Houston we Have Liftoff: We Just Launched our Kickstarter

After three long years of contemplating, dreaming, a thousand conversations, over 800 posts, and a ton of hard work; we are officially announcing that we are fundraising for our brewery.  If ever you paid attention to any post we have written, please let it be this one.

Thanks so much for being a part of thankheavenforbeer.com.  You have been the ones who have fanned the flame of passion and desire along the way.  The comments, encouragements, and the kindness along the way have really propelled our continued devotion to this site…and brewing aspirations.

Here’s what you can do to make sure we succeed…we know we will.

1.  Visit the kickstarter campaign-Check out the awesome video and look at the terrific graphic that we’ve come up with.

2.  Post-Part of what will make this project a success is telling other people.  If you or someone you know has a blog, website, or other regular platform they use to speak to a captive audience please put up (or ask them to put up) a post and link to the kickstarter .

3.  Speak-Please, please, please email your friends about the project, post it on facebook, tweet about it during the course of the fundraising.

4.  Start-We are asking people who already have a stumbleupon account to give the kickstarter campaign a thumb’s up.  If you don’t have one, please consider starting a stumbleupon account.  It’s kinda fun to use anyway. Here is the stumble link.

5.  Believe-Believe that we can succeed and tell us along the way.  We may need your encouragement or simply interaction.

We believe that we will be successful in our campaign and that you will be the reason that this brewery gets started.  If you have ever dreamed, you know exactly how we feel…help make the dream come true by visiting here.

Thanks in advance,

Mike and Nate

A few Posts to Consider

The fact that we got so many hits from the article posted by Loren Berlin has gotten me thinking about some other articles we have written.  Although she quoted our article specifically in the wider beer context, the original articles were meant to justify the cost of craft beer versus the relatively inexpensive nature of really large breweries.  Of course, I am not being disputatious about the principle she spelled out in the article, I am merely pointing out that our discussion was much more narrow in that it was specifically meant to be an apologetic for why craft beer is worth the price.

For that reason, I thought I would point back to the posts and attempt to point out the nature of we were putting across.  So, please take a read through these other articles and offer your thoughts.  You should note that a few more articles should be written in the same vein.  However, this represents that basic line of thinking behind the madness.  Please enjoy.

http://thankheavenforbeer.com/2009/10/24/the-cost-of-the-beer-the-nuances-of-getting-grains-in-your-beer/

http://thankheavenforbeer.com/2009/11/08/the-cost-of-the-beer-hops/

http://thankheavenforbeer.com/2009/12/01/the-cost-of-beer-yeast/

http://thankheavenforbeer.com/2009/12/04/the-cost-of-beer-inflation/

http://thankheavenforbeer.com/2010/02/10/the-cost-of-beer-supply-demand/

A Warm Welcome

Open DoorWelcome to our site.  We have received a recent influx of traffic and have taken note of the fact that we have some new readers.  First, thank you for choosing to visit our site in the first place.  Second, we thank you for choosing to come again by hitting the RSS button.  Your presence has been noted, and we are grateful for it.

Here at thankheavenforbeer, we encourage you to be a participatory part of shaping our content and offering your thoughts.  We want to foster an atmosphere of mutual respect while being open to the notion that we can learn from each other.  For that reason, you will find over 800 articles on a wide variety of topics.  We are making the navigation of our site more user friendly.  Of course, it is not all together unwieldy, but we want to make it even easier.  At any rate, please feel free to explore the wide breath of material on the site.  After all, much of it is directly reader-driven.

Undoubtedly, some of you have a explored a bit already.  Many of you have stopped by the Contact page, Store, Sip with us Saturday, etc.  But we encourage you to find some other topics in which you might interested.  But before you look around any more, let us tell you a bit about the site.

We have been writing for about three years now and, as I have already noted, written on a wide variety of topics.  However, if we could offer a brief  raison d’etre for our site, it is beer education.  Our “about us” page indicates our thoughts on the matter but all us to reiterate.  Beer is an experience, an enjoyable exploration, an exciting adventure.  Beer does not get the credit it deserves because many think all beers are just the same.

We want people to know about dozens and dozens of beer styles, the nuances even within those styles, and the enormous complexity in beer (both taste and culture-wise).  In short, we are tired of beer being wine’s ugly cousin and are out to restore its besmirched reputation.  We want you, the reader, to appreciate it more and perhaps gain a deeper understanding about one of the world’s oldest beverages.

