Beer Bloggers Conference Takeaways

The Beer Bloggers Conference is a three-day whirlwind of drinking, talking about blogging, drinking, talking about beer, drinking, occasionally sleeping, eating, and drinking some more. A lot of the conference is about blogging and behind the scenes crap that I won’t bore you with. However there were a few things you may care about. First off I want to introduce you to an app that I’m very excited about.


The team behind this app was at a small trade show. When they described the app I was pessimistic but when they showed me the app I was wowed. It’s a pretty simple idea that I can’t believe hasn’t been pulled off before. Here’s the pitch, you ever find yourself at a new restaurant in a new town with a bunch of new beers you’ve never heard of? Sadly, the staff at many restaurants aren’t well versed in their beers and can’t help guide you. If you try looking up each beer on your phone yourself you’ll be spending valuable minutes while your company gets pissed off. This where SipSnapp comes in.

You take a picture of the menu, size it up so it just shows the beers and boom! SipSnapp pulls in all the beers from Ratebeer and shows you the beer and the rating. Ok, you’re thinking sure but this is going to take a few minutes right? Nope! Took all of 5 seconds to pull in the ratings for 15 or so beers.Snap a Picture










What sucks about this app, for me and the majority of the world, is that it’s currently iOS only. Fellow Android users are going to have to wait till around December. Head to the iTunes App Store, follow them on Twitter @SipSnapp or like them on Facebook

Sam Adams KMF Grand Cru

KMF Grand Cru is a very limited new beer from Sam Adams that the other Beer Bloggers and I had an opportunity to taste at the conference. First off here is Sam Adams blurb about this beer:

On August 23rd, the Samuel Adams brewers released a small batch version called Kosmic Mother Funk Grand Cru that’s been uniquely aged for two years in the Barrel Room at the Boston Brewery. A touch of Belgian candi sugar has been added to balance the beer’s tart acidity and lend a smoothness and sweetness to the finish.

Personally I found it delicious and it is my favorite Sam Adams product so far. It had a nice zesty tartness that brought a slight pucker but was blended with a tiny sweetness and a decent body. Sam Adams has been expanding exploration of styles with their 750 ml Barrel Room Collection series; many folks forget that Veloren was one of the first craft goses to come out. That exploration is making me hope that KMF Grand Cru doesn’t get tossed into the Sam Adam’s dust bin of history along with millenium and Triple Bock.

Pay no attention to the TV behind the bottle...

The KMF Grand Cru is an extremely limited release that’s only publicly available on draft in the follow cities for short periods of time:

New York, NY: 9/22/2014 – 9/28/2014
Denver, CO: 9/29/2014 – 10/5/2014
Cleveland, OH: 10/6/2014 – 10/12/2014
Dallas, TX: 10/13/2014 – 10/19/2014
Philadelphia, PA: 10/20/2014 – 10/26/2014
Washington DC: 10/20/2014 – 10/26/2014
Chicago, IL: 11/3/2014 – 11/9/2014
San Francisco, CA: 11/10/2014 – 11/16/2014
San Diego, CA: 11/10/2014 – 11/16/2014
Seattle, WA: 11/17/2014 – 11/23/2014

Most importantly here is that there will be another city added that you can vote on so go vote for Cincinnati here!

Stone World Bistro Liberty Station

Last time I was in San Diego we had to venture 45 minutes outside of town to visit Stone in Escondido. It is truly a magical place. It’s like the adult Disney land of beer. Luckily you no longer have to journey so far out-of-town. Stone has opened a new World Bistro about 10 minutes away from downtown. Stone World Bistro Liberty Station is like a tiny version of the one in Escondido. Similar awesome outdoor area, large restaurant, amazing beer, everything in the Stone experience just closer. I thoroughly appreciate them having us out for dinner and rare beers.

FULL DISCLOSURE: I paid a reduced admission to the Beer Bloggers Conference with the stipulation that I write at least two posts about the conference, this is one of them. To our readers, and any companies interested in sending me stuff, giving me free stuff impacts the review in only 2 ways. That I WILL review it and that and I WILL write a blog post about it. Giving me free stuff does not guarantee you a favorable review or that I will tell everyone to go buy it.

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San Diego Beercation #2

Last month I had the opportunity to travel to San Diego for the Beer Bloggers Conference and I couldn’t pass up on the chance to make a mini-beercation out of it. I fell in love with the city last time I was there, which you can read about back here, and was stoked to visit it again.

