly what the heck is going on. Hopefully nothing some keg lube wont fix.

I was planning on following this up with a beereview, however I woke up sick yesterday, and my taste is completely shot. We'll have to wait for another time. In the meantime however, shoot me a message about your CO2 woes at ataleoftwobrewers@gmail.com, or leave a comment below. Am I the only one having these issues?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Beer Guru: Enlightenment Can be Yours

This is kind of a counterpoint to Gene's "Beer Geek" which was itself a counterpoint to my "Beer Snob." I offer up for your consumption a new archetype: The "Beer Guru." A guru is typically somebody who has great wisdom and knowledge but uses it to teach others. You sometimes find them on mountaintops with yetis and goats, but more often you can find them in your local beer club or homebrew store. Before getting to our final score sheet (since lots of you seem to like grading yourselves) let's see what makes this Guru unlike Gene's Geek and my Snob.

This is not the idea at all.
Geek vs. Guru

A beer guru believes that all beer should be sampled, in agreement with Gene's Geek. However, a beer guru also believes that the person producing the beer is very important. I brought this up before but it deserves to be repeated. Every time you buy something you're essentially voting with your dollar. The ramifications of buying a 6-Pack from a non-micro is that your money goes to support the lobbyists who are primarily trying to put micro-brew out of business (by creating legislation which only the big brewers can conform to.)

In other industries this usually makes people angry because it hits some hot-button topic. Chick-fil-A recently got into a lot of trouble for giving food to an anti-gay marriage group and boycotts were called. Going back a little further Domino's Pizza was linked to anti-women's rights group funding and boycotts were called. Unfortunately the group defending micro-brew is relatively small and quiet. If you really care about the movement you'll boycott big cheap beer whenever possible (but not because you hate the taste.)

Being a guru is about seeing all the ramifications of your beer drinking decisions, rather than just swilling mindlessly. That said, the Geek is still a valid personality type, just less socially minded (in my opinion.)

Snob vs. Guru

My previous article on beer snobs wasn't exactly on point with some of your expectations. Some of you went along with what I was saying about the term "snob" now just meaning "expert," but some of you thought I meant real honest to god snobs. There are true snobs out there and I didn't really discuss them. Let's examine a literal beer snob and see how they compare to the guru.

Snobs and gurus share the same knowledge, but a snob has no feeling of social or moral obligations. A snob has sought out this information so that they can lord it over others while a beer guru has discovered that their love of beer has lead them to enlightenment. Snobs will grudgingly answer questions and try to keep others beneath them in a perverse game of "king of the hill."

A beer guru wants to bring people into the fold and has no problem with those people attaining even greater knowledge than themselves. I'll be the first person to admit that Gene knows more about brewing and beer than I do, but I'll also be the first person to congratulate him for it. It's that type of attitude that separates a snob from a guru in any topic. There are car snobs (BMW?), horse snobs, wine snobs, sports snobs, movie snobs, etc. The list goes on forever.

Here's some proper guru-type qualifications for you would-be mystics to gnaw on:

1. You fell into your knowledge without seeking it out
2. Your greatest pleasure is sharing a great new beer with friends
3. You believe all beer, even low quality can teach you something about yourself.
4. You never put others down for their choice of what to drink (unless it contains clam juice)
5. You'll patiently answer any question about brewing or beer in general, no matter how simple it may seem
BONUS - 6. You'll never put somebody down who doesn't share your opinions about what great beer is

As always I welcome your comments. Let me know if you agree or disagree with me below! Are you a guru or did one help you on your way?

Monday, February 14, 2011

Counterpoint: Are You A Beer Geek?

I liked Nick's post about beer snobbery last week. However, I don't really agree with all of Nick's conclusions. Also many of you wrote back, that while you scored a 5/5 on Nick's list o' snobbery, that maybe you felt that the title of beer snob was unjust. I present to you the counterpoint to Nick's beer snob: the beer geek. See the beer geek has all the characteristics of a beer snob, without all the turning-up-the-noses. Turning up your nose isn't the best thing for you, you know. You could actually drown yourself, like turkeys do... or not. So are you a beer geek? Maybe you only scored a 4/5 on Nick's categories. Maybe you'll do better here... Lets see.

