Monday, March 28, 2016

Bluebonnet & Shannon

Two weeks ago was yet another huge week for New Main Brewing. We planned on attending the Bluebonnet Brew-off in Irving, but we were too sick to make it to the event. The competition representatives sent out the score sheets a few days later, and while neither of our entries won, we got some good feedback on how to tweak our recipes. Naturally we drowned our "sorrows" at Division Thursday night with some green beer (Forty-eighter Berlinerweisse with woodruff syrup).

Green beer at Division Brewing in Arlington

The next weekend, we went to Shannon Brewing Co. for their St. Patrick's Day festivities and enjoyed bagpipe & drum, great rare Shannon beers, and good company. Our Pro-Am beer was also on tap for thirsty patrons, billed as the Irish Breakfast Stout. It seemed to be a hit! We thoroughly enjoyed a few pints of it before trying some of the heftier offerings like the Chocolate Rumble Stout (their usual Chocolate Stout aged in a rum & whiskey barrel) and their Double IPA. We were able to meet up with our friend and fellow homebrew blogger Kyle of Steel Rain Beer Blog to share some beer as well as strategize for the next homebrew competition coming up in April.

A pint of Irish Breakfast Stout at Shannon for St. Paddy's Day
On that note, fast forward to this past weekend. Since I am currently glued to review books and study guides in preparation for my Professional Engineer exam, I decided I would take a study break and brew up about 10 gallons of our favorite spring/summer recipe, Palo Alto Wit. We also threw the garage doors open and invited our neighbors to our cluttered brewhouse to share our hobby and a little bit of our home brew. We had a great time brewing and getting to know some of our neighbors from around the block. We are also thinking about hosting a block party soon to invite everyone on the street over to taste some fine beer and enjoy the (for now) pleasant evening weather.

Slowly but surely rebuilding my brewstand and sharing with
the neighborhood!

The good thing about brewing a ton of beer is the motivation it provides for getting all your other beer packaged. Finally after nearly a year in their 1-gallon fermenters, we checked on our 9*8*7 Russian Imperial Stout aged on chipotle and vanilla, respectively. Apparently, leaving a beer that long in a jug with a rubber stopper helps bring out the character of the... rubber stopper. Both beers have a distinct balloon flavor, and on top of that the chipotle version turned nasty sour. Determined to not have wasted 2 whole gallons of precious precious beer, I bottled the vanilla version in hopes that the balloon flavor isn't that noticeable after a few weeks of conditioning. Likely it will still be not great. Lesson learned, no rubber stoppers!

Lastly, I mentioned earlier our next homebrew competition coming up next month. We will be participating in a competition hosted by Martin House Brewing in Fort Worth called Riverside Shootout. This is a very unique and interesting type of competition because you have to brew your beer ON LOCATION at Martin House. They will provide base grain and hops as well as their house yeast and you get to bring whichever specialty grains and/or flavorings you want to make a truly unique and interesting beer. The best-in-show winner gets to brew the winning recipe with Martin House, in much the same way that we brewed our recipe with Shannon. It would be pretty dang nifty to get to do another Pro-Am! Without giving too much away, we will be exploring a newly added style in the 2015 BJCP style guidelines...

Now on tap at New Main: Not Out of the Woods Black IPA and
Shannon/New Main Pro-Am Rio Bravo Breakfast Stout

Until next time, make sure to like us on Facebook, subscribe to the blog, and don't forget to like and share all of our posts so all of your friends can learn about homebrewing and craft beer! Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Why I Blog

I thoroughly enjoy reading literature about beer and brewing (duh), and I've found a group of folks that churn out supremely satisfying content: Brulosophy.

Marshall Schott founded the site several years ago aiming to improve the hobby of homebrewing one exBeeriment at a time. Schott takes common claims and, to paraphrase Andy Weir's The Martian, he "sciences the shit out of it." Through blind triangle testing, statistical analysis, and the good ol' fashioned Scientific Method, Brulosophy and its contributors tackle misconceptions and internet arguments about various brewing techniques like alcohol-infused Mythbusters.

The level of professionalism coupled with everyone's favorite beverage makes this website a treasure trove of edutainment. In addition to these xBmts, Brulosophy has a segment called Bru's Views wherein the regular contributors as well as guest contributors from the craft beer industry will weigh in on opinion-driven brewing topics. In their latest installment, Vinnie Cilurzo of Russian River Brewing Company joined the fray to discuss what every homebrewer eventually spends a slightly inebriated evening contemplating: Should I go pro?

Y'all have been extremely supportive of New Main in the past, and as I've mentioned not quite often enough, I am sincerely grateful. However, the notion of diving head-first into the brewing industry, halting my degree-based career and comfortable lifestyle is at best risky and at worst irresponsible.

Many of the Bru's Views contributors believe the biggest factor against going pro is that homebrewing is nothing like commercial brewing. It has been my experience through talking with our local industry folk that this is 100% accurate. The largest part of owning/operating a brewery has nothing to do with boiling wort. It has to do with unabashedly hard work in difficult environments on expensive equipment with ever-looming deadlines. The brewing industry is not to be entered into lightly and takes a solid constitution in order to stay above water, let alone succeed.