A-plus limo tour

The Beer Bloggers Conference always do a pre-conference excursion the day before. Sadly, I wasn’t able to make that this year; happily, the folks from A-Plus Limo gave a few of us a special tour. A-Plus is a limo company that’s been around a bit but is new to the brewery tour game. There are two things that set it apart from every other brewery tour company out there. First is having a bad ass vehicle, that vehicle being a pimped out stretch SUV (see below), while most brewery tour companies have a van or at best a micro-bus.

A-Plus Limo

The second thing is that, unfortunately, they’re really just a bad ass limo to drive you around without the personal connection to the breweries. Though maybe that’s just because they’re new to the brewery tour game… It takes time to develop those connections and work out agreements with breweries. Still though this was a fantastic way to get around to a bunch of great breweries that the folks from A-Plus Limo handpicked for us. I’m not going to go into details on all of those breweries, and 1 yeast farm, but new friend of the blog Kendall from Beer Makes Three breaks them all down on his post here so please check them out. As for us I’m going to take a closer look at the two that really stood out most to me.


Société's fermentation tanks

Société’s fermentation tanks

One of the two big changes to the San Diego beer scene since I last visited is Société Brewing. These guys have become extremely hyped in the uber-beer nerd corners of the internet so I was psyched when A-Plus Limo announced this as a stop. There is a great rustic feel in the brewery with natural wood everywhere. Unfortunately, the beers did not live up to the hype that I’d heard about. It’s doubtful any brewery could successfully live up to that level of hype that preceded Société. Yes they were all very good but none were mind-blowing.

The other big change is the presence of Modern Times which I didn’t get too this trip but brought some of their beers back and am quite impressed. Their Blazing World and Phalanx beers were both delicious. One of my favorite things about all Modern Times packaged products is the clear labeling of which hops and malts were used. It’s a little thing but I wish more breweries would do this.

White Labs

If you’ve been homebrewing for a few months to a few decades you’ve likely heard of White Labs. They are one of the premier yeast companies in America along with Wyeast. Regardless of if you’re a White Labs zealot or a Wyeast fanatic (like myself) you need to add White Labs to any future San Diego itinerary. It’s just a yeast lab, yes you can see into the lab… a very tiny bit of it. You can watch a video about the lab, read all about yeast, buy some swag, but no touring of the real lab. Why am I so excited and saying that you must go here?

Because you get an awesome exploration of yeast. You pick 1 style of beer then get a flight of 4 beers of that style, all the same malt, hops, and water but 4 different yeasts. This is a great way to explore the massive importance of yeast. The hot word in beer these days is hops, hops, hops… and a few more hops. But after visiting White Labs I can tell you that hops hardly matter, OK they matter a lot but not nearly as much as yeast which hardly any craft consumers care about. If you’re curious about the differences in yeast but don’t feel like flying across the country I’d encourage you to brew a 5 gallons batch and split it into 4 growlers with 4 different yeasts. Your LHBS, like Osborn Brewing, should have bungs for growlers.

San Diego Takeaways

The conference officially began Friday and I snuck away from the conference a few times because San Diego is just such an amazing beer city there were many things I couldn’t miss. First off, just like my last trip there, props to Keg Guys for keeping Pliny on the shelf in the fridge. My friends and I all scored a bottle a piece there last year and it was my first stop this year. I was able to sweet talk the manager into selling me two Plinys… I also ended up buying about $90 worth of other beer so that may’ve been a contributing factor.


Last year I went to Hamilton’s Tavern to find Pliny on tap. Having been there before I tried somewhere new, Toronado. This is not the super famous Toronado, which is in San Francisco. I’ve never been to San Fran but the Toronado in San Diego was no slouch. Pliny the Elder on tap, hundreds of amazing bottles, and Stone Old Guardian… from 2007, also on tap!


FULL DISCLOSURE: A-Plus Limo reached out to myself and a number of other Beer Bloggers and offered to take us on this tour for free. The ride was comped but the food and beer was not. To our readers, and any companies interested in sending me stuff, giving me free stuff impacts the review in only 2 ways. That I WILL review it and that and I WILL write a blog post about it. Giving me free stuff does not guarantee you a favorable review or that I will tell everyone to go buy it.