1. While you appreciate a good beer, you don't turn on the under-educated.

I know a lot of beer snobs who will turn their nose up to the masses who think a quality beer is Miller Genuine Draft. To me, sure, MGD sucks. Really bad. However that doesn't make these other people (and coincidentally, the majority of the people) wrong. Maybe their tastebuds aren't as refined, but more importantly, maybe they just don't care. And truly, that's ok. Some people love cars, and "how on earth could you buy a kia, when BMW offers such a superior driving experience." Everybody chooses their vice. We, as beer geeks, choose beer. We can only hope that the love catches on.

2. You feel that some beer may suck, but it's still beer.

In my opinion cheap beer has it's time and place. Like porter is good with BBQ, like a lambic is good for dessert, and like a hefeweizen is good when the weather is hot, cheap beer is good for cheap events. When I go to the town bar just to drink beer after a long week and scarf down as many greasy wings as I can, I order a draught Icehouse anytime.When I go to my favorite sports bar, and order a uber footlong hotdog with bacon, onion, and american cheese (sooo good), I order a Budweiser. There is just a time in place where the beer is not on the center stage, and if it's not, why pay for it. I'm not going to wash down chedder-bacon-sourcream-jalapeno-steak nachos with a beautiful Stone beer, I'm going to do it with a PBR (it's called blue ribbon 'cause it won a blue ribbon once ya know). I was at a CFHB meeting a little while back, and the educational topic was how to pour a beer. We were all given a bottle of Budweiser to use to see the differences of a good, bad, and worse pour. After the presentation, a bucket was passed around so people could dump their samples. That's just ridiculous. I will never turn down a free beer.

3. You feel that some beer may be produced by a big named brewer, but that doesn't mean it's awful.

This past Winter I reviewed the Sam Adam's winter 12-pack. There may be some discepency here with my example, because Sam Adam's teeters on the balance between craft brewery, and big named brewery. I was disappointed to see that some of the beers I tried were "malt beverages." But that doesn't make them bad. The way I see it, it's beer if it's brewed with malt & alcoholic. While none of that 12-pack was knock-me-off-my-feet amazing, it really wasn't bad. I'm still finishing some of them off, and I really do enjoy them. They are unique, and they're cheap. Also, remember how much I love Corona?

4. You'll try anything despite preconceived notions.

Sure, Old English sucks. So does Colt 45. Icehouse. MGD. Yes, if it comes in a 40 oz. bottle, it's probably really bad. But have you tried it? If you're reading this probably not. While 95% of preconceived notions about bad beers are correct (and 82% of statistics are made up), you might be missing a real gem. That said, you may remember my review on Colt 45.  Yes, it was awful. Before I finished a quarter of the bottle, I had a hangover. But without trying it, I'd never know how awful it was. Bud-Light Chelada? It can't be as bad as it sounds... wait... wait.... yes, yes it is. The Chelada is probably the only free beer I would turn down.

5. You know your stuff.

Since this is a list to tell if you're a beer geek, if you don't score this trait, then you've completely fallen off this boat. You can't call yourself a beer geek if you can't tell your ales from your lagers. You should probably be able to tell some different hops apart too, and definitely recognize a few major styles, like IPAs, Hefeweizens, Porters, and Stouts. 

I think the most critical difference between Beer Snobbery and Beer Geekery is the belief that all beer, big or small, despite label, manufacturer, or list of ingredients (be it natural or chemical), is created equal... until you taste it. I hope you agree. Don't agree? Think there's a category we're missing? Share below, or shoot us an email (ataleoftwobrewers@gmail.com)!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Are you guilty of being a beer snob? 5 Ways to tell.

