Book Review: Homebrew Beyond the Basics

I’ve got another book review today featuring Homebrew Beyond the Basics by Mike Karnowski. This may seem like just another homebrewing book but this one is written by an actual brewer. Mike is the head brewer at Green Man brewery in North Carolina. Also unlike many homebrewing books this one is just about advanced all-grain setups skipping past the extract section.

Homebrew Beyond the Basics

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Craft Beer Crafts: DIY Cork Cage Turtle

This is a trick I picked up from a beer tender at the World of Beer in Columbus back when it first opened. I don’t remember exactly how she did it but after a few months I nailed it and have perfected it over and over since then. First step is to get a corked and caged beer, a variety of these should be available from any local better beer seller. Also if you want to practice a bunch you can buy a bag of cages from most local homebrew supply shops like Osborn Brewing. Here’s a slide show with quick instructions:

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More detailed instructions are:

  1. Take the cage and bend each of the legs, and the ring with it, outwards. Bend each leg a bit at a time moving around the cage as you go.
  2. Once the legs are all doubled up use your fingers and a pair of pliers to bend the ring in under the cap. This helps the ring hold the cap in… that one took me time to learn.
  3. Now take the loop at the end of the ring, which had been twisted up, and twist slightly while pushing in and tucking under the cap. This is kind of option, you could leave the neck long and make it more like an Apatosaurus.
  4. Most cages I’ve encountered have two strands of the metal intertwined together on the opposite side of the head. I usually take the pliers and bend this bit in under the cap. Optionally, if going for an Apatosaurus, squeeze this part together and pull it out a bit to make the tail.
  5. I then squeeze the legs together and being to adjust them so it stands level

It’s a fun easy thing to occupy yourself with while hanging out with friends at a bottle share. Keep a collection as you perfect your art then build your own turtle clan of your favorite caps or give them away to friends and family. Heck, some folks would probably pay money for them on Etsy. Let me know if you have any questions about the process OR if you have any cool craft beer crafts to share.

The complete Turtle army.

The complete Turtle army.

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Bourbon Society of Greater Cincinnati

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Ginny, Fred Minnick, and Molly Wellmann



Last night I attended my first meeting of the Bourbon Society of Greater Cincinnati, an offshoot of the Bourbon Society in Louisville. After spending the evening with this crowd, listening to their goals, and soaking in knowledge from the amazing speaker they had brought in for the night I was asked to consider paying the dues to become a full member. My response can only be described as ‘Shut up and take my money!’

The April meeting was only the second gathering of this group but it was clear that the organizers of the society know what they are doing. Last month the speaker was bourbon historian and author Michael Veach, and last night it was journalist and best selling author Fred Minnick. Both of these men are huge names in the bourbon world and you usually can’t just sit and listen to them talk about bourbon without paying some sizable money for the privilege. Minnick is the author of Whiskey Women: The Untold Story of How Women Saved Bourbon, Scotch & Irish Whiskey, which is a fascinating book. His talk last night focused on a brief outline of this history before taking questions from the audience about wider bourbon and whiskey subjects. He was entertaining, intelligent, and gracious throughout the discussion. Just don’t get him started on flavored whisky or vodka.

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The Bourbon Society had also arranged for a sponsor for the evening, Cresent Springs Tobacco, Liquor & Wine Shop, which meant that attendees were treated to two pours of bourbon while we listened. The  bottles selected were Woodford Reserve and Michter’s, both chosen because of the prominent involvement of women in their production. In addition members who had a birthday in April were encouraged to bring a bottle of their own to share with the group so there was also a chance for guests to try a few new things that weren’t on the menu. The discussion that followed the tasting was great. Nothing like being in a room of 60 bourbon lovers and just sitting back and watching the opinions and questions fly.

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All told it was a highly successful evening. Several of the attendees were there for the first time and many decided to make the leap and become full members. Future meetings will take place in new locations and speakers will include distillers as well as new authors and historians. In addition there are plans to eventually purchase barrels directly from distillers and then auctioning bottles off to raise money for charity. For more information about the Bourbon Society and to make sure you don’t miss the next meeting check out their Facebook page or follow them on twitter.



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Will Poor Quality Burst the Craft Beer Bubble?