Another aspect has to do with market saturation and increased competition with other brands in your marketplace. The Brewers Association reports nearly two new breweries open every day. While this is great for consumers and craft beer fans, this will eventually mean slimmer margins and tighter belts on each brewery's budget. Don't get me wrong, competition is a cornerstone of the capitalist free market, and I would never choose to live in a society where things like what I drink and where I can shop were decided for me.

That being said, sustainable growth is a tricky thing to master in a fledgling industry. The typical American brewing entrepreneur usually enters the market thinking they will be the next Jim Koch or Sam Calagione. Everyone remembers what happened in 2008 when the housing bubble burst. Some of you may still be recovering from that colossal crash, and my sympathies are with you. It's with this in mind that I am slowly realizing the attitude of "I'm just one more brewery/business/loan" just might be the beginning of the end for markets that grow too quickly.

By all means, you should chase your dream and pursue your happiness, but you better be damn sure what your happiness looks like. My biggest epiphany came in the form of the cliche interview question, "Where do you see yourself in 5-10 years?" This can be an immensely helpful question for people to ask themselves about their personal life and goals. Unfortunately most interviewees are concerned with what the interviewer wants to hear rather than what they honestly want their life to look like 5-10 years down the road.

Sure, everyone wants to be successful and happy, but that's entirely too broad to begin acting on today. Avalanches are often precipitated by a series of small but no less important events. You really need to focus on what a specific day in 5-10 years would look like. For example, here's my idea of Wednesday, March 10, 2021:

6:30AM - Wake up
7:00AM - Make coffee and breakfast.
7:30AM - Kiss my wife goodbye as she goes to her immensely successful and rewarding job as Director of Bands at the school of her choosing.
8:00AM - Read latest articles and message boards for tips on improving something about my brewing setup and/or writing.
10:00AM - Whoa, I passed practically all this morning without checking my own website hits and comments section. Hmm. only 6,000 views today, but 1,000 comments?! I guess my article on subterranean brewing with moon-grown hops and fair trade water was a little too edgy. Better take it down a notch next time.
11:30AM - Make lunch and take it to Amanda's band hall. Reminisce about how cool it was for her to be honored at TMEA last month as the youngest female Honor Band winner. Help her organize her clinician appearance schedule for fall 2021.
1:30PM - Back to the home office to research facts and figures for my second book, Take That, Big Beer: A Complete Guide to the 21st Century North Texas Craft Beer Boom. (First book was a New York Bestseller about time-traveling baby geniuses, of course)
3:30PM - Rack my split batch of Imperial Red Ale (one clean, one with Brett) to secondary and check the gravities on last week's batch of my award-winning Palo Alto wit. I may keg that one this weekend so it will be ready for next week's 34th Annual Bluebonnet Brew-off "Meet the Homebrewers" pouring session.
4:00PM - Reach out to Bluebonnet Brew-off Director Kyle Nelson for a 3D video interview, record for tonight's live podcast from Atypical DFW Studios.
4:30PM - More writing for the book, specifically the chapter on the impact of to-go sales legislation change on distributors and bottle shops. Contact Deep Ellum, and Grapevine Brewing to set up interviews based on their successful legal alliance formed back in 2015 to sue TABC.
5:30PM - Make dinner before guests arrive. Fajitas with my famous guacamole. Eat entirely too much guacamole before I decide it's ready to serve.
6:15PM - Dinner with wife and podcast crew, go over last minute topic changes for the show, discuss new sponsor Texas Craft Brewers Guild. 
7:00PM - Start live broadcast, show topic: Upcoming Bluebonnet Brew-off, Martin House's upcoming 8 year anniversary party, The Expendables 7 - This Time It's Geriatric, vertical tasting of Collective's American Sour Red 2016 through 2021. 
9:30PM - Kick everyone out of the house, watch latest episode of Better Call Saul spin-off, Tio Salamanca Knows Best
11:00PM - Lay down and reflect on an awesome day spent doing what I love with the people I love, thank God for the invention of the Dog Fart Eliminator which is prominently affixed to the wall near the head of the bed.

Okay, so maybe some of these things are a little far-fetched, but hey, you gotta swing for the fences. My point is it's just as important to be able to put your dream into real, measurable terms as it is to have a dream in the first place. How else are you going to make them come true? And as much as I'd like to say my dream is owning and operating an award-winning brewery, I fear that my lack of relevant experience in both the brewing and business arenas means I am more likely to become a statistic than a success story if I were to jump into it right at this moment.

All caution and forethought aside, brewing is one of my deepest passions. If I could maintain the lifestyle I currently enjoy while brewing beer that I would be proud to serve, you bet your ass I'd be doing it. Come to think of it, that's exactly what I'm doing. I'm enjoying the comfort of a somewhat typical middle class American lifestyle while brewing tasty beer for my friends and family, and thanks to the internet I've been granted the opportunity to share this experience with all of you. Here's to the next 5-10 years! Cheers!