Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Drive: Baker City, OR to Portland, OR

"We are made to persist. That's how we find out who we are." ~Tobias Wolff
October 18: Tyler made me a cup of tea and we sat in his kitchen and chatted beer. Being able to relax with other brewers and talk shop has been one of the many highlights of my trip. We checked the weather reports on the Internet often as the segment of Highway 84 between La Grand and Pendleton, Oregon, would be one of my toughest driving segments of the trip. Winter has arrived just as my summer vacation is drawing to a close.
There was snow on the side of the highway, and heavy winds plus rain and sleet. Just what I expected. Once I was past Pendleton I could relax a little.

The terrain is more varied here than it has been for most of the drive since I left Denver. I've been putting lots of miles on the van as you can see by the number of gas fills on the trip totals list on my website. At this point I am definitely like the horse that smells the barn at the end of the day and wants to go home.

In the photo at left, you can see a big logging truck moving toward me as my windshield wipers go. Yup, back in Oregon!

A little past Pendleton and Highway 84 hugs the south bank of the mighty Columbia River. In ancient times during the ice age, a glacier blocked the river upstream until a huge lake grew behind the ice dam. When the ice dam broke, such a huge serge of water flowed through the river's original small channel that it carved out the Columbia River Gorge. You can see one of the bluffs on the Oregon side of the river in the photo at right.

Yes I took these photos while driving down the highway. I felt my journey drawing toward a conclusion and I wanted to document some of what I saw from the road.

I arrived at Jon's work, Brewcraft USA at the end of the work day, one day earlier than originally planned. I had a lot of long driving days this week, but I was really ready to get back and see Jon.

BrewCraft USA bought F.H. Steinbarts Wholesale a few years ago, then sold the brewery wholesale side to Brewer Supply Group. Now BrewCraft just wholesales to homebrew shops.
BrewCraft just moved into a new warehouse in August, and a floating manager from out of town, Ginny, has been there to help with the transition. Ginny's husband, Rob, was visiting so Ginny, Rob and Jon & I went to the McMennamin's Edgefield complex for dinner at the Black Rabbit Restaurant.
If you've never been to a McMennamin's establishment, you're in for a visual treat. The McMennamin brothers employ a whole cadre of artists to embellish to their hearts content. As we waited to be seated, I glanced up and noticed this sprite peering down at me from a water pipe elbow up near the ceiling. If you go there and want to see it, stand at the entrance to the Black Rabbit Restaurant, turn around and look back down the hallway and look up to your right.

Rob was quite impressed with Edgefield as most visitors are. I often describe it as "Disneyland for Beer Drinkers." Not only is it visually strange and fantastic, there's also a brewery, a winery and a distillery on site, a movie theatre where you can sip beer while you watch, and many small and unique pubs, taverns, cafes and restaurants, so you can take your pick of where you want to imbibe.

Then it was back to the apartment that Jon has been staying in since he started his new job. We left Big Buddy and the Astro Van parked at BrewCraft tonight.

Monday, October 29, 2007

A Visit to Barley Brown's Brewpub

"The only true happiness comes from squandering ourselves for a purpose." ~William Cowper

October 17: Slept in till 9:00 or so. Penny made me tea and toast while I took a shower. She gifted me a cute little basket of homegrown potatoes from her garden including a mutant russet with three appendages. It was cold, windy and wet out, but we ran out to the brewery equipment boneyard in her driveway so I could assess the equipment that came with her new 4-bbl unitank fermenters.

Idaho has more Mormons per capita than Utah, and Penny said having a 12-foot or so tall copper combi-tank in her driveway had worked well to keep her neighborhood relatively beer-friendly.

The "combi" tank was bizzare. The top half was 2/3 liquor back and 1/3 mash tun. (Divided like pie pieces.) The bottom half was the kettle. I'm not sure how you could add hops, since you couldn't open the side-manway on the kettle without dumping boiling wort all over yourself. It's a steam system and Penny currently doesn't run steam. I wasn't too sure about that piece. I asked Penny if she could crane it into place on her brewery roof and shine spotlights on it so folks would see it like a beacon from the freeway.

The heat exchanger and small plate-and-frame filter showed much more promise. I recommended getting the heat exchanger cleaned and set up first so she could reduce her lengthy brew day by two more hours.

Then I took off west toward Oregon. A lot of southern Idaho is relatively flat, but the section of Idaho and Oregon between Boise and Baker City has huge rolling hills. I drove beneath the storm clouds and Oregon loomed sunny in the distance.

This part of Highway 84 is famous for wild horses. Most of them are dark brown with black mane and tail, and those are the wild horses I've seen before. I saw two mottled lighter colored horses among the dark ones today.

You can usually tell the wild horses because they stand together, often head-to-tail, as if they are looking out for cougar or other predators. Tame horses usually graze alone, either unaware or unconcerned about predators that may be lurking. I saw what looked like several wild herds on my drive today.

Ah, Oregon! The sun shines brighter, the air smells fresher, the music swells... Okay, no music since Colorado as Jon broke my radio antenna while trying to fix it. However, the point is that Oregon is awesome and I was so happy to cross the state line and see cars and trucks with Oregon license plates again. Although now I'm not so special, am I? Since I have Oregon plates too.

Cell service has been mostly non-existent since I left Denver, so luckily for my GPS system, I knew right where to go. I pulled into a vacant store's lot a street back from Barley Brown's, and went to put on a bit of makeup in the trailer.

As I locked the trailer, Barley Brown's Owner, Tyler Brown, walked up with a big smile on his face. He said it would be best to move Big Buddy to his house, so he rode with me the mile it took to drive there. I got a full tour of Tyler's house. Then we walked back to the brewpub.

Barley Brown's has been open for about seven years and Tyler remembers my first visit back then, because I was the first brewer to come and visit him. Baker City is a long way from most Oregon cities. In fact the nearest large airport is in Boise, Idaho. A lot of Oregon brewers didn't realize that Baker City had a brewery for a long time. It didn't help that the Oregon Brewers Guild, of which Barley Brown's is a member, put their "blow-up" map of Portland right over the eastern part of the Oregon map, effectively covering up Baker City and literally knocking Barley Brown's right off the map.

Tyler's parents used to run a Mexican restaurant at this location, but when a real Mexican family came to town and opened a restaurant, that was it for the Browns' Mexican place. Tyler still serves the old Chicken Fajitas recipe, and in fact the Mexican family comes in and orders it almost every Sunday, telling Tyler, "Your chicken fajitas are better than ours."

When the family's Mexican restaurant went under, Tyler, a homebrewer, convinced his parents to sell him the restaurant so he could open a brewpub. He contacted tank manufacturers, but JV Northwest wouldn't even give him a quote, saying, "Baker City is too small. You'll never make it."

That spooked Tyler enough to downgrade his equipment expectations from a 7-bbl system to a 4-bbl system. Elliot Bay manufactured the brewing equipment, and Tyler has proven he's no flash in the pan. He's limited by his small equipment now, and wishes he'd followed through on his original intention to buy a 7-barrel system. He's got a lot of fans in Boise and the distributors there want his beer. I told him, "If you upgrade, I'm pretty sure Penny Pink would be interested in your brewhouse."

It's been fun for me to connect people throughout my trip. Several people have told me that what I am doing is cross-pollinating the industry. The funny thing is that "Teresa," my given name (Teri is short for Teresa) is Greek for "Little Harvester," and somebody once told me that the little harvester is a bee. So I'm a bee, cross-pollinating the brewing industry. I like that!

Tyler keeps the business in perspective to his family life by only opening for dinner. Barley Brown's hours are 4:00-10:00 pm. Having one shift makes the busy restaurant easier to manage.

Tyler's brewer, Shawn Kelso, has a day job across the street at the paint store, so pretty much everybody works nights here. Shawn was in the middle of his work "night" and joined us for photos and beers. At the top of this page, Shawn (L) and Tyler (R) stand in front of the blue tape wall.

Because a lot of the brewery photos for this blog have been taken with everybody lining up on the brewhouse steps, I thought it would be funny if Tyler and Shawn lined up on their brewhouse steps too. As you can see in the photo at right, they only have two steps! The mash tun is in front of them, and the kettle is behind them. You can see the second wall of blue tape behind them.

What are those stripes of blue tape? See photo below left for a close up. At the beginning when Tyler was both brewing and running the restaurant, he wanted to keep track of each beer and which tank it was in. So he wrote the beer name, the date, and the starting gravity on a piece of blue tape and stuck it on the fermenter.

When Tyler transferred the beer to the bright tank, he moved the piece of blue tape too. Once the beer had been kegged off, Tyler wanted to make sure that he wouldn't forget to pay excise taxes, a new experience for a restaurateur, so he stuck the blue tape on the wall. Now there are two walls with blue tape labels on them.

Here is an example if you are trying to read the labels above: the 4th label down on the right is TURMOIL beer, brewed in 2004 and was batch number 246. It happened to be test batch #2 of that beer, and had a starting gravity of 1.066.

Barley Brown's doesn't filter its beers, but they've won a lot of fans. I especially liked their Whiskey Brown Ale, which is made with rye malt and Bamberg rauch malt. Even Paul Shipman of Redhook stopped in and tried the beers. Tyler recalls Paul saying, "I'm going to call my overpaid Brewmaster in Seattle and tell him that a little brewer in 'Podunk' Oregon is kicking his ass." That cracked me up!