There has been some news making the rounds on the wires out of the Craft Brewers Conference happening this week. Seems Brewers Association Director Paul Gatza let this quote slip out:

“We hate to see this segment being brought down with people having bad experiences in their glass when they’re trying craft beer. They’re maybe less likely to try something new in the future if they are having a bad experience from the last brewery they tried.”

There should be concern about less skilled brewers opening breweries and making poor product. To be quite honest there is one brewery here in Cincinnati that justifies these concerns quite well. My buddy Rick Armon from the Ohio Beer Blog did a great job covering that here. However, that’s not really what I want to talk about here. What I want to talk about is the always impending fear of the “Craft Beer Bubble” bursting.

I am going to make an assumption that most decent sized towns are like Cincinnati. With many acceptable brewers, 2 or 3 highly exceptional ones, and 1 brewery that is producing barely drinkable swill. In my experience here no one is willing to tell that 1 bad brewer that they’re producing bad beer. That gets into a whole separate topic of most beer enthusiasts being reluctant to criticize poor product. But the thing is that without proper criticism this brewer is likely to continue making poor product.

Without a course correction this bad brewer will lose market share to the better brewers, though the natural progress of economic evolution. Eventually this bad brewer will likely go under and get out of the brewing game. I believe that this is going to begin happening across the nation over the course of 2014. I fear that many been enthusiasts, media outlets, and bloggers like myself will view this as a bursting of the craft beer bubble.

Craft Beer Bubble

This graph is from 2011 the number of breweries is now well over 2,700.

Looking at the chart above it seems clear that there is a bubble, or at least a rapid increase in the total number of breweries in America. The real question that everyone seems to want to know is that a limit? Is there a point where this bubble is going to burst? Will it just slowly decrease over decades like it did from the 30s – 80s? Most importantly when will this bubble burst or recede?

While I believe the number of breweries will continue to increase and the market of craft beer drinkers will increase it is going to come at some cost. Many breweries are going to go under whether it’s from bad product, tough competition, poor financial management, or partners splitting up and going separate ways. None of these things mean that the bubble is popping, it’s simply market correction and bad decision making.

Improper financial planning or disagreements between founders can’t really be solved or slowed by craft beer enthusiasts but poor product can. If there is a brewery in your town churning out bad beer it’s time to stop giving them a 3 rating on untappd or telling them, or your friends, that the beer is OK. Speak up and say what specifically you don’t like about it. No one can fix a problem they don’t know exists.


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Know You Local Brewery: Quaff Bros

I stopped by The Party Source for a conversation with Quaff Bros co-founder Danny Gold and Quaff collaborators Scott LaFollette, head brewer at Blank Slate Brewing Company, and Jason Brewer, from Listermann’s/Triple Digit, about wandering breweries (article on that will be coming soon). That discussion evolved into a full history of Quaff Bros which you can learn about below.

Quaff Bros

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The Return of My Favorite Local Beer: Rivertown Death!

I try to avoid playing favorites with the local breweries and their beers but I’m not going to lie that Rivertown Death has been my single favorite beer ever released by a local brewery. As soon as it hit my lips I was disheartened that it was a limited one-time only release.

For those who weren’t in Cincinnati or weren’t into Craft beer yet I’ll provide some background. Back in 2012 someone interpreted the Mayan calendar poorly and thought the world would end in 12/21/2012. To honor this “event” Rivertown released a series of beers for the four horseman of the apocalypse. Not all of these beers were loved by everyone but they all did live up to the idea of the four horseman.

Pestilence was a sour brown ale with 7 varieties of malted barley and wheat, organic whole Hibiscus flower pedals and spicy hops from the Hallertau growing region of Bavaria. That hibiscus and sour combo gave it a odd funk kind of like it was ridden with pestilence and disease.

War was a smoked Irish red ale that was a dark red like blood and was one of the smokiest things I’ve ever tasted. It did a good job of reminding me of the imagery of battle and war. You can hit this link to read my full review of it from when it was released.

Famine was a Bavarian wheat ale that barely topped 4% and, quite like a real famine would, gave you just enough to get by but left you wanting a lot more. Like War and Famine they weren’t really great tasting beers but man did it nail the concept of famine. Check the full review out here.

The final of the four horseman, and the final beer released, was Death. For Rivertown Death they made a 12% Russian Imperial Stout and threw some of the hottest peppers on earth in there. I’ve talked to many folks who did not like this beer. I, however, am a big fan of spicy food and that love extends to spicy beers. There are too few good spicy beers out there. So often it’s some insane pepper in a light lager that scorches  your taste buds and makes you regret buying it.