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Cincinnati Food and Wine Classic Recap

2014-09-12 21.39.22


It is Sunday afternoon and I am slowly coming down from the food high that I have been riding since Friday evening. I think I can safely say that the first Cincinnati Food and Wine Classic was a solid success with plenty of room to grow in the future. The event took place Friday evening and all day Saturday in Washington Park, with a few surrounding restaurants playing host to various after parties. I was lucky enough to attend both days with a VIP media badge and here are some of the highlights.

The Food

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It comes as no surprise that food took center stage at the Food and Wine Classic. The organizers did a great job of making sure that just about every local restaurant of note was present as well as several others from places like Louisville, Nashville and even Dallas. Friday night’s grand tasting was pleasantly filled but not crowded and it was easy to stroll comfortably and get a chance to try everything. During the day Saturday there were a selection of different demonstrations, tastings, and competitions that featured several food samples as well. Saturday’s grand tasting was very well attended and unfortunately food supplies did run a little short that night so if you came later in the evening you might not have had the chance to try everything. That was a shame but I was glad to see such a great turn out for a first year event. Everything I tried was both beautiful and delicious, even the heart and the headcheese.

The Drinks

You know what makes for a really special VIP cocktail lounge? Having celebrity bartenders waiting on you and not having to pay extra for the drinks. Throw in a beautiful antique bar and lots of comfortable seating and frankly I was reluctant to leave and attend the rest of the show. Friday night Aaron Strasser from A Tavola and Molly Wellmann from everything were the talents behind the bar. Saturday Night Rom Wells from The Rookwood and Catherine Manabat from Metropole took over. When I wasn’t sipping custom cocktails from these wonderful people I was attending panels. I learned a lot about wine at the Wines of Rioja and very much enjoyed Catherine’s cocktail demo, Raise the Bar. Molly Wellmann moderated the Four Bourbons: Four Ways panel with the owners of Arnold’s, Wiseguy’s, and The Littlefield. I learned something new at each event but my favorite was the Sommelier Slam. Six local sommeliers did a blind tasting of five different wines. I was amazed at the amount of information they were able to get out of the wine in only five minutes.

The People

Without a doubt the thing that made the Cincinnati Food and Wine classic so special was the amazing line of up talent that was involved and just how present all of the guests were for the entire weekend. How often in life would you get the chance to have Jean-Robert de Cavel walk you through how to make a sauce (or see him dancing with the crowd at the end of the night Saturday?) At the grand tastings you often had your sample handed to you by the chef who created it. I got to talk with Todd Kelly, Jose Salazar, Julie Francis, Michael Paley, and Cristian Pietoso at various points over the weekend, something I rarely get to do when I eat at their restaurants.

Overall it was an incredible weekend and I am very much looking forward to next year. The food and drink scene in Cincinnati has come so far in recent years, it is wonderful to have an event that celebrates all of that talent and hard work in one place.

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Guest Post: I Dream of Beer!

[Ed.: We're always open to guest posts here on Queen City Drinks, if you want to do 1 or 100 just shoot me an email at with your ideas.]

Andy Melchers has been brewing for over 10 years and is a Bloatarian Brewing League member. He is a BJCP National Judge and has served as BBL Minister of Propaganda for way too long and was Event Director of Beer & Sweat from 2010-2012. This is the story HARK!:

It Started with a Dream

About two years ago I had a dream. A glorious dream. The kind of dream where you can can taste and smell. All of your senses are working overtime and operating on autopilot. There was no conscious input. However the memory of it all when I awoke was crystal clear – ‘citrusy orange mixed with a spicy peppery flavor supported by a light biscuity malt and crisp carbonation.’

That’s what I recall telling my wife anyway the morning of this revelation. Of course not being a beer drinker herself, she lovingly kept an ear open as she went about her business while I rambled on. Time passed and I began formulating what it would take to make this ‘dream beer.’ As it happens, a friend was having a brewout and I was planning to attend. I took stock of what ingredients I had on hand: 10 lbs. or so of Briess Pale Ale malt left in the 50 lb sack from some previous brews, some NZ Pacifica hops I had won at Beer & Sweat raffle months prior, 2 oz. of Amarillo I had bought to use in an IPA down the road (because at the time Amarillo was extremely hard to come by) and no yeast on hand.” Well, I can find a yeast at the homebrew supply,” I figured.

Day of the brewout arrives and like most brewouts, it’s a party with an excuse to drink with friends, eat great food and also make some homebrew. Minimal attention was paid to my brew in between beers and conversation (along with the poor placement of a plastic bucket which was left too close to my kettle and ended up with a hole melted in it  – I said I wasn’t paying much attention!)  As the day progressed a friend arrived with a fresh pull of Belgian Ardennes yeast offered up to anyone who might like to have it. I kindly accepted (again, having not planned well). I pitched the yeast and went back to drinking.