One of the signature items on Tyler's food menu is the Mad Pasta. I tried it seven years ago when I visited. It's a curly pasta with chicken and alligator smothered in spicy marinara sauce. You read that right, Alligator. You're wondering where a restaurant in eastern Oregon would source alligator meat? Tyler tells an interesting story about that.

There are natural geothermal springs that feed a few creeks in Idaho. The water is so warm that they farm-raise trout there and the trout grow super fast. Unfortunately the trout create a lot of refuse, so somebody came up with the bright idea that alligators could live in the warm water.

So they put alligators in the geothermal creeks to eat the trout refuse. The idea was to sell the alligator skin for leather goods. The meat is a small byproduct. So, Tyler is buying farm-raised alligator meat from Idaho for $14.99 a pound wholesale. And his customers love it. (I tried it -it has the texture of chicken with a fishy flavor.)

Since I'd already tried the Mad Pasta before, I had the Chicken Fajitas tonight. They were good. After a full round of beers and a full tour of the brewery, Tyler gave me a lift back to his house.

I planned to sleep in my trailer because they have a dog and I'm semi-allergic, but it was so dang cold out I was certain my battery would go dead in the night (and therefore my mattress pad heater) and that I'd move inside anyway. Therefore I slept in the spacious basement guest room that Tyler offered me. He said their old dog never went down there anyway.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Pink Boots at Uinta and at Portneuf Valley

"Hide not your talents; they for use were made. What use is a sundial in the shade?" ~Benjamin Franklin

October 16: Today was an insanely long day. Lots of things contributed to that. One was that my one day delay out of Denver meant I could only spend two hours at Uinta. Another was that today was the only day that Penny Pink would be brewing at Portneuf Valley Brewery and she wanted me to help her troubleshoot beer flavors that might be attributed to production and equipment changes. Another thing was that I really wanted to get home to see my honey.

I met Uinta's President/Sales & Operations Manager/Owner-Partner Steve Kuftinec at 8:30 am. Steve gave me a tour and I commented that Uinta had one of the best laid-out brewery buildings that I had seen. The production process went counter-clockwise and everything was completely logical. Steve told me that the building had been purpose-built for Uinta.

When Uinta opened their current location they only planned to have a tasting room. However, the first day the taproom opened, 40 people showed up at the door expecting a brewpub and wanting to order lunch. How can you say "no" to that kind of business? Uinta quickly installed a kitchen and now they are open for soup and sandwichs for lunch and early dinner.

Steve showed me the brewery offices upstairs and commented that CEO Will Hamill was the mastermind/genius that helped build Uinta from the new kid on the block to its current place as the largest craft brewery in Utah.

Steve introduced me to Cellarman/Lab QC guy Eric Baumann who was in the middle of a DE filter, Production Manager Kevin Ely who was busy planning the brew schedule, and Russ Webster. I'm not sure who has the title, "Brewmaster," but I think Kevin has it.

Steve told me that brewer James Smith was looking forward to my visit. I loved the title on his business card. It said, "James Smith, Passionate Brewer." I brewed with James briefly, then we sat in a quiet office where he could keep an eye on the brewhouse through the window and we talked shop for awhile.

James still homebrews because Uinta is a production brewery and not a brewpub so there's not much room for experimentation at work. He's got some beer in a wooden barrel at home and he wants to do more barrel aging. I told him about the crazy-fascinating lactic and brettanomyces beers I've tasted on my trip, and we talked about whiskey distilling, which James is also interested in.

The interesting thing about James' passions, is that he was raised Mormon. He said his mom had a little trouble with the brewing at first. She asked him, "You don't drink much, do you honey?" James said some Mormons didn't like that he was a brewers, and others thought it was interesting. All levels of reactions, just like the rest of life.

I really had a great time with James and wished I could have stayed longer, but duty and the road were calling me. Steve gifted me a mixed six-pack on my way out the door. In the photo at the top of this page, L to R (zigzagging up and down): Teri, James, Eric, Kevin, Will and Russ. Steve took the photo rather than be in it. He claimed he had "a face made for radio."

I took the photo at left of some autumn-tinged aspen trees in Idaho as I zipped up Hwy 15. Utah had lots of mesas, which are flat lopped-off high areas in the high desert.

I drove nearly straight north to Pocatello, Idaho. Penny Pink is the Brewmistress and Owner of Portneuf Valley Brewing Company there.

In the photo below, Penny and I are standing in front of her three-vessel brewhouse and one of her 2-barrel fermenters. Penny prefers the title Brewmistress over Brewmaster. She says it's just one more thing to "throw 'em off guard," along with her name (Pink) and height (taller than me). If you've read her entertaining posts on the Brewers Forum, then you know how funny she is.

Penny must be one stubborn woman. She just won't quit no matter how hard it gets. (That sense of humor comes in handy here.)

She's got the smallest commercial brewing system that I visited on this trip. Her batch size is 2 to 4 barrels, depending on the fermenter, and it takes her about 11 hours to brew it. That amount of time was just recently lowered from 14 hours by an equipment upgrade.

I had plenty of time while driving to ponder how brewing could take that long, and I couldn't quite figure it out. As I watched Penny's wort take about three hours to get to a boil, and then take about three hours to cool down and run off to the fermenter. Ah ha. I see now. If you are fighting your equipment, you could be in for a verrryyy looonnnnggggg day.

We discussed various things Penny could try. I checked emails during the run-off. (Maybe we should call it the walk-off because it took so long!) Finally the day was done, about 11:00 pm, and we sat down with Penny's son, Jeremias. (Not a typo. It's an old fashioned spelling for Jeremiah.) Jeremias is Portneuf Valley Brewing's art director, and his t-shirt designs are very popular.

We went through every single beer. I was so tired I had a hard time articulating my impressions.

I followed Penny to her house and parked in front. I told her I planned to sleep in a little tomorrow.

Drive to Salt Lake City, UT

"It is a mistake to try to look too far ahead. The chain of destiny can only be grasped one link at a time." ~Sir Winston Churchill

October 16: A very long driving day. It took me almost 11 hours to drive from Denver to Salt Lake City. It was uphill to Cheyenne, Wyoming. Then west across a snow-covered high desert landscape. Freakin' cold out there. Winter is here!

The sun was shining but the fresh snow proved that I made the right choice to not drive yesterday. The sun was definitely not shining up here yesterday. I took the above photo at a rest stop along some continental divide (those things are everywhere in the Rockies). Big Buddy and the Astro Van (my 28.5 foot "rig") look like toys next to that semi-truck.
Hwy 80 across Wyoming is long and boring and windy. I was surprised at the severe lack of windmills. I snapped the photo above either before or after Salt Lake City. I thought Wyoming needed more of these things.

Pulled into Unita Brewing Company's parking lot at 7:40 pm, just after the restaurant staff had gone home for the day. It was dark and Unita was in an industrial neighborhood. Luckily I had the turkey and roast beef on rye sandwich that my sister made for me. I had it for dinner with a juice box. Fine dining in Big Buddy!

Visit Family in Denver

"I would rather have a mind opened by wonder than one closed by belief." ~Gerry Spence

October 15: If you thought I was stalling on finishing the blog because I didn't want my amazing summer road trip to end, you'd be right. I am already in the thick of whatever is constituting real life for me now, so on with the story...

I had planned to drive from Denver to Salt Lake City on October 15th, but the cold and rain in Denver foretold a winter storm in the Rocky Mountains, thus my departure was delayed by one day.

In the meantime, I am lucky to have my sister in Denver, so I stayed with her and her family. In the photo above, Dad (Jan) takes Jake (L) and Max (R) and Ginger (only nose is showing) to City Park to play soccer.

It's hard to capture a decent photo with two boys and a dog playing buckets with a soccer ball in the rain, but I did capture a moment of goofy boyhood bliss (right).

I stayed out of the cold and wet for the most part, and was able to chronicle my GABF adventures, of which there were many. Laundry and homework were also done.

Heidi made a stunning yet healthy homecooked dinner, as is her habit. The boys fished any remaining games they hadn't played out of my game bin and we played Quoridor. I slept in the trailer so we didn't have to blow up the big airbed and make it again.

Thank you to Heidi for gifting me $50 for gas!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Pink Boots at the Great American Beer Festival

"Never discourage anyone who continually makes progress, no matter how slow." ~Plato

Photo above, L to R: Carol Stoudt (Stout's), Jenny Talley (Squatter's), Natalie Cilurzo (Russian River) and Teri show off their pink hair streaks and clothes in honor of October's Breast Cancer Awareness month.

October 11 - 13: Thursday was the first day of the festival. My first responsibility was to be on time for the "Women in Brewing" live radio broadcast from the festival. Carol Stoudt and Jenny Talley were my fellow panelists. Tom Dalldorf and Carolyn Smagalski were the hosts of the half-hour program. (Photo below, L to R: Carolyn, Teri, Jenny, Carol and Tom.)
Afterwards Jon and I had a brief intermission to taste a few beers and say "Hi" to a some brewing friends at the festival. Then we were off to the basement of the Marriott Hotel where Broomfield, Colorado's KROC homebrew club was having their big annual meeting. KROC stands for Keg Ran Out Club, and by hosting their meeting during the GABF, KROC has been very successful in getting GABF Judges and other beer industry luminaries to speak.

I had a small role at the meeting. My job was to introduce one of the speakers, Lucy Saunders, the beer and food writer who just published her 5th cookbook, "The Best of American Beer and Food: Pairing & Cooking with Craft Beer."

