On the move in the Wilderness

Wednesday.  I cannot believe that it’s come so quickly.  Andrea and I are moving to Kansas City in less than a week and we are excited about the prospects that are open to us.  For that reason, I thought it was time for a couple of updates.  The first update is the one I just stated.

The second update has to do with the kickstarter fund-raising.  We are right at the half-way mark at our campaign.  It’s hard to believe that the time is moving so fast.  As a friendly reminder, we still need everyone to spread the word.  Please think about tweeting, posting on your facebook, and telling everyone you know.

Above all, please consider heading over to the campaign and pledging.  We really are appreciative of any amount (and they start as low as a dollar).  Please help make the dream we have been talking about for a few years a reality.  You guys and gals are the best.  Please head over to the campaign.  We are grateful for all of you.

Nate and Mike

Meeting People is Easy

Now that we are wrapping up our time in California, I have begun to reflect on where it is I’m leaving and where it is I’m going.  I do not keep it a secret that L.A. life really is not for me.  Don’t misconstrue what I’m saying. After all, I’m going to miss the cultural and ethnic diversity of the city.  I’m going to miss going to Little Ethiopia to by Teff flour, I’ll miss my favorite Thai market I’ve had access to, I’ll miss all the great friends I’ve made…I simply won’t miss L.A.

Fortunately, there is plenty that of things we can look forward to as we make the transition to K.C.  I have already connected with several great beer people in the city and will also be moving to pursue a dream with Nate.  So the future is bright.  I want to be preemptive and say thanks to all who I know will welcome us to a great city.  Get ready, here we come.  We will see the K.C. folks from July 10th forward…looking forward to it.

Some Thoughts about Taste

“I don’t like it.”  Who has not uttered this phrase?

Chances are that you and every person you know has expressed this sentiment when tasting one food or another, even saying it about a particular beer.  That’s bad, no good, this stinks, I’d rather swill brake fluid.  Chances are that you and every person you know has expressed this sentiment, too.

Early on in the history of our website, we used to rate a lot of beer, and we maintained that there was a degree of objectivity that could go into tasting/rating beer.  Well, you’ll be happy to know that we are just as naïve as ever, and that’s exactly why I prefaced the sentence right before this one with three others that drew a distinction.  The distinction is one of the more subjective and the more objective.

To say “I don’t like this” is automatically and firmly placed in the world of the subjective (I being the subject).  The grounds for assessment is one of self-reference and preference.  I don’t like yogurt, I don’t like mimes, I don’t like this beer.  Those are all statements that categorize something simply and neatly into one field of meaning…and the I’s have it.  Of course, that’s not to say that the “I” has no reason behind not liking it.  However, the definition is still based on preference.

I don’t like it because I don’t like hops, etc…still self-referential.

My personal experience with beer has been an ever evolving landscape.  In fact, it is most likely a pretty foreign land compared to the initial entry into the beer world.  I didn’t like IPAs, I didn’t like Sours, I didn’t like…well, many styles of beer.  Whether “I” didn’t like a more exotic or more simply style, the style wasn’t this issue.

Truthfully, to say that I didn’t like IPAs is an understatement…I abhorred them with every inch of my soul (apparently, my soul is quantifiable).  At the same time, you will see that I regularly gave a good IPA a good rating.  Why?  Well, I didn’t like it but it was still good in the sense that it was well made, appropriate according to stylistic guidelines, etc.  And that’s about what it comes down to.

I genuinely love to drink a good IPA, a good sour, and a good…well name the style.  The beers hasn’t changed.  My palate has.  So next time someone offers me some Roquefort Blue Cheese, I have to remind myself that I hate it…but it’s a damn good cheese.  Preference is one thing, blindness to any semblance of objectivity is quite another.  So be careful how you taste because you may end up eating your words.

What’s bottling in the Wilderness

Fifteen long months after brewing it, my Lambic finally reached its peak time for bottling.  It’s not easy to wait for a beer that sits sleepily resting in a barrel, biding its time while you chew your nails in angst.  But let me tell you that when I bottled my various Lambics—Kriek (Cherry), Framboise (Raspberry), Gueuze (blend of four Lambics in this case), Aprium (Apricot/Plum hybrid), and mature Lambic—I realized, once again, that waiting the right amount of time for a beer to mature is well worth it.