Six days later my brew was fermented and I moved it to a keg for conditioning.  CO2 was applied and within a few days I have new beer to drink… yay! That first quaff and sip made me say the strangest combination of words… HOLY SHIT BALLS! It was perfect. My dream beer had come true… and was aptly named as well.

42 Without a Medal

By now, the Bloatarian Brewing League’s annual homebrew competition was coming up and as usual, I entered what I had on hand. I’ll brag a little to say that this particular beer, entered as a 16e Belgian Specialty Beer (per the BJCP guidelines ) scored a 42 of 50. Unfortunately it did not even medal, due to being such an unusual entry. I didn’t care… I was stoked! A score like that is hard to come by. My dream beer was validated.

Two years on and 5 more batches of HSB were made in between countless other IPAs, Porters, Stouts, etc… I had been tweaking the recipe over time to see if small changes were better or worse. Funny enough, sticking to the original recipe and paying the littlest attention to the brewing seemed to be the key. I made batch 6 much like batch 1, by paying only the slightest attention to it, specifically to enter it in the Cincinnati Malt Infusers annual ‘OktobersBest’ Homebrew Competition in October 2013.

Welcome to October 19, 2013. Fourth Best Day of My Life!*

I entered with no real expectation other than I thought it was another really good batch and hoped that it might score well again. (It did, 39 and 40 from two judges whose opinions I highly respect.)  Although, I didn’t know it scored that well at the time because, on the day of the competition, I was up north camping with my family. The phone call from my friend Scott LaFollette came in while I was chilling at the campfire (with a beer of course).  “The feds won’t take too kindly to naming a beer Holy Shit Balls,” he stated. “HUH?!” I had no idea what he meant by that statement. “You just won Best of Show at the CMI comp,” he replied. Cue my dancing around the fire while onlookers thought I’d totally lost my marbles.

Let that sink in. Best of Show. Guys I know have brewed beer their entire lives, most because they love it and enjoy the process and results. A good majority enter competitions regularly. Many score well with good beers and come away with a few ribbons or such. But, Best of Show? Only one brewer is awarded that honor and when that highly experienced panel whittles down the 24 first place entries from each category, from some 300+ initial entries, to just one winner. That’s the stuff dreams are made of.

Welcome to August 23, 2014. Fifth Best Day of My Life!

As an extention of that October day last year, August 23, 2014 became arguably the Fifth Best Day, a day that I will remember forever. I was invited, as a reward for winning Best of Show, to brew my recipe at a local brewery. It happens that that brewery is owned by my good friend, the aforementioned, Scott LaFollette of Blank Slate Brewing Company located near Lunken Airport. Scott scaled up my 5 gallon recipe to 250 gallons, and sourcing one of the ingredients proved difficult, so I’d like to give a shootout to Madtree Brewing for the Amarillo hops. Thanks guys!

But it’s funny though, after 10 years of making beer at home, I found brewing at a real brewery to be very much like what I do at home… just with much bigger toys! The grain mill, mash tun, kettles, hoses and pumps, fermenters, etc are all similar just larger. There are some differences such as hop utilization due to the volume differences, but as far as procedure, it’s amazingly similar and very hands on.

Crushing grains

Crushing grains before the mash

There is no automation in this brewery. Mashing 350lbs of grain in a 300 gallon kettle takes some serious work… as the kettle fills with 120 gallons of heated water, we added the crushed grain and began mixing it with a canoe paddle. Stirring to achieve a consistent temperature throughout and be sure there are no ‘dough balls’ or clumps of grain all while the consistency becomes like thick oatmeal — for a solid 15 minutes — with hot steam pouring over you is a serious workout. I was breaking a sweat and hadn’t even been there 40 minutes! But I loved every bit of it.

Mashing in

Mashing in

While the grains were going through their conversion of starches to fermentable sugars and extracting the malt flavors, we had a chance to chat with some visitors. After an hour we began the transfer of the wort liquid to the boil kettle. The liquid in the mash tun is pumped out as another 150 gallons of heated water is sprayed over the top of the grain bed to rinse the grains and pull any remaining sugars and flavors and produce our boil volume of 270 gallons.