Lucy had arranged for luscious chocolates to be sent from Madison, Wisconsin. She also arranged for New Holland Brewing Company of Holland, Michigan to send their yummy Poet Oatmeal Stout for the beer and chocolate pairing. The pairing was great and I stayed up way too late watching the entertaining procedings.

Friday after the Alpha King Challenge judging, I was on duty at the festival at 5:30 pm at the new "You Be The Judge" booth. This is the first year they are doing this, and judging by the number of people lining up, it's already a success.

The photo at left shows me showing three visitors how to judge an American-style Imperial Stout.

Two GABF judges at a time have a one hour shift. We judge a beer with festival goers and explain to them how the judging process works. Each group got about 15 minutes, depending on if there were people in line.

The festival was so noisy that I almost lost my voice talking loud enough to be heard. I hope next year the booth has sound-proof glass around it, like at the Food & Beer Pairing Stage, and I hope they put four Judges on duty at a time. It is very hard to explain a little about your career, your background, the GABF judging process, and then judge a beer with visitors and show them how to fill out comments sheets, all within 15 minutes!

The folks who visited me really enjoyed their time and were most grateful for my explanations. Some of them had dreams of becoming professional brewers or owning breweries someday, so I also had to fit a bit of career counseling into our time together!

Then Jon and I wandered through the Midwest and Pacific sections looking for interesting beers to try. After the fest closed down we headed to the Stewards' Party, where the Stewards let us taste any of the beer left over from the competition. We ran into many old brewing friends and stayed up too late.

Saturday, our friends Scott and Krystyna met us at the festival. Jon watched the awards ceremony, something I've done for the last 17 years. Not being associated with any brewery this year freed me up to 1.) Skip the awards ceremony and 2.) Not be tied to a brewery booth. Therefore I took my two friends in tow to show them some of my favorite beers. The lines are shortest during the awards ceremony, so it was a great time to get some tasting in.

After the awards, I grabbed Jon and headed for "Michigan" in the Midwest section of the festival hall. I wanted Jon to taste the beers from Short's Brewing Company in Bellaire. Jon is from Michigan, and most West Coast brewers mistakenly believe that the Midwest is a craft beer wasteland.

We west-coasters think we invented Craft beer. Wait! We did. (OK, Anchor, New Albion, Cartright's, Sierra Nevada, Grant's and Mendocino Brewing Companies mostly did.)

Joe Short is brewing some of the most cutting-edge beer that I tried on my long journey. I tried his "Nicie Spicie" beer last July at the Michigan Brewers Guild's annual Summer Beer Festival. Joe was kind enough to smuggle in two bottles of his Nicie Spicie so Jon and fellow Judge Mark Dorber from Suffolk, England could try it too.

In the photo at right, L to R: Jon Graber, Teri and Joe Short.

After Joe brewed the beer, he spent all his free time during the next two days zesting lemons and oranges into his open fermenter. Then he cracked four kinds of pepper into it: Telecherry, green, white and pink pepper. Two days later he racked the Nicie Spicie off the zest and spices. The beer was juicy citrus with a nice pepper bite.

Other interesting beers Joe had at the festival included a Spruce-tips Imperial India Pilsner, a Licorice Stout, and some super hoppy fun beers that I forgot the names of. He entered 19 beers into the festival. It took so long to write up the descriptions that he missed his opportunity to bring draft beer. "Oh well," said Joe. "No problem. We'll just bottle everything up on our little Meheen bottler and serve from bottles at the fest." So that's what Short's did.

One of the most fun things about Joe is the stories he tells about brewing his beers. He's breaking all the rules, having a blast, working his butt off, and making knock-your-socks-off extreme beers.

He told us a long story about his challenge to make a 35-degree Plato Triple IPA for Short's first anniversary. He used 65 pounds of hops in 7-barrels. The wort was so strong he could hardly get the yeast started and the beer took four months to ferment out. Needless to say it was served a year later at Short's second anniversary. He aged some of the beer in different wooden barrels. He dry-hopped one Bourbon barrel of the IPA with fresh grapefruits. Sam, Vinnie and Tomme must be proud!

After the Members-only session ended, we went to The Cheeky Monk, a new Belgian bistro, for dinner with Scott and Krystyna. I had the pork tenderloin medalians with a cherry sauce, served with draft Duchesse de Bourgogne. It was a great combo.

It was a cold and rainy evening. A perfect evening for a nap before the post-fest festivities. Jon napped but I was either over-wired or over-tired and couldn't sleep. I had a cheese headache from eating pizza at the Stewards' party last night. Dairy is a bad idea for me, as I am allergic to it. Not in a deadly way, but in a painful-for-several-days way.

At 10:00 pm, Jon headed up to the Judges Hospitality Suite and I tried to sleep but couldn't. Jon called me at 11:00 pm and said, "Come up here, it's a really nice party." So I did.

Last week when I was at Stranahan's Colorado Whiskey Distillery I'd come up with the idea that the GABF Judges really needed to try Stranahan's because it is so good. Chris Swersey gave his permission, and all four Stranahan guys were there, and kind enough to bartend and pour tastes and drinks of their delightful libation.

I wanted to take a photo of Jesse Graber in his big white cowboy hat, along with fellow Judge Brad Kraus in his gray cowboy hat and nifty new snap-front cowboy shirt embroidered with hops and barley. Jesse left just before I could get the two of them together, so I grabbed Markus Stinson, brewer at Elysian Brewing Company. Brad (left) and Marcus (right) posed for my cowboy photo at right.

Because of the cold and wet storm sweeping Denver, I'd already decided that I would not try to drive across the Rocky Mountains to Salt Lake City tomorrow. Rather, that I would wait until Monday when the weather was due to clear up and warm up. Therefore, Jon and I stayed at the party until two in the morning. Then I slept well.

Judging the Great American Beer Festival

"When love and skill work together, expect a masterpiece." ~John Ruskin

October 9 -12: My judging responsibilities began on Tuesday at 5:00 pm with the Judges Orientation. Christopher Bird (Brewmaster at Altech's Lexington Brewery) and Dr. Gary Spedding (Owner/Analyst at Brewing & Distilling Analytical Services) both of Lexington, Kentucky lead the annual sensory review. This year's review focused on the aroma and flavor of alcohol in rising concentrations in the same control beer.

Wednesday morning at 8:45 am, the Judges assembled at their assigned tables. Back in the 1990's, for many years I was the only woman Judge in attendance. I am happy to report there are several women Judges now. The above panel of seven Judges was remarkable (and exciting) as the women Judges outnumbered the men. I am wearing black, and going around the table to my left the judges were: Carl Kins, Gwen Conley, Keith Villa, Sue Thompson, Finn Knudsen and Carol Stoudt.

How does one become a GABF Judge? It helps if you are a professional brewer and have previously won a GABF medal. Brewers outnumber all other Judges, but non-brewing judges may include beer writers, suppliers to the brewing industry, and former professional brewers.

If you are a professional brewer, have judged homebrew competitions, have passed the BJCP (Beer Judge Certification Program), have taken formal sensory education courses, and you have a good palate and a friendly disposition, you may apply to become a Judge and get on the rotating judge roster. Contact GABF/World Beer Cup Judge & Competition Manager, Chris Swersey through the Brewers Association to find out what the current requirements are.

If you think it's hard to become a GABF/WBC judge, Chris tells us it's even harder to become a GABF/WBC Steward! I've been judging since 1991, and some of the Stewards have been at it longer than I have. In the photo at left, Steward Jim Fixari carefully carries a tray of neutral-plastic cups marked with random numbers and filled with beer samples to one of the judging rooms.

The Judges taste the beers blind and never see the bottles or cans that the beers were poured from. At the end of my judging on the last day, I was able to take the photo below of the Steward's Staging Area. Chris gave me permission to take the photo, but I wasn't allowed to enter the room. Judges are never allowed into the room.

There is a key word and philosophy that all the Stewards and Judges are almost rabid about, and that word is Integrity. The GABF is the highest-regarded beer festival in the world because its integrity is impecable. Everyone involved in this competition is passionate about and committed to absolute integrity in every way.

That's not to say that we don't enjoy ourselves, because we definitely have a good time. It's a lot of fun to meet and work with the other judges, who are some of the top movers and shakers in the industry. It's also fun to see the same Stewards year after year, although as judges we don't generally get to know the Stewards as well as we do our fellow judges.

Judging runs 8:45 am - 5:00-ish on Wednesday and Thursday prior to the GABF, and from 8:45 am - 12:30 pm on Friday. I say 5:00-ish, because if the judging day runs long and the discussions get lengthy, the Judges and Stewards are committed to staying and working "as long as it takes."

This year 107 Judges judged over 2800 beers. My judging sessions were mostly within normal hours, but I heard from other judges who judged till 1:00 pm in the morning session, and until 7:30 pm in the afternoon session. Makes it a bit hard when you are an exhibiting brewer and have to set up and pour at your booth during the Festival!

In the evenings or when there's free time away from the Judging and the Festival, many of the Judges congregate at the Falling Rock Taphouse at 1919 Blake Street. In the photo above right, Judges Dick Cantwell, Jon Graber, Christopher Bird, and George Reisch relax and enjoy a pint at the Falling Rock.