Once again, thank you for choosing to view our website and we hope that you enjoy the content.

Roughing it…at Joshua Tree

Lovely, well that would be one way to describe both the weather and my current thoughts on the future.  There is a serious thrill running through my mind because I just viewed the rough cut of our video.  My friend Brent filmed it, and we will work on the final editing together.  The reason I’m excited is because it is inching us closer and closer to starting our little project.

Part of the inching forward is a trip to Joshua Tree.  The trip is something Andrea and I have been wanting to do anyway, but the bonus is that Brent and his wife (Danielle) are coming, too.  While we are there, we are going to get some footage of us at Joshua Tree. And yes, I will be bringing some beer along and making sure that the footage finds its way into the video.

Although this is a brief update, I think it’s an exciting one.  Maybe I can get a snippet of video from the trip posted in a day or two.

We’re Opening Our Brewery

Given that an opportunity lies before us, we are taking it as a chance to make an announcement.  We are opening our brewery.  For those of you who read the site regularly, you know it is something we frequently muse about.  However, something you do not know yet is that we have been in the serious planning stages for opening our brewery throughout this past year.

We are going live with our fund-raising on May 31st.    We will have a much more thorough and detailed post for everyone on May 31st, so please stand by and keep us in mind for the next week and few days.

Right now, we are finishing the details of the video, have a terrific graphic, and are in the midst of making contacts with friends, family, and fellow beer writers.  Please watch for us to make the official announcement and help us realize the dreams we share.  Keep in mind, this has been a process in which you–our readers–have played a pivotal role.  All the interactions we’ve had with you have inspired us many times to pursue our passion, and we want you to be amongst the first people we share our good news with.

Cheers!

Mike and Nate

<–noadsense–>

We’re Almost Famous…not Really

Nate and I were recently contacted by a journalist  over at Daily Finance/AOL.  Anyway, we got a nice little quote and a link to our article about the cost of hops.  The Daily Finance article is less about craft beer specifically and more about beer in general.  Still, it was nice to get a bit of attention… I’ll have a beer or two to celebrate!

Here’s the link:  http://www.dailyfinance.com/2011/05/19/whys-my-beer-so-expensive-the-forces-behind-a-sudsy-economic-i/

I have some thoughts about the article and will write soon about the ideas that it sparked.

Thrifty Homebrewing: Reinhardt Spent Grain Brot

Spent grains in containers for freezingThe following is a guest post by Andrea, wife of the Beer Scientist.

For the past nine years, Mike, my husband and the Beer Scientist here @THFB, has delved deeper and deeper into the world of homebrewing, and the process of connecting with the past and embracing the simplest joys and experiences of human existence has introduced and reinforced (sometimes unexpected!) values in our life. Among the most important, the value for thrift has risen to a high place on the list.

I know, I know: in our culture of ready consumption and convenience, the practice of thrift has quickly disappeared from the landscape, even taking on a pretty negative nuance. But when I say “thrift,” I don’t mean to evoke images of cheapness or hoarding. I mean it in the sense that Wendell Berry uses in The Unsettling of America: “Thrift was [before the advent of the industrial economy] a complex standard requiring skill, intelligence, and moral character…” (page 115). So, I mean thrift in the sense of using creative and even inventive solutions to avoid being wasteful and making the most of one’s resources. And this creativity and inventiveness, I think, is actually quite consistent with the qualities it requires to (home)brew well.

Whether we have practiced homebrewing thrift out of necessity or by choice, we have experienced a certain satisfaction and personal pride in coming up with imaginative solutions for conserving, preserving, and saving. I wanted to share a few of those ideas with the hope that they might help you to save a penny or get more out of some obvious and not so obvious resources for brewing. This article is the first in a (hopefully long) series to explore “Thrifty Homebrewing.”

With Mike brewing nearly four out of every eight weekends on average (four successive weekends > wait for empty carboys > repeat), we throw away a lot of grains. Since we don’t have too high a volume, it’s not worth the time, gas, etc., to find a place to bring the grains for feed. However, we hate to see so much waste. One way we’ve been able to use at least some of the extra is by making spent grain bread, which is delicious! (One of my friends also makes Spent Grain Doggy Biscuits for her pups.) We make bread when the grains are fresh on the day of brewing, but we have also started dividing grains into three-cup measurements and freezing them in containers (yes, this involves baking and giving away a lot of bread!).