Death was a great blend of stout flavors that let you know it was a bit hot with each sip then by the end of a pint you had a solid burn going on. A solid burn but nothing painful or damaging, at least in my opinion. I know many thought it was too hot. You can read my full review of it back here.

A few weeks ago I heard it a rumor that it was coming back and I’m happy to announce that the rumor has been confirmed! If you loved Death the first time around or missed out on it then just hang tight till June 1st and join me at Rivertown’s Tap Room to welcome the return of Rivertown Death! Sadly it will again be a limited run, so you better get there while you can.

Rivertown Death


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Craft vs. Crafty: Should We Drop the Craft and Just Call it Beer?

This post has simmered for some time but was recently moved to the front of the pack. In January the CEO of Craft Brew Alliance (CBA) had a bit of a rant about his beers not being “craft”, then earlier this month the Brewer’s Association changed their definition, finally friend of the blog Bryan Roth posted his take on the topic over on his blog This Is Why I’m Drunk. So what is Craft vs. Crafty and how should we refer to the beer we love?

O, be some other name
What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet

There seems to be an ongoing back and forth about what is or is not craft beer. Is Yeungling craft beer because it uses so many adjuncts? How about Boston Beer Company and its 3+ million barrels a year? Tenth and Blake owns a small part of Terrapin Brewery. Does that mean Terrapin isn’t craft? Mind you Tenth and Blake is owned by MillerCoors.

Join me as we take a look at what “craft beer” is and try to answer these questions.

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Beer: What to Drink Next the Beer Select-O-Pedia

I got into this blogging thing because I enjoy talking about beer. At the time I didn’t expect much to come out of it except maybe a free beer or two. Luckily I have gotten a lot more out of blogging then that. Best of all has been great friends but the number of free books is close to the top.

Beer: What to Drink Next continues the trend of enjoyable review copies of books. As you may have guessed from the title the premise of the book is that it will guide you in what beer to try next, let’s see if it lives up to that claim.

Beer: What to Drink Next

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Milano’s Atlantic City Subs in West Chester

If you never lived in Dayton you may not know that Milano’s Atlantic City Subs is a small chain of 3 stores in that area. Recently they have opened their newest location closer to us in West Chester.

I had heard about the chain from some folks I know in Dayton who mentioned the good beer and tasty pizza. Milano’s grew to more notable fame in my mind for landing the first tap handles in the area of Fat Head’s new Hop JuJu. Hop JuJu is FatHead’s impressive Imperial IPA that won gold at last year’s GABF.

Milano's Atlantic City Subs

I never got up to the restaurants to try Hop JuJu but did finally get their last night and strongly regret not doing so sooner!

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Beer Review: Stone Go To IPA

Stone’s got a new year round beer hitting the market this week to cash in on the session IPA craze. Go To IPA doesn’t just cash in on the session IPA craze but also the hop bursting craze that’s been sweeping through the nation of homebrewers. Stone has never seemed like the company to cash in on any craze, much less one driven by market analysis. Remember, this is the company through brought us Arrogant Bastard and made it live up to that name.

All these things left me in a situation of not anticipating this beer. When companies make these kinds of changes it makes me worry that the quality of their products is going to begin to suffer. Sometimes though we have to forget the marketing and just enjoy what’s in the bottle. Before we get to the quality of the contents here is Stone’s blurb on the brew:

Since Day One, we’ve been abundantly forthright and fully transparent about our lust for hops. It’s led us to craft many an IPA, most of them imperial—some intense for their time and all timeless in their intensity. For Stone Go To IPA, we are embracing our hop obsession in a new way, funneling an abundance of lupulin-borne bitterness into a “session” IPA delivering all the fruity, piney character of a much bigger IPA. To accomplish this, we employed “hop bursting,” a new technique wherein an irrational amount of hops is added during the final phase of the brewing process to coax out extreme flavors and aromas while also imparting a burst of desirably pleasant bitterness. The result is an Alpha-acid-rich beer that fans can enjoy more of without missing out on the assertive hop character you, like us, crave. So, sit back and go two with your new everyday go-to IPA and bask along with us in the glory of the almighty hop.

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