After my last judging session ended Friday at 12:30 pm, I took a taxi over to the Falling Rock where I slammed down lunch and got settled to judge the Alpha King Challenge. The AKC is sponsored by Hop Union and probably a few other companies. The challenge is to brew an extremely hoppy beer that is also balanced. There were over 90 entries this year, versus about 60 entries last year.

The Alpha King Challenge was first presented by Three Floyds Brewing Company in honor of their extremely hoppy beer which is called Alpha King. I was put on a panel of three Judges, and the all 12 or so Judges were sequestered in the basement "Cigar Room" at Falling Rock. We judged about 14 beers, and put two beers forward to the final round. I only judged the first round. We put an aromatic and well-balanced bitter Imperial IPA forward, as well as a dark beer with excellent balance and a chocolate malt character.

Falling Rock was packed, as is usual for Friday afternoon of the GABF. The winners were announced an hour or so later, but I only heard the first two winners. First was Pliny the Elder from Russian River Brewing Co., and second place was Two Hearted Ale from Bells Brewing Company.

Jon joined up with me there, and Christine Jump interviewed me for a live podcast for her website, http://www.craftbrewcast.com/. It was noisy and crowded outside on the patio at Falling Rock, but hopefully the sound turned out.

Then Jon and I walked to the festival at the Colorado Convention Center. I had a 5:30 pm appointment at the "You Be The Judge" booth. More about the festival in my next post...

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Visit Family & Friends in Denver, CO

"That so few now dare to be eccentric marks the chief danger of the time." ~John Stuart Mill

October 6-9: Part of the fun of staying at my sister's house is the opportunity to do things that are not part of our usual life, such as sleeping on an inflatable bed, helping a six- and an eight-year old with their homework and in Jon's case, supervising the meticulous deconstruction of a stereo and cassette player that no longer worked. (Daddy Jan had started the deconstruction project, but retired to his study where he is working on his PhD in Global Information Systems.)

In the photo above, Jake keeps things tidy while Max channels his inner Luke Skywalker with a radio antenna light saber, and Jon pretends to be a robot with a tape-player mouth. In the photo at right, Jon channels his inner Dr. Strangelove with CD laser magnifiers.

My sister is a fabulous cook, so the diet will have to wait until I get home from the trip in eleven days (on October 20th). We babysat on Sunday night so Heidi and her husband Jan could go out to dinner, a rare treat. We taught the boys a new card game, Coloretto. (Cameleon would be a better name for it.)

On Monday we went to visit an old buddy from Eugene, Oregon. Scott Kelly and his girlfriend, Krystyna live in a brand new subdivision called Highlands Ranch. Part of the old working ranch is still working, and Scott showed us their Buffalo herd and some horses.

Krystyna is originally from Poland and is working toward her Registered Nurse degree. Scott is retired from the Navy and works in the pro shop at the local golf course. Krystyna is also a great cook and she had a feast prepared for lunch, including stuffed chicken breasts, mushroom gravy, boiled red potatoes and salad.

The photo at left was taken on their patio. Scott and Krystyna did a good job of getting their very active miniature greyhound, Nova, to behave and pose for the camera.

We didn't have enough time for a hike, so Scott took us on a scenic drive. We stopped on top of the hill that gives Highlands Ranch its name.

A large picnic area occupied the flat top of the hill, and Scott said very few people know it's there. Off the backside of the picnic area are some lovely rock outcroppings overlooking a huge private golf course. The photo below is of Jon & me and you can see the private golf course behind us. Scott hopes to meet the owner someday. He'd love to be invited to one of the private fund-raiser golf tournaments that are held there.
From the other side of the hilltop we had a great view of downtown Denver, about 20 miles away, and the new Denver Tech Center, which is about 12 miles away.

Then back to Heidi's house for dinner, homework, more games with the boys, and more blogging for me.

On Tuesday afternoon we left Heidi's house and moved to the Denver Mariott - City Center, the official hotel of the GABF (Great American Beer Festival), where Jon and I will be judging America's finest beers for the next three days.

Pink Boots at Flying Dog

"The world is but a canvas to our imaginations." ~Henry David Thoreau

Photo above, L to R up the steps, Back Row: Larry Pomeranz, Dustin Jamison, Kurt Randall, Nick Oscarsson and Matt Brophy. Front Row: Jaroed Sarmiento and Teri.

October 5: Jon dropped me off at Flying Dog at 9:00 am, as arranged with Flying Dog's Marketing Manager, Chris Rippe. I had to wait for Chris to arrive (he was in the middle of a new puppy crisis at home), and luckily he lived nearby.

Chris brought me to Lead Brewer Kurt Randall, who was busy wrestling with a homemade 750 ml bottling machine where he was bottling Flying Dog's open source Doppelbock. What is an open source beer, you might ask? It is a commercially made beer where the recipe has been published by the brewery in advance of release so that any interested homebrewers can brew it too. Here is the link to Flying Dog's open source blog and recipe. Kurt's bottles were on their way to the GABF, which is less than a week away.

I liked the name "Open Source" as it appeals to homebrewers who are also computer techs. There are other open source commercially-made beers out there, such as the two collaboration recipes that I made with Wisconsin Dells Brewery and New Holland Brewery earlier in my trip. Click on these links to see the recipes for Wisconsin Dells' Imperial Stout or New Holland's Road Brewer IPA.

Kurt brought me to brewer Nick Oscarsson, who was in the middle of his first brew of the day. What a great coincidence that today was the day that Flying Dog was brewing the whiskey wash for Stranahan's next door! The wash is a 100% malted barley beer, but it is brewed without hops. When you don't use hops, you don't have to boil for the normal full time, and we didn't. The whiskey wash is fermented with a proprietary "turbo" yeast, and with a little help it ferments the wash all the way down to nearly bone dry.

At the same time that Nick was brewing the new batch of whiskey wash, a previous batch of whiskey wash was being filtered by Larry Pomeranz. Nick let me taste the filtered wash. It tasted like you'd think it would: cold, slightly carbonated, and dry instead of sweet but the balance was due to a very thorough fermentation instead of hops. Very interesting!

Nick also showed me Flying Dog's new 20-gallon pilot brewery. I was impressed with the home made glycol jacketing on the two tiny cylindroconical unitanks. Nick said they tested the system with Road Dog, one of their more popular beers, to see if the test batch would turn out anything like their regular Road Dog. They were pleasantly surprised to find that the 20-gallon system's beer matched their 50-barrel system's beer very nicely.

Soon each of the brewers will have the opportunity to brew a Belgian Triple on the new pilot brewery. They'll do a comparative tasting of all the Triples, and will collectively decide upon the Belgian Triple recipe that they'll brew on the big system. Very democratic!

For those who don't know, Flying Dog started as a brewpub in Aspen, Colorado. I remember their first year at the GABF when then-brewer Dennis Miller brought 21 beers in cornelius cans to the festival. Eventually the brewery moved to Denver, and currently it occupies the equipment and space built for the former Mile High Brewery. A few years ago Flying Dog leased out its restaurant space to the Blake Street Tavern, and now Flying Dog concentrates on what it does best, brewing creative "gonzo" beers for broad distribution.

As is my habit, I wandered down to the laboratory where I picked the brain of former Coors lab & QC guy, Rob Allington who is Flying Dog's Director of Quality.

Then Matt Brophy gave me the backstage tour and told me about his job as Head Brewer of both Flying Dog's Denver brewery, and its Fredrick, Maryland brewery. He's a busy guy. The Fredrick brewery sounded very impressive. It's a lot bigger than the Denver brewery.

Then Matt brought me, Nick and Kurt to lunch next door at the Blake Street Tavern. I had the grilled ahi salad and it was good. I was quieter than my usual enthusiastic self because of my sinus infection. The brewers didn't mind and we enjoyed lunch with pints of Snake Dog IPA.

My husband Jon picked me up in the early afternoon, and we returned to my sister's house and took naps.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Pink Boots at Odell & Liquid Poets Meeting

"It is not enough to have a good mind. The main thing is to use it well." ~Rene Descartes

Photo above, L to R: Top Row: Brendan McGivney and Jake O'Mara. Bottom Row: Jeff Doyle, Phil Fraser and Teri.

October 4: I awoke with a sinus infection, but there's not much one can do when one has a full schedule planned. Jon drove us to Fort Collins and dropped me off at Odell Brewing Company while he visited the local homebrew shop. Jon works for BrewCraft USA now, and they are wholesalers of homebrewing supplies, distributing only to homebrew shops.

Production Manager Brendan McGivney gave me the brewery tour and the topic of Odell's future brewhouse expansion came up. I recommended he call Troegs as I was impressed with Troegs' hybrid BrauKon and JV Northwest brewhouse. Brendan turned me over to Lead Brewer Jake O'Mara who was finishing the first brew of the day and heading into the second brew.

I spent a few hours with Jake. The Odell brewers are very friendly and relaxed. I felt quite at home and had fun snapping lots of photos. Normally I don't take many photos because it seems intrusive, but it didn't feel that way here.

Marketing Manager John Bryant brought in sandwiches and my husband Jon joined me on the patio for lunch. The weather was beautiful: sunny, breezy and a perfect temperature.

After lunch I wandered down to the lab where I chatted with Microbiologist PJ Goudreault about all the nifty lab equipment he'd bought used from the University. He's also found a few pieces on Ebay. I really love it when a production craft brewery takes labwork seriously.