Below is a recipe I have modified from “Jasmine’s Spent Grain Bread” from the blog Beer at Joe’s.

Basic Spent Beer Grain Bread (a.k.a. The Reinhardt Spent Grain Brot):

  • 2 c bread flour (King Arthur’s is great for the gluten structure) or all-purpose flour
  • 2 c whole wheat flour  (you can adjust the ratio of the two flours, although the wheat flour should be no more than 50% of the total four cups)
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2-3 tsp yeast (use a lesser amount for a more dense bread; more for a lighter bread; be aware that the gluten content of the overall bread will also affect the fluffiness, so you will want to take into account your choice of ingredients and density preference)
  • ¼ warm water (110-115°F) for proofing the yeast
  • ½ -¾ c milk (the higher end if your grains are relatively dry and you don’t use any of the wet forms of syrup)
  • 3 c spent grain (drained but damp)
  • ¼ c sugar, (real) maple syrup, honey, molasses, malt syrup, or a combination
  • ¼ c butter or oil
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2-4 tbsp vital wheat gluten, optional (no gluten if you use the resting technique below; 1-3 tbsp if you don’t use the technique but use bread flour; 3-4 tbsp if you use all-purpose flour)
  • Equipment I use: food processor, KitchenAid mixer with a dough hook; neither is a necessity.

1. Proof the yeast.

2. Measure out the flours in a large bowl and mix them together (I use a whisk). Set aside.

3. Place the grains and milk in a food processor and puree. You may have to do this in two batches depending on your food processor. If you do not have a food processor, you can use the grains whole, although I have found the scratchiness of the husk to be unpleasant if I don’t process the grains.

4. Transfer the grains and milk to the mixer bowl and stir together all of the ingredients except the flours.

5. Slowly add the flours, cup by cup.

Optional resting technique: If you like a lighter, fluffier loaf, you can use the following technique (compliments of the Beer Scientist, who has mastered the art of pizza dough using this very technique) in order to improve the gluten structure of your bread. After you have added three cups of the (King Arthur bread) flour, let the dough rest on the counter for about twenty minutes. Then add the remaining cup of flour and continue with the next steps.

6. If the dough is too sticky, you may need to add more flour. When the ingredients have been incorporated (hope you have the KitchenAid for this!), knead the dough until it is smooth for 5 minutes with the mixer or 10 minutes by hand.

In terms of blending the ingredients, Mike has an easier time with this (probably because he uses the above gluten technique!), but I usually finish incorporating the flour in the early part of kneading. As far as the wetness/stickiness of the dough, I have never made the bread without having to add more flour, so I recommend keeping some close at hand.

7. After needing, shape the dough into a ball and place it in a lightly oiled bowl. Cover it with a towel and let it rest in a warm place for 60-90 minutes—until the dough has doubled in size.

8. Punch down the dough and divide it into 2-3 loaves, depending how large you want your bread. Shape these into loaves and place them in lightly greased bread pans or on a cookie sheet. (You may score the tops of the loaves.) Re-cover with a towel and let the dough rise again until doubled, about sixty more minutes.

9. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Bake for about forty minutes. It may take a little longer if you only make two loaves. The bread will be nice and golden on top and sound hollow when you knock on the baked loaf.

10. After baking, let the bread cool for thirty minutes on a cooling rack. This is important as the bread will finish cooking during this time, so don’t cut into it too soon!

Enjoy!

A final note: This is a stiff dough, and I absolutely do not recommend using a bread machine; I haven’t tried it, but I would anticipate disastrous results.

A Reflection on the Blog

Blog  stats are an interesting phenomenon.  At first they become an indispensible measure of how good or bad a blog is, next they become a strived after commodity, then they become a curiosity.

Who hasn’t felt at least a few of these perceptions creeping in the back of their mind?  I know I have.  Lately, I have become far more interested on how people get to our website.  What sort of content brought them here?  How people look up something specific but not even remotely specific to the content on the site and end up here, I’ll never know.

Even more interesting to me is when I realize just how much substantive content has been put on the site over the past few years. When people arrive at that content, it is really gratifying.  But even that got me meandering.  We really have written a lot of content on the site.  Some of it is very good, other stuff is very bad…at least in retrospect.  However, I think I’m fine with that.