It’s strange for me to stop and think that I literally brewed the Lambic on April 1st of 2010.  Back then we were still musing about the idea of a brewery.  About 4 months after I brewed the Lambic, we started making a concerted effort to open the brewery.  About a year after I brewed the Lambic, we started working toward the Kickstarter campaign.  And here we are, almost 3 weeks into the Kickstarter campaign… I guess good things do come to those who wait.

Well as I mentioned above, we are closing in on our third full week of our kickstarter campaign, and it’s going well.  We’ve raised $11,380.  Not too shabby, but slightly behind our goal of $615 per day.  Granted that the first and last couple weeks are the busiest of the campaign, but we are trying to avoid coming to the wire by encouraging everyone to pledge.  Seriously, if you pledge $10, $25, $50 we would be tickled pink.  We need everyone who is able to pitch in.

If you have pledged, please spread the word about the campaign.  The more people who see it, the better than chances that we will be flying high the last few weeks.  In addition, this could also get our campaign up on the Kickstarter main page because they partly determine that by the number of hits you get.  Also, please remember that there is also place to put in your e-mail and set a reminder in the last 48 hours of the campaign (we hope it doesn’t come down to that).  Please help us make the middle portion of our campaign strong by pledging and spreading the word.

What’s Brewing In The Wilderness 1&2

It occurred to me that I had not posted any updates on the progress we are making as we journey towards the goal of opening our brewery, Wilderness Brewing Co.  I have actually filmed two video updates to keep you abreast of our sudsy endeavor.  Please check out the clips below.  The link above will redirect you to our KickStarter project for more info.

Feel free to email us at any time for more info.

Cheers!!!

Weekly Brewery Update

It’s been another eventful week and seemed like a year.  That’s a euphemism for the fact that it has been ridiculously, but beneficially, busy.  The beer community has remained tirelessly supportive of what we are doing.  We have either written, skyped, or teleconferenced several interviews this week.  Aside from our several blog friends, we have had interviews with a paper in Singapore, are working on another one right now, or, most recently, have received some ink in The Pitch, a Kansas City based news paper.

The campaign has been going pretty well.  We have now reached almost $11,000 of our $40,000 goal.  Surprisingly enough, about half of the pledging has come from larger donations.  So, it may sound strange to ask that people give small amounts.  What I mean is this, tons and tons of small donors (anywhere from $1 to $10 to $25 to $50 to $100).  What is considered a small donation is obviously subjective and based on what you think that means.  However, we need a lot of a little support as well.

Please make it a really good week.  Visit the kickstarter campaign, pledge, like it, spread the word.  It’s amazing what a lot of us normal people can do when we do it together!

The Point of Homebrewing

Believe it or not, running this blog is an actual expense for Mike and I.  Contextually speaking, however, “expense” is pretty much an arbitrary term.  Monetarily, it costs us time and money to maintain this site, BUT the relationships we’ve built make it a virtual gold mine.  That being said, it’s pretty cool when you find out somebody reads, enjoys, and has learned from your writing…which happened recently.

This past Easter my dad, Bob Watson, drove from Toledo, Ohio to bring some furniture (family heirlooms)  for us to use in our daughters’ room.  Ok, that’s his excuse…we all know he just wanted to see us.  Anyway, he not only brought himself and some cool retro furniture, he also brought a case of 20+ homebrewed beers and Mead that had been created by his his supervisor.  I’ve  never met this benevolent donor of fermented beverages, James Shruga, but from what my dad says, he brews more than the average guy, having fallen in love with the magic of brewing.  I know James is about my age, has three kids, is a regular reader of the world’s greatest beer blog that offers a plethora of  great tips on homebrewing, works as a sub-contractor for Chrysler, and…makes a hell of a good homebrew.