Then I wandered over to where Jeff Doyle was managing a fussy filter on a very tall 12-meter DE filter. I admired his in-line carbonation set up, and told him about the "umbilical cord" CO2 transfer hose we used at Steelhead to "close the loop" between a Fermenter and Bright (Serving) Tank. He liked the idea, but all equipment and procedures must be approved by Brewmaster/Owner Doug Odell.

Doug came by just then so we discussed the "umbilical cord" idea, and he told me about the 5-barrel batches I had just missed out on helping with. They'd brewed a 5-bbl batch of strong ale yesterday, and they were brewing an experimental batch of something new tomorrow.

Odell has some really neat things going on. Besides making good flagship ales, their 5-barrel series allows the brewers to get creative. They take turns brewing on the 5-barrel pilot brewery.

Today they'd be tapping their "Hand Picked Ale" at 4:00 pm. Most of the hops were grown locally. Of course some hop pellets went into the boil, but they put 11 different varieties of local Colorado leaf hops in the mash tun and used it for a hop back. The leaf hops came from the local University's hop yard, as well as Doug's yard at home and from the decorative hops growing in the beer garden.

Today was the second time Odell had organized a release party for one of their 5-barrel series beers. They had a good crowd gathered in the tasting room, and three local musicians entertained the folks with Grateful Dead tunes, blues, and bluegrass. They played mandolin, guitar and tuba, among other instruments. Doug gave a speech about the new release at 5:00 pm.

I visited the release party but was still busy in the brewhouse with second shift brewer, Phil Fraser. Phil's a quiet guy but he smiles a lot. The second and third brews of the day were the IPA, and Phil let me pour some of the three 32-gallon pails full of whole leaf hops into Odell's big custom hop back. Photo at left is of the hop back. Photo below right is me pouring in hops.

When I'm brewing at a brewery I try to dress in "neutral colors," which means I won't wear one brewery's t-shirt when I work at another brewery. However, because I worked for Steelhead for 17 years, I felt a Steelhead shirt was essentially neutral, so I have been wearing either my white jumpsuit or a Steelhead t-shirt for most of the blog "pink boots" group photos.

A man of few words, Phil smiled his broad smile, placed an Odell long-sleeve t-shirt in my hands and said, "Here. Put this on. You don't work for Steelhead anymore." So I popped the Odell shirt right over my Steelhead t-shirt.

Then it was time to try the Hand Picked Ale and relax a bit. Jon joined me in the bar and John Bryant got us a few beers. We enjoyed the ambiance for a bit, then drove to Coopersmith's Brewpub for dinner where we both had Buffalo burgers. No time to dawdle as I wanted to be back at Odell to set up for my evening gig by 6:45pm.

The members of Fort Collins' local "Liquid Poets" homebrew club were already gathering in Odell's community room. Jon helped me bring in my two giant tubs of busted and gnarly old brewery parts. My collection was dubbed by one of the members of the American Brewers Guild course who saw it the "Brewers House of Horrors."

Local homebrewer, Ted Manahan (who used to brew with the "Heart of the Valley" homebrew club in Corvallis, Oregon, near where I live) had invited me to speak to the Liquid Poets club. He asked me if I planned to give a PowerPoint presentation. Ha ha! I'm driving, brewing, blogging, and I definitely didn't have a PowerPoint presentation prepared!

However, I told Ted, I have a practical brewing Show & Tell class that I gave to the new brewers at the American Brewers Guild in August, if he thought the Liquid Poets would like that. Great, said Ted. So that's what I did. I gave "The Walter Swistowicz Memorial Class in Practical Brewing" show & tell in Fort Collins.

I cracked a bunch of jokes, and I talked about safety and showed everybody my beautiful 18-year old burn scars from my brewing accident in 1989. (Who needs a tattoo when you've earned a massive scar like that?) Everybody enjoyed the show. Then I spoke about my amazing trip, but how do you condense a life-changing experience like this into a sound bite? Today (October 4th) marks exactly four months on the road for me, as I departed Eugene on June 4th.
I gave away a Steelhead sweatshirt as a door prize if anybody could guess how many breweries I'd have visited by the time I got home. Nobody got the correct number of 71, even though I'd had it listed on the current blog post. 73 was the closest somebody guessed, and he was happy for the prize.

The Liquid Poets had a full agenda for the rest of the meeting, and we departed for the 1.5 hour drive back to Denver to my sister's house. In the photo above I am showing off a corroded pump seal.

Pink Boots at Stranahan's Colorado Whiskey Distillery

"Always do right. This will gratify some people and astonish the rest." ~Mark Twain
October 3: Today was Jon's birthday, and being a big fan of whiskeys, I arranged for him to join me for my distilling day at Stranahan's in Denver. We arrived at around 10:00 am and Head Distiller Jake Norris showed us around as we waited for Distillery Manager/Partner Jess Graber to arrive.

Jon gave Jess the Pretty Prairie Rodeo shot glass that we'd picked up in Kansas for him. A quick discussion of grandfathers and ancestors established that Jon and Jess are 4th or 5th cousins, both descended from the Peter Graber clan of Mennonites that emigrated to South Dakota in the 1800's from Russia. Then after "The Children's Blizzard" of 1888 the clan moved to Pretty Prairie, where some members left the Mennonites and joined the Swedenborgen church.

The whiskey wash was ready to go in the primary still (the copper still on the left in the photo above). Stranahan's wash is produced by Flying Dog Brewery next door. George Stranahan is an investor in both places and his name was perfect for the reinvented top-shelf American whiskey that Jess wanted to produce.

The wash is not regular beer. It is a special high-gravity recipe jointly developed by Stranahan's and Flying Dog. I saw the wash and it is darker in color than the final whiskey. Of course it contains no hops. By paying Flying Dog to produce the wash, it frees up Jess and his crew to concentrate on distillation and barrel aging.

Stranahan's currently produces one whiskey, called Stranahan's Colorado Whiskey. It uses a process unlike other American whiskeys like Bourban and Tennessee whiskey. Stranahan's uses a custom-designed still that incorporates both the pot of Scotch whisky distilling and the column of American whiskey distilling.

Stranahan's primary and secondary pot+column stills were custom made by Vendome Copper & Brass Works of Louisville, KY. Head Distiller Jake Norris drew up the diagram (photo left) of "How to Reinvent Whiskey 101."

In the photo at the top of this page, L to R: Clarke Boyer, Jake Norris, David Nice, Jess Graber, Teri and Jon.

The whole crew was on board today because the original plan was to have both a primary distillation going, and a bottling of one of Stranahan's new line of whiskeys, called Snowflake. The Snowflake line (named because no two are ever alike) consists of Stranahan's regular whiskey that has been finished in special barrels prior to bottling. The plan was to bottle the Port-finished Stranahan's today, but bottling was postponed in order to work out a haze issue.

Therefore only the primary distillation happened today, and the crew went to work ripping out the old barrel aging shelves in order to replace them with forkliftable steel wine barrel shelves.

The old-style shelves are the kind I saw when I toured Woodford Reserve in Kentucky (photo on left). The new shelves are the kind that most breweries with barrel aging programs use (photo below right).

Jess gave us a full tour and told us his 30-year background in home-distilling. Jake also had a home-distilling background, and each of them independently came up with ideas for a combined pot & column still for the kind of whiskey they wanted to make.

Stranahan's uses new oak barrels like Bourbon does, but because the wash is fermented long enough and filtered prior to distillation, the wash contains less impurities and no bacteria in comparison to other American whiskey washes. This purity along with a specially humidified aging room allows the distillate to age more quickly and efficiently in the barrel.

Jess took us to lunch next door at the Blake Street Tavern. After lunch we had a tasting of five Stranahan whiskeys. The control sample was Stranahan's standard 2-year old whiskey. I had been skeptical of a whiskey that was only two years old, but when I tasted Stranahan's last year during the GABF, I was amazed.
This tasting completely convinced me that two years is the perfect age for Stranahan's Colorado Whiskey. In my opinion, the 2-year old Stranahan's starts sweet like a Bourbon, but finishes dry like a single malt scotch. It's perfect.
In addition to the regular 2-year old, we also tasted a 3.5 year old (which is not currently available), but the finish was more like a Bourbon, so the unique "Colorado Whiskey" profile was missing.

Then we tasted three of the Snowflake series, the Port wood finish, a French Cabernet Franc finish, and a local Colorado red wine finish. Of the three, I personally preferred the Cabernet Franc finish, but I really liked the standard 2-year old Stranahan's best. Photo above left is Jess and Jon enjoying the tasting.

A few weeks ago, after I'd set up the day at Stranahan's with Jess, I'd asked Jon what he wanted for his birthday present. A bottle of Stranahan's, of course! But Jess beat me to it and gave Jon a bottle of Stranahan's for his present. So I asked Jon what he wanted for his present from me, and he asked for a Stranahan's barrel. Since Stranahan's only uses their new oak barrels once, Jess has a continuous supply to sell. At $80 F.O.B. Stranahan's, I thought it was a good deal.

Jake, Jess and Jon wrapped a barrel with several layers of cling-wrap, and they loaded it into my Chevy Astro van right behind the driver seat. I'll be driving Jon's barrel all the way back to Oregon. Boy, it sure makes the van smell good!

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Visit to Gella's - Liquid Bread Brewery & Drive to Scott City, KS and Denver

"To freely bloom - that is my definition of success." ~Gerry Spence

October 1-2: Before leaving town, we searched for a Pretty Prairie shot glass. We found one out at the Pretty Prairie Links golf course. It was the last shot glass souvenir left over from the annual Pretty Prairie rodeo, the largest night rodeo in Kansas. (The rodeo was started in about 1937 by Jon's grandpa and great-uncle.)