Oxygenating wort

Oxygenating wort

At the beginning of the boil we added 2 pounds of Hallertau hops to produce 30 IBU’s (International Bittering Units) which is a medium bitterness level to just balance out the sweet wort. The goal with this beer is all flavor and a pleasing bitterness, not a palate killer.  That’s where the Amarillo hops come in. I typically add them with 15 minutes to go in the boil, and again at flameout. In this case, because contact time of hops with the heated wort will increase bitterness while the wort is being transferred instead of adding the flavor and aroma we want, the schedule must be adjusted. We added the first dose of Amarillo when we started the whirlpool.

Sweet wort after the whirlpool

Sweet wort after the whirlpool

This process creates a centrifugal effect and as you can see in the photo, all of the solids move to the center of the kettle, and settle there. This is an important step which helps produce a clear beer and also won’t clog up all of the pumps and hoses. As the beer is pumped from the kettle we used a ‘hopback’ which has another dose of hops to allow the hot wort will make contact with the hops but only long enough to pull the oils contained in the hops so they will produce aroma, but no additional bitterness.

As the liquid continues through a serious of hoses, it is chilled to fermentation temperature — a cool 60° — and also oxygenated to give the fresh yeast, which has been waiting in the fermentation tank. Adding pure oxygen at this step is essential for a healthy fermentation. After that, it’s all up to the yeast to do it’s thing… chewing up fermentable sugars and spitting out alcohol and carbon dioxide. In the case of this Belgian yeast strain, it will also produce phenols and esters. The phenols will be a spicy peppery flavor and the esters with a fruity marmalade flavor to complement the citrus of the Amarillo hops.

Mash Tun

As I’m writing this, my beer is finishing up the dry hop stage (adding even more hops for additional aroma after fermentation is complete) and will be moved to the bright tank sometime this week. Kegged next week and the plan is that I will tap my beer, titled simply after my nickname “HARK!”, to be served at the Fountain Square Beerfest on Sept 12-13 in downtown Cincy. Being able to serve a beer that I dreamed up and eventually made with much of my own sweat in a local brewery, under the guidance of a friend whose work I have high regard for… well, it doesn’t get much better than that. That’s the stuff dreams are made of. Here’s to dreams coming true!

Recipe to Make HARK! (aka HOLY SHIT BALLS) Yourself

5 Gallons of HSB
1.042 OG
32 IBUs
10 lbs Breiss Pale Ale Malt
NZ Pacifica (preferred) or Hallertau to make 30 IBUs
1 oz Amarillo @ 15 mins remaining
1 oz Amarillo @ Flameout
Whirlpool (or stir) and rest 15mins before chilling
Belgian Ardennes Yeast
I usually let my ferm temps go with this yeast to help bump the phenolics
*Married with two children, you can do the math.


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The Session # 91: My First Belgian

The Session, a.k.a. Beer Blogging Friday, is an opportunity once a month for beer bloggers from around the world to get together and write from their own unique perspective on a single topic. Each month, a different beer blogger hosts the Session, chooses a topic and creates a round-up listing all of the participants, along with a short pithy critique of each entry”.

For this month’s Session Belgian Smaak prompted us to write about our first Belgian beer. My first Belgian beer isn’t just any other beer, it was my first real beer. The first thing besides liquor and ____ light I’d ever had. Here’s my story:

10 years ago I found myself in an aluminum tube hurtling through the air at 700 miles per hour 36,000 feet above the Atlantic Ocean. I left Cincinnati being an infrequent drinker of whiskey and rarely being caught with a beer in my hand. From Amsterdam to London to Paris my prime thoughts were of enjoying the history and foreign experience of these towns.

The beautiful canals of Amsterdam ©vtveen

The beautiful canals of Amsterdam ©vtveen

We did a pub crawl in London along the south bank of the Thames and I remember thinking the beer was slightly better than what I’d tried in America but nothing blew me away. Paris was all snotty French people and wine that I couldn’t fully appreciate at the time. To their credit this was in the early days of the Iraq war when our Congress, in its infinite wisdom, struck French Fries from the menu at the Capitol cafeteria and renamed them Freedom Fries. I wish I was kidding but I’m not. So they had some right to be snobby to us ignorant Americans.

From the top of St. Paul's Cathedral.

From the top of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London before I let my curls grow out.

We took a train from Paris to Brussels only because it was the most frequent flyer mile effective way to get back to America. The train ride was awesome, trains are a great way to see any countryside. In Brussels we stayed at a small inn where my brother and I slept in a loft above my parents. I say slept generously since my brother’s snoring would drown out a Metallica concert… Before being deafened by nose noise that night we had dinner at a small restaurant on the side of the Grote Markt.