Back in the nineties we as a country still had some sense of propriety; being called a snob was taken as a grievous insult akin to the “carpetbagger” and “scallywag” of the post civil war era. Today, it’s taken as a compliment in some circles (beer drinkers among them.) Snobbery is something to aspire to, rather than revile. It seems to occupy the niche that “aficionado” once did, which most people probably can’t spell anymore. I blame schools. Anyway, let’s see if you pass muster (in order from least snobbish to as snobbish as the Monopoly guy):

1. You can tell the flavor of hops apart from malt.

If you can tell the difference between varieties of hops you get bonus points here. Being able to identify a beer as predominantly hoppy or malty puts you slightly above the Neanderthals. A description of “it tastes like beer,” that many more evolved human beings still utilize today seems awfully redundant does it not?

2. You didn’t drink “Lite” beer at a Super Bowl Party.

Beer snobs of all types disdain mass market “lite” girly beers, but many break down and drink them at sporting events, Thanksgiving, or when they go into the garage to get away from their kids. There is usually a better option available like Heineken, Molson, or even Budweiser (all of which don’t carry the same stigma even if they carry the same distribution.) There’s some mass market beer I actually enjoy, especially with food. Newcastle Brown Ale, Guinness, and Becks are some of these.

3. You describe beer using terms like head retention, lacing, citrusy, woody, or smokey, rather than just sweet, bitter, or skunked.


Being able to separate tastes takes some practice. It’s not an exact science but often times you’ll find your assessment matches the description on the label. What truly separates a snob from the masses is using non-food terms to describe flavor positively. If I told you your cooking tasted like pine sap and millipedes you’d probably be insulted. If I said the same about beer you’d probably still be insulted, but it's fair game. C’mon, millipedes?


4. You can not only name several breweries, but you can also name the city where they are located.


Milwaukee doesn't count here; other than that it's self explanatory.

Just right.
5. You know how to properly pour Belgian ale to avoid a gigundo permanent foamy head that any barber would be proud of.

If the beer glugs out of the bottle, you’re doing it wrong. Let your friend pour first and get a face full of foam, then perfectly pour a pint for yourself. After all, being a snob is mainly about rubbing somebody’s face in their own shortcomings. Here’s an opportunity to literally do it.

Ur doin it wrong. (Forgive me, Gene)
If you have a kinder heart and decide to use your skills to help others, you encroach into beer guru territory; that’s another post entirely.

There you go! You don’t need to brew your own beer to be a jerk about it; it just comes naturally to some people.

Have any of your own ideas about what makes a beer snob?
Are you, or is somebody close to you a pretender?
Post them in the comments below!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Beereview: Very Bad Elf Special Reserve Ale

I was in Heart's Homebrew the other day dropping off some competition entries for The Best Florida Beer Competition (hosted by the Tampa Bay BEERS). Met some guy, all bright eyed and bushy tailed, purchasing his first homebrew kit. Nice guy, I wished him the best of luck. He asked me if I had any tips to make anything easier, I made sure he got an autosiphon, and asked if he had a turkey fryer (he did). I told him he was all set to go, and to watch out, cause it's a slippery slope after your first beer . I might have also, maybe, given him a shameless plug to go to ataleoftwobrewers to read up on homebrewing stories. That's right, I have no shame.

In the meantime I also managed to pick up a couple of beers to try out for future beereviews, this being one of them. Today's beer comes all the way from Ridgeway Brewing, in Oxfordshire England. It might have been hand delivered too, because I have a strong hunch it's left over from Christmas. "Very Bad Elf" is a special seasonal ale weighing it at a lower heavyweight 7.5% ABV. The message on the back of the bottle is a reflection of ol' Saint Nick, badmouthing his elf. What's going to happen to my elf next year? Is he going to be a seriously bad elf?

That's funny.

Crazy Brits.

Anywhooo I am excited to dive in as the label describes the beer as a "rich, hardy, and flavorful" ale brewed with rare pale amber malts, with a dose of fuggles for aroma. Lets dive on in.

This beer pours a beautiful golden amber color that frankly I've never seen before. It's a very bold, and golden hue, much like a golden sunset of some amber waves of grain (I can hear the patriotic music playing now). The head is white, and quickly diminishing. The aroma smells sweetly of malt with a hint of hop flavor lingering in the nose after the sweet malt aroma recedes. It's interesting because you don't notice the hop smell at first, but after you put down the glass, a little tickle is left in your nose (maybe that's where the bad elf is playing around).