We didn't want the shot glass for ourselves, but as a gift for Jess Graber, Owner/Distiller at Stranahan's Colorado Whiskey in Denver. We'll be visiting Jess in a few days. When setting up the visit, I found out Jess's father's family also hails from Pretty Prairie. Turns out Jon and Jess are fourth or fifth cousins. Their ancestors were Mennonites who emigrated from Russia, and prior to that from Switzerland.

After the shot glass hunt, we drove to Hays, Kansas, to visit Gella's Diner and Liquid Bread Brewery. Took us awhile to find the joint. Everybody in Hays knew the place, but they kept putting us a block off.

We asked for Brewmaster Gerald Wyman as we ordered a very nice pan-fried potato chip-breaded Walleye fish & chips. After lunch and a full sampler set of Lb (Liquid Bread) beers, Gerald gave us a custom tour.

Gerald and his partners opened Gella's/ Lb two years ago. Gerald was a very advanced homebrewer, and he spec'd the deluxe JV Northwest system himself.

I appreciated some of Gerald's extra whistles and bells that I'd never had, like a thermometer on his grist case, and an extra zwickle (sample port) and glycol jackets on the cone of one of his 10-barrel fermenters for yeast propagation.

A few days ago I posted a photo of several rubber boots. That photo was taken just inside the door of Gerald's brewhouse. He normally requires anyone who wishes to enter his brewhouse to doff their shoes and don a pair of brewhouse-only boots. We got the VIP tour and got to take the tour in our street shoes. Gerald told us he'd mop the floor right after our tour to get rid of any street bugs we might have tracked in.

Gerald designed his fishbowl set-up with glass walls between every section. Most brewpubs have the brewhouse and fermenters in one room, and the serving tanks in a separate walk-in cooler. Gerald's brewhouse was separated from the fermentation room by a glass wall. I believe his fermentation room, with five fermenters, had positive air pressure. Even his walk-in cooler was completely encased in glass. Spent grain buckets were removed from the premises through a back door from the brewhouse to the alley. The design was completely logical.

Gerald and his partners spent a fair bit to fix up their historical building downtown. The popular restaurant and kitchen were as spacious and well-laid out as the brewery.

After lunch we continued on to Scott City, Kansas, where Jon's father's cousin, Dick and his wife Joy Barton live.

Barton was Jon's grandmother's maiden name, and it is also his middle name. The Barton marker in the photo at left was carved in Kansas limestone, which is quite yellow compared to the white limestone of southern Indiana and Kentucky.

(Photo at left, L to R: Dick, Joy and Jon.)

We had a nice dinner and afterwards Dick entertained Jon with stories about Pretty Prairie and Jon's dad while I read a magazine.

The next day, before driving to Denver, we went to look at Dick's 1936 International Harvester pickup truck. Jon's great-grandfather (Dick's grandfather), David Barton, bought the truck in 1938 and wore it out by the 1950's.
At that point the truck was abandoned in a field. Dick's brother Don (Cousin Don who cooked the chicken and ham in the concrete culvert pipe grill-pit), rescued the truck and restored it. Dick bought it from Don two years ago and fixed it up further. The shiny red truck just got a new coat of paint so Dick could drive it with his fellow Shriners in local parades.

After visiting Jon's great-grandfather's truck, we headed out on the highway toward Denver. Jon drove while I wrote blog texts. We arrived at my sister, Heidi's family's house in Denver by dinner and had a great time playing with our nephews before bedtime.

Drive to Kansas City International Airport & Pretty Prairie, KS

"Sow good services; sweet remembrances will grow them." ~Madame de Stael

September 28-30: Drove like crazy from Columbia, Missouri to Kansas City, Missouri's International Airport to pick up my husband, Jon. Got there a few minutes late but Jon still had lots of hugs and smooches ready for me. Then he took over the driving and we used the computer for GPS navigation.

Got to Pretty Prairie, Kansas at about 9:00 pm. Our GPS routed us down the Kansas Turnpike through Wichita, then across to Prairie Crossing Bed & Breakfast. Jon's mom and two brothers were already there. Prairie Crossing is a hunter's lodging B & B, with several impressive 10-point whitetail buck mounts and other outdoorsy decorations, including an indoor Koi pond. Prairie Crossing B & B is famous for huge homemade breakfasts.

Many of Jon's kin on his dad's side of the family were gathered in Pretty Prairie for his dad's Memorial Service. Jon's father, Ken Graber, grew up on a wheat farm that had been in the family since 1907. Jon's Uncle Curt sold "The Home Place" in 2002.

Saturday's Memorial Service at the Swedenborgen chuch was lovely with beautiful flowers and lots of people hugging who hadn't seen each other in many years. Jon read the Eulogy that he'd written in January, and it brought tears to our eyes again. Afterwards, the community put on a lasagna lunch in the church basement.

Then most of the relatives went over to Uncle Curt's house to watch the Kansas State football game against Texas. Some relatives wore purple, others orange, and we all enjoyed tasting a few of the beers that I've collected along the route.

That evening, Jon's Kansas relatives put on a huge dinner feast in Uncle Curt's yard. Cousin Don had roasted a few turkeys and some hams in an in-ground grilling pit he'd made out of a 4-foot long, 16-inch concrete culvert pipe dropped straight down into the ground. He'd wanted a 16-foot diameter pit because he already had the 16-inch manhole cover. The meat was moist and delicious.

After dinner Uncle Curt handed out gift booklets to Jon, his brothers and cousins of our generation. The booklets contained the history and some old photos of "The Home Place," as written by Curt's wife, Aunt Jean. (Photo above: L to R: Jon, Uncle Curt, Joel, Ron and Jay.)

The next day, Sunday afternoon, Jon's brother Jay took us all on a ride to see what he'd done with his father's share of the old farm property. Jay is an avid hunter and we were impressed with the improvements Jay had made toward expanding wildlife habitat.

Jon's mom and brothers left to catch their flights. Later, Jay and Jon's mom Tina called as their flight had been cancelled. They drove all the way back to the B & B, and we spent another night there. After another fantastic breakfast, they drove east toward Kansas City in their rental car, and we drove west toward Scott City, Kansas.

Drive to Columbia MO & Pink Boots at Flat Branch

"Trust men and they will be true to you; treat them greatly, and they will show themselves great." ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

September 27-28: Drove to St. Louis RV Park in order to dump my trailer's wastewater tanks. Followed the manager's directions to the freeway on-ramp. I passed through a neighborhood where the old brick houses were boarded up and some of them were falling down. Got to thinking, why do people generally view old falling-down farmhouses and barns as picturesque or quaint, yet if the building is an urban residence or business that's falling down, we think of it as blight?
Drove from St. Louis to Columbia, Missouri. Met up with Flat Branch Brewing Company's Brewmaster, Larry Goodwin and his assistant Kyle Butuson (photo above, L to R: Kyle, Teri and Larry).
Larry had already started his brew of the day. Larry attended the American Brewers Guild several years ago after a long career in quality assurance in the petroleum industry. Flat Branch is about the third brewery he's worked for, and he's been there for eight years.
Flat Branch has an 8-barrel brewery with four open-topped fermenters and about 20 conditioning and serving tanks. This allows Larry the opportunity to keep a dozen beers on tap at all times and I tried all of them. Larry's Chili Beer takes advantage of the open-topped fermenters. On about the 2nd day, after the yeast is in its logarithmic growth phase, Larry drops in 50 pounds of scrubbed raw Anaheim chili peppers. The chili aroma and flavor are there, but with only a hint of heat. Very nice.
Larry joined me for dinner and I tried an interesting Caesar Salad, where the romaine lettuce had been grilled first. Strangely smoky but I liked it. Larry lent me his pass for the parking lot across the street and I parked there overnight.
The next day I spent the morning trying to catch up on my blog. I was getting plenty behind. The kind folks in St. Louis had kept me busy till bedtime each night, so even if I'd had Internet access there I'd have been hard pressed to keep up.
After lunch, I finally got on the road late, at about 1:00 pm.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Trip Update and Statistics.

Photo above is of the collection of rubber boots just inside the brewhouse door at the Liquid Bread Brewing Company in Hays, Kansas.

I am typing and counting up trip facts and statistics as my husband Jon pilots the van west across Kansas.

As of this point in the trip, I’ve handed out over 800 “Road Brewer” business cards to folks I’ve met along the way. I reordered business cards along the route twice, and just broke into my new box of 500 cards. Who’d have guessed the interest in my road trip (the Road Brewer project) would be so high?

Departure was June 4, 2007. Arrival home will be October 20th, for a total of 139 days (4 months and 19 days). I had planned to stretch out the post-GABF portion of my trip into early November. However with Jon’s new job, we need to pack up the house and move to Portland, Oregon. Plus I miss home, need to find a job, and write the book!

So therefore I shortened my route from Denver to go through Utah and Idaho before getting home to Oregon, arriving home less than a week after I leave the Great American Beer Festival in Denver.

As of October 20th, the official “end” of the trip, I will have visited a total of 71 breweries. I will have “brewed at” or job-shadowed at 38 breweries, plus had shorter visits to 33 more breweries.

Now, lest you fret that the adventure and the blog will end on October 20th, please be assured that the Road Brewer project will continue! I plan to continue to visit and brew with breweries in Oregon and Washington, and already have invitations from several.