©Francisco Antunes

©Francisco Antunes

We ate some local food, and here’s what we’ve all been waiting for… drank some local beer. The waiter brought out a bottle of something called Chimay Grande Réserve (aka the blue label). All 4 of us immediately fell in love with the beer and by the end of the dinner we’d drank 4 or 5 bottles. I remember being wowed by the deep complexities of spices and dark fruits. I had thought beer was water with a hint of grain or corn. My brain was flabbergasted that beer could actually taste like… anything!

The next day I was again in an aluminum tube some 36,000 feet above the Atlantic at 700 some miles per hour. But when I got back to Cincinnati my life was changed forever. The next few weeks would always find a Chimay Grande Réserve in my fridge, followed by Rochefort 10, then Victory Golden Monkey and then I truly fell down the rabbit hole of real beer.

In a tale of 20/20 hindsight and wishing I knew then what I know now that the Brasserie Cantillon Brouwerij is about 8 blocks from where I sat on the Grote Markt.

I’ve told my story now share yours. What was your first Belgian?


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MadTree Creativity: Hoff-Stevens & #HeadbandFriday

On top of pumping out the great beers they’ve been known for MadTree has begun infusing beers courtesy of Hoff-Stevens and unleashing the madness of #HeadBandFriday.

Who is Hoff-Stevens?

Yes, I’ve been asked that at least 3 times. No, Hoff-Stevens is not a new brewer at MadTree. No, Hoff-Stevens is not a restaurant they are collaborating with. No, Hoff-Stevens is not a small Japanese woman. Hoff-Stevens is a type of keg, an older type of keg largely replaced by Sankey-style kegs. A type of keg that MadTree has begun to use to a highly creative extent!

Hoff-Stevens kegs are an evolution and enlargement of traditional casks which themselves are an evolution and miniaturization of barrels. I’m not going to get into the technical differences of casks vs. Hoff-Stevens kegs vs. Sankey-style kegs. The basic fact that you should know is that they’re different from normal kegs and the main difference is due to the bunghole. The Hoff-Stevens keg is the one in the background and you can clearly see the bunghole in the middle.

Hoff Stevens Keg

Bung is a fun word to say

But what do most of us really care about what style of keg MadTree is using. Hoff-Stevens, Sankey, whatever I just want tasty beer, right? Here’s the great thing about Hoff-Stevens, the bunghole! This allows MadTree to infuse their beers with a variety of things (read more on infusing here). Infusing allows them to add ingredients to a beer and turn PsycHOPathy into PyscHOPathy dry-hopped with Amarillo (currently on tap) or Mango/Habanero.

The Hoff-Stevens kegs allow MadTree to do this to just 1 keg or to as many kegs as they want. Allowing much more flexibility because it’s 1 1/2 barrel keg vs having to brew a full 15 barrel batch. This flexibility enables greater creativity and that is something MadTree has in folds.


Along with these exciting Hoff-Stevens keg infusions MadTree has continued to roll out new beers that are in the tap-room for a few days or go into cans for a full season, like the just released PumpCan. On top of all this they’ve taken a simple piece of headgear and turned it into brand marketing initiative with awesome results. Beyond a hashtag on Twitter that’s taken off somewhat they’ve also rolled it into a weekly album cover parody as seen below.

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From silly headbands to amazing beers this level of creativity and constant newness is what excites me most about MadTree. It’s hard enough to make great beer and start a brewery. Keeping things fresh on top of that is even harder. Luckily for Cincinnati MadTree is excelling at coming up with new beers and new reasons to stop back by the tap-room. Beyond the things already mentioned they’ve also got a new patio area (shown below) that has more improvements yet to come including a railing, TVs, and more!

new patio

Stop by the brewery to try a new Hoff-Stevens beer and pick up your own headband then follow MadTree on Facebook to see what album cover comes out next week!

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Beer Writing Ethics: Freebies, Authenticity, and Criticism

I recently attended the Beer Bloggers Conference in San Diego and went to a panel on “Free Beer and Other Quandaries for Beer Writing Ethics.” Beer writing ethics are important to me but I have a feeling some of you may not care. However, I still wanted to write this post to let all of my readers know exactly where I stand on these issues.