Seriously, I was pleasantly surprised by James’ brews, particularly in light of the fact that he hasn’t been brewing for years upon years.  In fact, he even threw in a mead (fyi…I’ve never brewed a mead) that was the best homemade mead (and I’ve had several) I’ve ever tasted…lightly sweet, very dry, with nuanced honey notes.  I hate mead that is a sticky sweet honey bombs that comes from stuck/incomplete fermentation due to lack of oxygen or nutrients.  We had a few folks over to try Mr. Shruga’s brews, and while they all enjoyed each creation, the ladies couldn’t keep their hands off the mead.  Here are a few pics of “the transaction” which began in a factory parking lot in Ohio and ended in a residential driveway in Missouri:

James in Ohio

"Burlesque" - a great Belgian Pale Ale

Saison Du Sophie - Well Balanced Saison

Nate - Ohio

There wasn’t a bad brew in the bunch, but I’d have to say I was surprised (pleasantly) by two. First was his Double IPA, “Valkyrie.” If you followed this blog for a while, you’ll know that while I enjoy IPAs and DIPAs, I am not a hophead and don’t seek them out, nor am I wowed by them. James’ Valkyrie blew me away. It was well balanced, and very rich and malty. It wasn’t a pure citrus bomb, being nuanced by peppery and spiced qualities. You could have blindfolded me, lined up this brew along side a bunch of GOOD brews by pro brewers, and I wouldn’t be able to pick out the homebrew.

Also notable was the “Starry Night.” This was one of the first I tried, simply because I was skeptical (sorry James). I am not a huge licorice fan, and Anise stars–a Chinese/Japanese spice that comes from unique evergreen seeds–tastes like licorice, a flavor I usually find a little overwhelming. In fact, way back in the day when I was less discriminating in what I drank, I tried a Manhattan Car Bomb (Guinness with a shot of Jager) and nearly hurled. But James Starry night, A stout brewed with Anise, was great. The licorice flavor was nuanced enough to not distract from the dark malty flavors.

I’ll be honest…I still have several of James’ brews left. I am letting some of them age (like the imperial wit…I’m waiting for some subtle sour notes to develop). James, if you are reading this, Thank YOU! It was a real treat, and I was honored to sample our brew. Keep brewing, because in brewing–just like playing the guitar or singing Karaoke–you’ve either got it or you don’t, and you do. I plan on sending some of mine your way. Due to the extreme brevity of my dad’s trip, at the last minute I forgot to send some Watson brew with you, but I will in the future.

Weekly Brewery Update

One week ago today, we announced that we officially launched our kickstarter campaign.  We’re  happy to say that the week went well: raising 21% of our goal in that time frame is an admirable startWe are truly grateful to each and every person who gave to the campaign.  Many of our beer friends, family, and even some complete strangers headed over to the campaign and contributed how they could.  Still others posted about it on Facebook, Twitter, and other outlets.  Again, we are grateful for the fact that people are pitching in however they are able.  We realize that even the smallest amounts are imperative to reach our goal.

Most of the 20% came in the first couple of days, which isn’t abnormal for a Kickstarter campaign.  In fact, most campaigns do the best in the first and last week.  However, we would like to see a good second week and defy the norm on Kickstarter.  So, we are once again calling on all of you with the request for you to head over and give or spread the word or “Like” the campaign.  Please at least check out the video and “Like” it. (Also, there is an update video of Nate brewing, which may be of interest.)

Please give what you are able.  If you can give $10, we appreciate it.  If you can do more or less than that, that’s great, too.  The truth is that it takes everybody, and no amount is too small. (Also, it may help to know that nobody will be charged until August 4th, and that’s only if we reach the goal.)

We are continually keeping in mind that campaigns that do well early are the most successful ones, so thanks for everything you have done and can do.

Pilsner and the Confluence of History: Coke Fuel/Drum Roasting

I have been holding back on posting this for a long time.  One reason is because I knew it would end up being a long article.  For that reason, it will be broken up into several posts.  Here is a short primer that we wrote quite a while back about Pilsner.

The last among the classic styles, Pilsner is the certainly not the least.  Of course, one cannot deny that the neo-classic styles of tomorrow are hitting markets and shelves during our time.  However, Pilsner remains the last and supreme style among the true classic brews.  But how does something first commercially brewed circa 1842 become so lastingly dominant?