Even after I am employed full time, I plan to keep the project going. It would be fun to expand it to radio and television (the Food Network?). Who knows what the future may bring.

You can express your support for the Road Brewer project by signing up for my e-newsletter at this link. Newsletters will arrive sporadically at first, but eventually may be sent 4 to 6 times per year. The opt-out link is at the bottom of every e-newsletter. Thanks!

Here are the trip facts and statistics as of September 28, 2007:

Miles driven: 10,116
Gallons of gasoline: 1,216.077
Gas expense: $3,124.38
Other auto/trailer expense: $800.86

2.6 miles per gas & auto expense dollar
8.3 miles per gallon

Total Breweries: 64 (As of September 28th) 33 Breweries brewed with and 31 Breweries visited only.

For the following calculations I used the “64 Total Breweries” figure:

Miles per brewery: 158.1 miles
Gallons per brewery: 19.001 gallons
Dollars per brewery: $48.82 for gas only

If I use just the 33 breweries where I brewed all day… my husband doesn’t want to know these numbers!:

Miles per brewery: 306.5 miles
Gallons per brewery: 36.851 gallons
Dollars per brewery: $94.68

I did not record all gas prices, but I believe my highest gas was $3.799, and my lowest gas was $2.599 per gallon. Please see the homepage of my website at http://www.terifahrendorf.com/ for a full list breakdown of the above expenses.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Pink Boots at Anheuser-Busch

"The sole advantage of power is that you can do more good.” ~Baltasar Gracian

September 26: I awoke to the sound of helicopters landing on the roof of one of the buildings. It was one or more of the Augusts or some other high level executive arriving for an early morning meeting.

My contact at Anheuser-Busch, Brewmaster George Reisch, met me at my trailer at 8:30 am and walked me up to the Clydesdale Stables. On this trip I am mostly visiting breweries that invited me, and George had invited me to visit Anheuser-Busch. I felt bad that A-B was the only large national-brand lager brewery I was visiting on this trip. Dr. David Ryder had invited me to visit Miller in Milwaukee, but with relatives in the Milwaukee-area, I just couldn’t schedule Miller in.

At the Stables I met with Jim Poole, General Manager of Clydesdale operations. Jim and I talked about my trip and he gifted me two Budweiser shirts and two Clydesdales baseball caps.

Then Jim had an extra special gift for me – a Clydesdale horseshoe. He shook my hand as he handed it to me, as though I was receiving an award of some kind. I found out later that it is very rare to be given a Clydesdale horseshoe. My friend, George Reisch, has been working for A-B for 28 years and never got one. Employees rarely get them. Only visiting dignitaries get them. I guess that means my role as the west coast's unofficial craft beer "Goodwill Ambassador," is now official!

It’s a huge steel horseshoe, worn a bit on the front edge, as it’s a real horseshoe that was worn by one of the Clydesdales. I measured it later: 9 inches across at the widest part, and 8.5 inches long at the tallest part. You can see me holding it in the photo at the top of this page.

Jim led the way to the center of the round stables barn where two restored antique horse-drawn beer delivery wagons glowed with bright red paint beneath the skylight. He opened the stall of “Big Jake,” the largest Clydesdale they have. Clydesdales average about 18 hands (6 feet) high at the shoulder. Big Jake is 20 hands (6-2/3 foot) tall at the shoulder, which put the top of his head well above seven feet. He’s not just larger than other Clydesdales in height. Big Jake is a barrel-chested draft horse and he’s big and strong in all dimensions. Jim is justifiably proud of his big horse, Jake.

Big Jake is now the largest horse I’ve ever seen and petted. The previous record holder for me was a black Shire draft horse I met at the Young’s Brewery in London, England in 1984. That horse was 19 hands (6’4”) tall at the shoulder. Back then, Young’s delivered beer around London each Wednesday morning with their horse-drawn beer wagon, just to hold onto tradition. Now Young’s Brewery is no longer in London. I hope they kept their horse program and just moved it to the countryside.

You can tell by these photos that Big Jake’s head was about the size of my torso. His strong muscular neck is also about the size of my torso. Jim told me that Big Jake loves attention. Big Jake didn’t stand still as I held the rope to his halter for the photos. I was careful to keep my pink boots out of range of his huge hooves. Big Jake kept nuzzling my face, trying to steal kisses, but I was too shy to plant one on his dinner-plate sized nose.

Then Clydesdale Secretary Robin McNabb took me to visit Scott Smith. Scott’s official title is Scheduling & Administrative Coordinator of Clydesdale Operations. That means he’s the horse traffic controller. They’ve got five teams of horses on the road at all times. Altogether A-B has about 48 horses that are used for appearances, and another 200 in their breeding program, including studs, brood stock, and colts too young for yoke and collar training. The Clydesdale program is aware of a colt that looks like he will grow as large as Big Jake is. Big Jake is 3 years old, and Clydesdales continue to grow until they are 7 years old. They live to about 18-20 years. Currently Big Jake can only pull a single horse wagon. He is too large to put into a team because teamed horses must be the same size. They are hoping the colt finishes out at Big Jake’s size.

I met the Budweiser dalmation dogs, then George picked me up and we walked to the RPB, not to be confused with PBR. The RPB is the Research Pilot Brewery. I’ll just call it the pilot brewery. There we met with Jane Killebrew-Galeski. Jane is in charge of the RPB and all the young eager brewers working therein. George departed and Jane led me on a tour. A-B is careful that each guest is escorted at all times.

Photo at right was taken in one of the RPB fermentation rooms, L to R: Jane Killebrew-Galeski, Teri, Adam Goodson and Hannah Burnett.

The pilot brewery is a complex 9-barrel gravity-fed brewery that takes up nine floors in a narrow tall building. Every piece of equipment in the building recreates the exact processes and outcomes that occur in “The Saint Louis Brewery,” which is the big brewery onsite.

We started on the top floor where the raw materials come into the process. Some of the floors looked like they could be out of any well-designed small craft brewery. Other floors duplicated processes that small breweries do not use.

On one floor there was an interesting stainless steel thing made up of two long rectangular air ducts. One duct went straight up and down, the other came in at right angles, but it took a few dips that gave it a wavy look. Jane said that sterile air is passed through the post-boil wort to draw out additional sulfur pre-fermentation. The wavy looking air duct’s wave acts like a sewer trap and prevents splashed wort from running backwards into the air duct.

Another process that craft breweries generally don’t use is the step where Polyclar is added. It’s an additive that helps make A-B beers extra clear and bright. The Polyclar doesn’t stay in the beer, it gets stripped out along with any yeast and chill haze the beer contained.

The RPB building also had a large learning center on one floor where lots of young brewers worked away at shared computer monitors. A-B is very strong on education and taking responsibility, and these young folk were working hard at learning and “owning” the projects they were assigned.

When Jane graduated from U.C. Davis nearly 30 years ago, the A-B Research Pilot Brewery was just being built. Jane's dream and the dream of all her classmates was to run the RPB at Anheuser-Busch. Jane didn’t land that job upon graduation. She ended up at PBR instead of RPB at first, but she didn’t give up on her goals. Now Jane is “The Woman.” Brewing is a man’s world, and it’s exciting that Jane never gave up and got what she went after. You go girl!

Photo at left was taken in the RPB cellar, L to R: Tom Moritz and Andy Havens and Teri.

Jane walked me over to “The School House.” Early in the brewery’s history, this building housed the elementary school that Adolphus or August or one of the early A-Team attended. It was across from the brewery in those days, and the street that ran between the school and the brewery was a city street. The original brewery and school now form the heart of the A-B complex.

We entered through the school’s front door, which Jane normally never uses, and we saw a few busts of the early A-Team and some antique photos of the land that the A-B complex now occupies. It looked like three buildings on a barren plain in Texas! Now the land is filled up with a myriad of buildings of various heights.

I was ushered into a sterile white-walled conference room with Jane, George, a man named John Serbia, and Kristi Zantop who used to work at Alaskan Brewing Company in Juneau, Alaska. John wore a crisply pressed white business shirt and tie, and I could tell he was all business. He asked me a few open-ended questions, and for the second time today I misinterpreted the questions.

Earlier, when Jim Poole, G.M. of Clydesdale Operations asked me what my favorite brand of beer was I answered, “My own.” I know it’s a trite answer, but as Brewmaster of a brewpub, in other words a big fish in a very small pond, I get to make certain decisions. If I didn’t like my own beer I would change it. In my opinion, if I answered that any other beer (other than my own) was my favorite beer, then by gosh I shouldn’t be a brewpub Brewmaster: I should go to work for that other brewery! Then Jim rephrased the question, “What Budweiser brand is your favorite brand?” Oh. Oops.

Well that’s just what I felt like after giving John Serbia long answers to his questions. I practically gave him my life story. A serious guy in a suit deserves a thorough answer, right? Then I realized I’d misinterpreted his questions, and that he just wanted to know how I lined up all my contacts to visit during this trip. Oh. Oops.

After the meeting I asked George, “Who was that guy?” Oh, just the Vice-President of Brewing. Oops.

Not to worry George admonished! We’re off to lunch, then to the 220. We took an elevator to the executive lunchroom, walked past it and entered a small private dining room. Four place settings were ready, each with a brightly printed menu sitting atop the plate. The other two guests couldn’t join us, so George and I enjoyed a beer and food pairing lunch that he and the chef had designed.