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Book Review: Vintage Beer by Patrick Dawson

Today I’m checking out Vintage Beer by Patrick Dawson “A Taster’s Guide to Brews that Improve over Time.” I saw this book reviewed by another site and thought it must be a joke. An entire book about aging beer, really? Seems quite a bit of overkill. A few blog posts or a big pamphlet maybe but not an entire book.


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Cincinnati Food + Wine Classic


Having attended a few cocktail conferences this past year I can safely say that food and drink conferences are my favorite kind of events. So of course I am over the moon about the Cincinnati Food + Wine Classic that is coming September 12-13th. A weekend of getting to know amazing chefs, learning about food and wine trends in Cincinnati and around the world, and grand tastings every night? Yes please!! I am especially excited about the Four Bourbons, Four Ways being hosted by Molly Wellmann. Tickets are on sale now and are selling fast so get yours today. Here is their official press release with all the important info.

Cincinnati Food & Wine Classic Tickets On Sale Now

First Local Celebration to Offer Grand Tastings, Demos, Competitions, Seminars and After-Parties

Cincinnati, OH – Tickets for the first-annual Cincinnati Food & Wine Classic in Washington Park from September 12-13 are on sale now. Tickets can be purchased at

“This is a two-day epicurean event designed to capture the energy and enthusiasm of Cincinnati’s dynamic food scene,” says Courtney Tsitouris, co-founder of the Classic. “We’re showcasing local culinary talent and ingredients alongside nationally recognized chefs, wine and spirit experts, beer connoisseurs, authors, journalists, and network personalities.”

The Classic will include two completely different grand tastings on Friday and Saturday evening. Friday celebrates Cincinnati’s “Porkopolis” heritage with Pork Chopped, a competition judged by Andrew Knowlton of Bon Appétit, Keith Pandolfi of Saveur, and Top Chef Masters judge Francis Lam.


Saturday’s grand tasting will celebrate Cincinnati’s finest dining. Culinary demonstrations, wine and spirit seminars, panel discussions, chef competitions, book signings, and a Rising Star brunch take place Saturday morning and afternoon; and five individually themed VIP after-parties at downtown venues will cap off both evenings. A portion of proceeds will go to the Freestore Foodbank, the event’s non-profit partner.

“The word is out,” says Donna Covrett, co-founder and executive director with Tsitouris. “We have a vibrant food, wine, and brewing community that’s getting noticed by others. We’ve piqued the interest of publications such as Food & Wine, New York Times, USA Today, Travel & Leisure, and more as a beautiful city with a quirky-cool community of creative, talented, artisans of all sorts. It’s something to be proud of, explored, and shared.”


Local and national talent has already been confirmed for the event. Names include (but are not limited to):


Jean-Robert De Cavel + Daniel Wright + Michael Paley + Paul Sturkey + Julie Francis + Nate Appleman + Megan Ketover + Jonathon Sawyer + Keith Pandolfi + Jose Salazar + Tony Ferrari + Edward Lee + Todd Kelly + Stephen Williams + David Falk + Anne Kearney + Andrew Knowlton + Francis Lam + Elias Leisring + Nick Marckwald + Jeremy Lieb + Owen Maass + Levon Wallace + David Cook + Cristian Pietoso + Anthony Lamas + Joy Wilson + Jimmy Gibson + Stella Parks + Joel Molloy + Charles Redmond + Rom Wells + Ned Elliot + Anita Hirsch + Mark Bodenstein + Hideki Harada + Michael Worth + Ryan Santos + Kyle Johnson + Paul Barraco + Jim Cornwell + Pat Lafrieda + Vic Vegas

Tickets are priced as follows:


  • Grand Tasting Pass ($125): Friday Grand Tasting or Saturday Grand Tasting
  • Saturday Savor Pass ($190): Saturday Grand Tasting and 20+ Saturday Educational Experiences (culinary demos, wine and spirit seminars, panel discussions, competitions, and book signings)
  • Weekend Revel Pass ($290) Friday Grand Tasting, Saturday Grand Tasting, and 20+ Saturday Educational Experiences
  • VIP Pass ($390): Friday Grand Tasting, Saturday Grand Tasting, 20+ Saturday Educational Experiences with priority seating, exclusive VIP lounge, VIP swag bag, and admission into one VIP after party


For more information about scheduled talent, event programming, and ticket purchases, visit


About Cincinnati Food + Wine Classic

Founded in 2014 by Donna Covrett and Courtney Tsitouris, the Cincinnati Food + Wine Classic is a celebration of Cincinnati’s Porkopolis and fine dining heritage as a longstanding destination for Midwest food, beer and spirit excellence. The inaugural event, located at the doorstep of Music Hall in the historic Washington Park, features local, regional and national chefs showcasing local flavors through tastings, demos, seminars, and parties across the city. For a complete look at what’s in store, visit, or follow on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. #CFWC14

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Learning About Beer: IBU

If you’ve enjoyed craft beer for a while you’ve probably seen the term IBU pop up on the side of a bottle, on the name of a beer, or in reviews on this blog. We’re going to take a look at what an IBU is, how it’s measured, and what it really means to you when enjoying a tasty barley beverage.