Some of the stuff I wrote when we first started out on the site is partially true or, on a rare occasion, almost entirely in need of further clarification or correction.  Again, this got me thinking.  Is it better to take the risk by putting oneself out there or wait until a chimerical time of perfection comes so that something truly meaningful can happen?  Well, it seems that no real learning happens in a vacuum.  And I’m pleased to say that taking the chance has taught me a ton about beer, writing, and about an aphysical community.

Although not a ton of writing has been happening on the blog lately, I’m pleased to say that the past content is being seen.  Yet, I’m not satisfied with the lack of writing that I’ve been doing lately.  There are several reasons why we haven’t been writing as much…but no perfect excuses.  However, if our readers will hold tight, we will be offering some very good copouts in the next few weeks.

Self Sustainable Brewing – Hops

On several occasions I’ve mentioned that when it comes to brewing beer, the more ownership I have over the process, the better I feel about the finished product.  For example, I make my own candy sugar, dry my own orange peels, and culture much of the yeast I use.  Recently I planted my own hop rhizomes in hopes of not only saving a few shekels down the road, but also to take more ownership of the process.

Knowing more about beer than horticulture, I remember a couple of years ago asking the owner of  my the local homebrew shop if he had any “hop seeds.”  I cringed in embarrassment when he politely stated that he would be ordering “hop rhizomes” in the future.  So I went home and researched the hop plant…something I should have done before opening my mouth at the brew shop.  Hops utilize rhizomes to propagate.  A rhizome is simply a stalk, stem, or root mass that grows horizontally underground and sends out roots and shoots (vines, in the case of the hop plant) as it grows.  The cool thing about such plants is that once mature, simply chopping off a bit of the underground rhizome and transplanting it easily results in a new plant.

That being said, I finally got around to ordering a few rhizomes and planted them in the my backyard.  Hops love sun, but not wind, and require a well drained soil or else decay can occur.  They also are a climbing vine.  So, I planted my hops on the sunny side of the house close to the house wall where they are sheltered from the gusts of wind we get here in Kansas City.  I made little mounds of soil mixed with gravel to properly drain rhizome and it’s root systems, and built little walls of brick and rocks around the rhizomes.  Just two weeks later vines are poking out of the soil, and even though I know my yield will be only a few ounces this first year, I am giddy with excitement.  Soon I will be constructing a twine climbing system for my little acidic babies.

Below are pics of my future crop of hops.  I ordered my rhizome from Midwest Brewing Supply for just $4.99/rhizome.  In order that they appear, I am growing Cascade (cliche, I know), Hallertau, and Nugget.  The only difficulty I’ve had so far is trying to keep our Beagle pup, Henry, from trampling the fledgling shoots.  Do you grow your own hops?  Do you have any pics?

I Found the Lost Abbey to be Awesome…once again

My brother came to California this past Friday, and I was pretty geeked up about it.  For that reason, I contacted Sage from the Lost Abbey to see what sort of semi-sunken treasures were available for our visit.  I wrote him about two weeks prior to our visit and two days before our visit.  Of course he remembered speaking to me via email.  He simply told me to ask for him at the bar.

Once we arrived, I asked for Sage and he pointed me to Terri, his wife and the tasting room manger.  She quickly told me to come with her across the parking lot to another building where good things are kept.  After she located some beers she herself had stashed, she revealed that she had a bottle of Isabel Proximus and 2004 Veritas.  Not too shabby at all. She told us that she needed to chill them for a bit in order to get the brews ready and asked if we would like a beer in the meantime. After drinking our Mongo IPAs, the beer was ready and it was a terrific afternoon.

What’s the moral of the story? Is it to make you feel I had something you didn’t or to brag about myself on a beer network that is about the comparative exploits of one beer geek (or snob) vs. another?  No in fact, it is quite the opposite.  It is to point out that what makes beer culture a great one is that great beer can be enjoyed because of the accessible beer people.  I should mention that Tomme came over and talked for a minute, Sage chatted for a moment, and Terri was the most helpful of all. They were all obviously very busy with their responsibilities of running the tasting room, working with the various tour groups, and kegging the beer we all love so much.  Yet they took the time to be engaging and far more accommodating than they had to be.

I simply cannot commend the staff of the Lost Abbey to with any more enthusiasm.  If you live within a couple hours of San Marcos, you really should visit them and show your support.  You might not get a bottle of a rare beer when you go, but you will certainly get more than you’ve come to expect from other brewers.