The ale is rich, with a great body (like you mo... nevermind, family environment). The presence of hops is not really noticeable, but what's really on the stage here is the malt. The malt is very sweet, it warms you up inside. After a few consecutive sips, I even notice a little alcohol heat to the beer. Very rich. I have to say I didn't buy the statement of the rare pale malts being used that was put forth on the back of the bottle. However the beer does have a very unique flavor that I'm not quite used to. I wouldn't say this beer is unbalanced, it's not overpoweringly sweet. After many more sips I almost want to say the beer has a maple syrup flavor, but not nearly that sweet.

This beer is a surprising pleasure. I haven't had a real unique beer like this to review in some time now. It's also a nice diversion from your standard spiced Christmas ale which takes it's own reindeer trodden path down a street I haven't been before. I almost forgot about the level of alcohol as well, dangerous. With an extra large 25oz bottle, I'll be enjoying this beer in front of the fire for a good portion of the afternoon. Yes, we do have fireplaces here in Florida.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Joys of Bottling: 3 Approaches in a Bottle Royale

The title of this post is a little misleading, since there are no actual joys in bottling (but there are ways to minimize the pain.) Gene's last post, "The Joys of Kegging," is one side of the coin so I thought I'd present the other. As several of my past posts will show, bottling can really be a hassle but there are a few variables that you can control -- the types of bottles and the tools used to fill them. So far I've only used a bottling bucket, but I do technically own a bottle filler which I might use next time.

I neglected to mention that you can also control where you bottle but given my current condo living situation my options are still limited. When it's a little nicer outside I plan on bottling on the porch. I suspect that the ants that have recently taken up residence in our bathroom are not totally unrelated to indoor bottling, but I digress.

Without any further ado, let's start the "Bottle Royale!"

1. Grolsch Bottles

Many new brewers are attracted to the idea of using bottles that are unique and don't need to be capped. If you have much experience with high quality beer you know that a lot of the really good stuff from Belgium comes in a bottle with a champagne cork and a wire protector. This isn't practical for home-brew since these corks are single use only. Also they are probably hard to sanitize, but don't quote me on that.

If you're looking to save a couple bucks by not purchasing a bottle capper, "Grolsch" type bottles might appeal to you. They have a rubber gasket in the top and snap down with a metal lever, creating a seal. When I was asking around before my first batch I was told that some people absolutely love these and some people hate them; I'm in the latter category.

Grolsch bottles are terrible for several reasons:

  • They once contained Grolsch (see below if you don't know what I mean.) 
  • They are green glass which expose you to light spoilage.
  • The rubber seals don't always work
  • Sometimes you get a funny taste from the seal.
  • Bottle brushes get stuck in them and you can't get all the mold out of the bottom (personal experience here.) 
For those of you who are still unconvinced, you can buy generic Grolsch bottles if you really want. They actually cost more than bottles with Grolsch in them already, which confused me at first (but not anymore.) I should also mention that the seals that come with the Grolsch need to be replaced each time to ensure a good seal. My recommendation is still to stay away. 


2. 16 oz. 24 oz. Glass Bottles

These are the best and everybody uses them ('nuff said.) I like the 24 oz. ones personally since it's less capping and cleaning work.

3. Plastic Screw Top Bottles

Do. Not. Use. Plastic. These are the type of bottles that come with Mr. Beer. You can find more information on that little monstrosity here. Some people make wine in two liter soda bottles and I've heard that it works alright for beer (but sometimes explodes all over your living room.) If you're going to spend the time to make something high quality than why risk the sanitation or chemical contamination problems associated with cheap plastic? You can get glass for free out of the recycling (or from friends) and it cleans up well.

Bonus: Grolsch Review

This beer tastes like crap. It was about two bucks and tastes like somebody put a teaspoon of sugar and an ounce of pee into a Heineken. I bought one of these so I could describe what they are like "new," but I'll be pouring the rest down the sink momentarily.

Have you used Grolsch bottles? Do you disagree with me? Comment below!