IBU stands for International Bittering Units and is the standard measurement of bitterness in a beer. The bitterness measured by IBUs is from the amount of hops added to the boil and how long you boil those hops. Hops excrete isohumulone oil, a compound known as an iso-alpha acid, which is responsible for the bitterness in beer. 1 IBU is roughly equal to 1 part-per-million of isohumulone oil.

Hops are the source of IBUs in beer

Hops are the source of IBUs in beer

Isomerizing Isohumulone

The longer the boil the more isohumulone oil gets isomerized (changed from 1 arrangement of molecules to another arrangement of the same molecules) creating more bitterness. Most brewers boil beer for 60 minutes while some go for 90, or 120 minutes (hence the name of Dogfish Head’s 60 Minute IPA, 90 Minute IPA, and 120 Minute IPA). On the flip side of the increased bitterness longer boils equal less flavor and aroma you get out of that hop. This has resulted in breeding of specialized hops, some meant for bittering (Centennial, Galena, Nugget) with others for aroma or flavor (Cascade, Fuggle, or my favorites Galaxy, and Topaz). A few hop varieties work well for either bittering or flavor/aroma, most notably from this group for American beers are Citra hops.

Finding the IBUs of a Homebrew

Any homebrewers out there can calculate their IBUs using a few different formulas. Personally I use BeerSmith which does these calculations automatically so I’m not familiar with the formulas. Due to the complexity of these formulas I’m going to pass over covering them here. I suggest consulting your favorite homebrew book or checking out for the formulas and web-based calculators to figure out the IBUs for your recipe.

3 Things to Remember About IBUs

  1. Perception: We don’t perceive all IBUs equally. The maltier a beer is the less the IBUs matter. A malty 120 IBU Imperial IPA will not taste as bitter as a 50 IBU E.S.B. since the Imperial IPA pacts so much more malt. How can you know how malty a beer is? A good guess is to start with the ABV.  The alcohol in beer comes from the yeast eating the sugar leached from the malt during mashing, so more alcohol = more malt. Your perception of bitterness will also change over time the more often you have bitter beers and the bitterer those beers are. They’ll make everything else seem less bitter by comparison.
  2. Perception Threshold: Most people cannot taste a difference over 120 IBUs. Some people will get more than that, some less, but no one will ever pick up on 500 IBUs vs. 1,000 IBUs. This is due to the number of receptors in our mouths and all of them getting occupied around the 110 IBU area. This doesn’t mean a beer can’t have more than 120 IBUs it just means you’re wasting hops, which are often the most expensive part of the beer.
  3. Other Sources of Bitterness: IBUs don’t account for all bitterness in a beer. Some types of malt, especially black malts, bring bitter flavors to a beer. However, most styles of beer don’t use enough of these malts/adjuncts to make a huge difference in flavor. Before the widespread use of hops brewers used various herbs and spices, known as gruit, to bitter their beer. A homebrewing colleague of mine is a fan of using rosemary to bitter his beers. Beyond different malts and spices there are a wide range of adjuncts that can add bitterness if used properly, and others if used improperly like when boiling the pith (that white stuff) of citrus fruits. No IBU formula takes any of these into account.

3 Beers to Demonstrate Different IBUs

Chimay Grande Réserve (Blue) - 30 IBUs – Barely bitter with just a hint under the malty sweetness.

Fuller’s E.S.B. – 35 IBUs – Medium bitterness for such a low-level of IBUs while toffee and caramel maltiness dominate the flavor. For only being 5 more IBUs than the Grande Réserve it is profoundly more bitter.

Stone Ruination IPA – 100+ IBUs – High end of medium bitterness that is far lower than what one would expect for “100+ IBUs.” More bitterness than Fuller’s E.S.B. but not much more and nowhere near 3 times more as the IBUs would imply.


Filed under Beer, Informational