George is an expert on beer and food pairing, and lately customer education of beer and food pairing has constituted a large part of his job. A-B is about to publish a huge new cookbook full of recipes using beer, beer pairing suggestions, and lots of gorgeous photos of food and glasses of beer. (The Budweiser logo and beer labels are tastefully absent from most of the food photos, I am thankful to report.)

George is all about flavor. He designed beautiful display boxes full of quart plastic jars of raw materials, and hired a fulfillment center to create and ship truckloads of these boxes. A-B is very big on consumer education, and the distributors order these boxes to educate their sales reps and consumers on beer ingredients.

The more the average person knows about brewing ingredients and how beer is made, the higher the percentage of consumers that appreciate beer, and the more that beer will be valued as a gourmet beverage. With malt, hops and energy prices going through the roof (and being in short supply), it becomes imperative that beer is valued and priced nearly equal to wine. Many small breweries’ very survival in the coming years will be based upon whether this scenario happens or not.

After lunch, George took me on the back-stage tour of the brewery, cellar, and packaging areas. I was impressed with the can lines. If I remember correctly (I don’t take any notes and I'm writing this seven days later), the 12-oz. cans flew through the lines at over 1,600 cans per minute, and the 16-oz. cans at over 1,300 cans per minute. They were a colorful blur.

The brewhouse is still in the original building. It’s a gravity-fed brewery on several floors, with many kettles and mash tuns. There is a large central skylight looking down several stories. The center of each floor is cut out, as you can see by the photo above right.

George said, in the old days they planned ahead: They moved kettles, mash tuns and tanks between floors by lowering them or raising them through these cut-outs in the floors. Plus the cut-outs allowed the natural light to get to each floor.

George also took me up inside the clock tower. He checked his watch. He didn't want the bell to bong while we were up there. Photo above left is the exterior. Photo below right is the interior.

After the tour we went to “The 220.” I checked my watch. It was around 3:00 pm. Apparently 220 referred to the room that the sensory panel used to meet in. We entered a sumptuously appointed conference room with stained glass window inserts and a carved malt and hops motif on the ceiling.

George showed me the adjacent staging area before the sensory panel began. The staging area had five dishwashers. The sensory panel members are so serious about having neutral glass, that once the glasses are washed (with unscented soap and tons of rinsing of course), they drip dry and are stored in the dishwashers.

In the center of the conference room was a large mahogany-colored conference table surrounded by plush leather office chairs. A specialized computer monitor sat in front of each spot except one. I sat at the non-monitored spot. Today they would taste Budweiser from each of the Anheuser-Busch breweries all over the world, and they invited me taste with them.

I told George that these beers would probably have subtler differences than I am used to tasting. After all the style is so similar – they’re all Budweiser malt-and-rice-lagers. George said, probably not so subtle differences between them. George was right, there were definitely differences between the Budweisers, in fact larger differences than I was anticipating. However, the differences were certainly subtler than the differences between two IPAs produced by two microbreweries, for example.

As the tasters filed in, George introduced me and I gave each my “Road Brewer” business card with my route map on the back. George had done a lot of advance legwork prior to my arrival and everybody seemed to know who I was. Wearing pink boots everywhere was probably a dead give-away.

The group consisted of all men wearing crisply ironed shirts and ties, Kristi Zantop who I’d met earlier, and me. I was a bit wary, having had the experience in 2001 and 2002 of judging the Australian International Beer Awards with a lot of large brewery bigwigs who just didn’t know what to make of a young(ish) female brewer/judge.

The atmosphere in the A-B sensory room was decidedly different. It was a relaxed atmosphere of friendly people, joking and welcoming, who were there to do a serious job. I felt accepted and relaxed into the banter. Okay, I was still nervous. But nobody was trying to make me feel out of place. My nervousness was just me.

After the sensory panel George walked me to my trailer where I made phone calls to get the directions for tomorrow’s drive. When George picked me up an hour later, he gifted me a mixed case of A-B beers and two 750 ml bottles of their 2007 Brewmasters Reserve.

Please notice I didn’t say that George gifted me a mixed case of A-B products. I have a pet peeve I’d like to air here: I hate it when brewers (or any brewery employees or distributors) call their beer “product” or their brewery a “plant.” We’re not making widgets here; we are brewing and fermenting beer. Let’s not forget that! All beer is brewed and fermented, no matter what size the brewery is.

I wasn’t listening for whether or not A-B’s employees called their beer “product” or their brewery a “plant,” but if they did, it was at the same or a lesser rate than those words are used at a large craft brewery.

In fact, I hazard a guess that A-B people are coached to avoid words like “product” or “plant.” Let’s all take a play from the A-B playbook, and if you ever catch yourself telling someone how passionate you are about your “products” or your “brand,” stop and repeat the sentence like this, “I am passionate about the beer that our brewery brews.” Heck, write it on the blackboard a hundred times if you have to.

Beer, with its history and tradition, is so much richer than that grim industrial image allows, and language is key to how consumers perceive any “product.”

OK, off my soapbox now. (And if I am guilty of the offending words, feel free to point that out.)

George picked me up and we drove to Schnuck’s Gourmet Market. (Pronounced schnook, like the name you call the Yiddish guy who cheated you at penny poker.) George’s wife Kathy, daughter Veronica, and daughter’s boyfriend Drew joined us.

Schnuck’s had asked the A-B distributor to set up a beer-food pairing dinner. That’s not so uncommon, but beer dinners normally take place in fancy restaurants. This was the first time that George had heard of a beer dinner being held in a grocery store. George thought it was important to get this idea out to the craft brewers to use, as there are gourmet grocery chains (like Whole Foods and Wild Oats) all over the USA.

You might wonder, why would a Brewmaster at Anheuser-Busch care about small craft brewers finding new exposure outlets? Well, if you knew George, you wouldn’t wonder. George has been working as a brewer for A-B since 1979 when he graduated from the University of Wisconsin at Madison. He is a fifth generation Brewmaster, but his lineage did not brew at A-B. George’s great-great-granddad opened the Reisch Brewery in Springfield, Illinois. George’s great-grandfather, grandfather, and father all worked there. I’m not sure when it closed its doors, but it didn’t survive the 1960’s and 70’s.

In the early days of the Craft Brewing Movement (Revolution to us who lived it), when the MBAA or any other brewing group dominated by old-style lager brewers pooh-poohed the microbrewers and equated them as no better than homebrewers, George took it personally. He told me that every slight he heard against a small craft brewer felt like a slight against his father and forefathers,and all other small family-owned breweries like Reisch Brewing Company.

George showed an interest in brewing at an early age. His father taught him to homebrew in the early 1970’s when it was still illegal and George was in high school. (FYI: President Carter legalized homebrewing in 1978. Thank you Jimmy!)

George tells the story that when he entered college, he wrote to Anheuser-Busch and told them that he intended to work for them someday. He took a combination of coursework at UW-Madison, with his first two years geared toward Chemical Engineering and his final years geared toward Food Science. All designed to give him the education he needed to become a professional brewer. (There were few brewing courses at Universities in those days.)

In 1979 George traveled to A-B for an interview, and was shocked when his interviewer pulled an old faded letter out of his drawer, unfolded it and showed it to George. Indeed, it was George’s letter. The interviewer said, “We’ve been waiting for you.” George has been with A-B ever since.
Tonight George was the Master of Ceremonies at Schnucks. He’d already worked with the chef to design the menu and beer pairings. He spoke to the wait staff with last minute instructions on how to time delivery of the beers and the glasses.

Two beautiful “Bud Girls” showed up and greeted the guests as they arrived. The 9-table dinner was sold out at $10 per ticket. I can guarantee you that goodwill was the only profit from this dinner, as the food, beer and labor costs were certainly higher.

(Okay, another pet peeve of mine: I wish A-B would feature its women brewers in its ads and at special events instead of nameless Bud Girls. I think putting a true feminine face on beer is more beneficial toward attracting women into the profession. Think about it: before you can have a woman brewer, you must have a woman beer drinker! I don't know which large brewery's advertising department belched out the Swedish Bikini Team, but those platinum-wigged women never inspired me to drink a single beer. The Bud Girls don't make me thirsty either.)

George was in his element at Schnook's, teaching the guests how to pour a beer down the middle of the glass but only filling the glass 1/3 full. He twisted his tilted 1/3-full glass to show us how to gauge the Belgian lace effect. He admonished us to sip, taste, and then sip again, allowing the flavors of the beer and the food to mingle in our mouths. “Beer is the servant of food,” George told us. He gestured with his hands as he described how a beer served with cheesecake mingles and creates a cheesecake smoothie in your mouth.

Afterwards George brought out the chef and the rest of the Schnuck’s staff for their well-earned applause. He handed out a take-home gift to everyone: a Reidel beer glass that he and the Reidel designers had created, with the Michelob logo on it. I hope my fancy Reidel beer glass makes it all the way back to Oregon! I’ve got it wrapped up in the two Budweiser Clydesdale shirts in my trailer.

After the dinner was over, George hooked me up with A-B National Retail Sales Draught Training Manager (and Elvis Impersonator) Scott Seggi who gave me a ride back to my trailer. (Who comes up with titles like that one?)

Before I finish my Anheuser-Busch post, I have to tell you the joke that I learned there:

“How do you know when you’re really retired?”
“When August the 3rd and August the 4th are just really nice days at the end of summer.”