Pilsner is perhaps like a band that makes it big time.  More than half the battle is being in the right place at the right time.  If that’s true of bands, Pilsner is the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin and other great bands rolled into one. Several truly significant occurrences converged to make Pilsner skyrocket into ridiculous success, which was more than meteoric: modern drum roasting, yeast discovery/lager yeast, glassware, modern refrigeration, Saaz hops, steam power/industrial revolution.

Coke Fuel/Drum Roasting

Beers in the past were dark.  It’s a bit of a misnomer to say that they were all smokey, a fact I’ve learned since my first post about Pilsner as a style.  However, beers were certainly a dark affair, not that it mattered much because people, except the wealthy, drank from metal containers and even leather.  So, the brilliant clarity of the beer wasn’t a big deal anyway. And then in came coke fuel.

Coke fuel, which had future implications for the industrial revolution, was suggested for use  in the early 1600s. Ostensibly, it was a response to the rapid deforestation that was occurring in much of Europe. This might take you back to standardized tests, but here is the analogy: wood is to charred remains  as coal is to coke fuel. The problem with coal was that it would produce sulfur fumes—not a positive impact on malt—and it  could not be used directly.  The basic solution was, instead, to get the byproduct of coal, or coke fuel.

Coke fuel started to be used in malting circa 1642 in Derbyshire.  One of the more immediate results was better and more even roasting.  It was during this time that the Pale Ale was born.  Pale Ales are not necessarily or historically pale; they are simply pale in comparison to the beers that preceded the use of coke fuel.  So beers were, in fact, able to be lighter in color, although even these beers were darker than pilsner.  But they were about to get even lighter.

Fast forward about 200 years after coke fuel was thought of as a heat source when drum roasting had finally been born.  Although the earlier use of coke fuel helped to lighten beers, malting was not as even as it could be, and the grains would only allow for a certain color threshold.  In contrast, rotational roasting, made possible with the use of a drum, allowed for a more even roast, and by proxy, different types of specialty malts.  In the end a more even roast could be expected, and the pale malt that was born out of the older coke fuel process was no longer the palest.  The continual advance of even roasting ultimately led to better and better techniques and lighter grain coloring.

The malting techniques and the Tolar and Hanka barley varieties used by Josef Groll in Pilsen allowed for a particularly, comparatively speaking, light malt.  This speaks to why the color of the beer was such a novel sensation.  But that is not the only significant factor… yeast can also speak to several points, which I will talk about in the next post.

Some thoughts about the Beer Community…Village

Forgive me for being emotional about this.  I just have to say it.

Nate and I really do not mean to become tiresome about our recent Kickstarter launch.  We know there is plenty of time and believe it will work out perfectly fine.  But I do want to take a second to brag about something that is connected to the Kickstarter launch.  Maybe we can agree that the launch is somewhat tangential to this post…fair enough.

I am always amazed at the beer community.  It isn’t simply the fact that they have been absolutely stunning in their support for our brewing aspirations.  What many of you do not know is that they have encouraged and connected us with others along the way.  These connections were not the outworking of a grand strategy aimed at virulent or self-aggrandizing ends.  In fact, the story is quite the opposite.

Beer people simply love connecting with beer people in anyway they can.  Sure, I could tell you how I was able to get a bottle of Black Tuesday for Dave from The Drunken Polack or how Dave gave me more than a lion’s share of some rare beers from the Lost Abbey at Dark Lord Day and the Bruery or how Peter from Simply Beer gladly sent me a rare bottle of Avery beer and Captain Lawrence or how Scott from the Brew Club got me some Black Ops from Brooklyn Brewery because I sent him some Goose Island Bourbon County Stout (I got the better end of that deal).  I could even tell you that these guys, and several other people on our blog role, have contributed and/or happily spread the word about our kickstarter campaign…but that merely scratches the surface.

Our connections are commerce driven or affected from the very beginning.  The beer community is a village.  It is a place of mutual respect and support.  I cannot express how truly grateful Nate and I are to be a part of something so authentic…campaign or no.