Thursday, June 30, 2011

Beer inspired thoughts

I was sitting here behind my desk, staring at my business plan, the blog, some research on beer and demographics and markets, and felt blank: not a single idea of what new article to write, what part of the plan to tackle next. It has been a long (and fruitful!) week so far. So what does an aspiring brewer do when that happens? He opens a beer and drinks it, of course! To remind me of what I am committed to.

Just came back from my fridge, and brought myself a can of beer. Yes, a can. I nice silvery 16 ounce can, with simple yet attractive orange/blue/chocolate colored print, stating in bold letters: THE CRISP. Brewed by SixPoint Brewery from Brooklyn, it touts to be a great experience
Crisp Lager has nothing to hide behind - no makeup to cover up any flaws. Raw ingredients and their essence, full and unabated... uninhibited... CRISP
Now that sounds ambitious, and at the same time so refreshing! After the long surge away from tasteless lagers, we are finally coming back to this true form of art: a real lager. Seems the marketing/presentation is doing it's job, I am sold already, just by looking at the can, holding its larger then usual volume and the promise of longer satisfaction that implies. Good job there!

So here goes, opening the can... A fresh hoppy aroma makes me think of IPA, rather then lager, but it is so delicate and finely herbal that it is not putting me off. A first long sip draws me in, making me lean back and sigh in delight... A great beer, hoppier than the lagers I was thinking of, but perfectly balanced in style! Clean and crisp with a malty backbone, a slight bitter aftertaste, definitely a beer to keep around this summer!

Looking at the can again, I notice that they played with the bar code: one side has some of the lines extended, forming a city skyline, with a silhouette of Lady Liberty peeking between the towering spires. A Brooklyn beer, proud of their city! I like that!

And it proved to be very therapeutic as well, washing away the dust in my thinking, showing a great new beer, in a great new form. Right now, I have so many idea's jumping around my head, about what Saint William could do. Not cans, we like our beers with second fermentation, which means bottles to withstand the pressure better, so probably no lagers either, but I might just try to concoct a great recipe for a refreshing lager. No frills, no big flavors, just a clean and crisp and fresh lager. Perhaps in a can. (There, I settled that question that I have been asked a lot lately, about what I think about cans and craft beer: I think it is great when filled with a beer that fits in it, but it is not the right package for every beer).

There, not that I recharged my batteries, back to work. So much to do, so many ideas! Do yourself a favor, and when you come home from work tonight, feeling lost that it is only Thursday evening, and not yet weekend, pour yourself a great brew and drink in some liquid inspiration. As you lean back, enjoying the beer, you will be ready to take on that Friday, ready to start the weekend, ready to start July!


Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Status Update

Time for a status update! The last weeks have been full and busy, and life with 3 sons is slowly getting into a state of normalcy.

Part of the reason why I haven't written earlier, is because I have been working on the business plan. So I had to self educate myself about a thousand and one topics: local, state and federal regulation, business management, customer profiles and marketing, financial records and projections,... Very interesting (well, most of it), but not so glamorous. It is like digging the foundation. A lot of backbreaking work, with few results to show for.

As soon as I finish the business plan, I will be set to reach out to investors. Then a lot of presentations, and hopefully a quick result. And then, at the moment we reach our investment goals, the real fun begins! Pushing everything into motion. I am preparing folders for licensing applications on different levels, building requirements etc. so everything is ready to go as soon as all prerequisites have been completed.

Some fun details that came up while doing market research, was that the average American drinks about 22 gallons a year of alcoholic beverages (roughly 7 bottles of liquor, 12 bottles of wine, and 230 cans of beer).
Another interesting find is that the first brewery in America was built in Hoboken, NJ in 1642! Some more demographic tidbits: heavy Craft drinkers show two distinct profiles – under 35 years old and affluent representing 35% of core drinker volume and 55-64 years old, mid income, driving 17% of core drinker volume.

So that's what I've been up to, apart from ample tasting and exploring this wonderful world of beer. To the point of developing cenosillicaphobia. Another fun term I came across while researching.


Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Beer and Saint William and friends

We are still in our very early stages of building our brewery, but it is nice and encouraging to see we made it already to be mentioned in a few blogs in some great shout outs.

 The Pour Curator has a great blog, with a unique take on beer. His main angle is artwork connected with beer and breweries. the labels, the logos, marketing and posters,...
As he stated his mission:
As the craft beer boom has introduced us to myriad and delicious flavors, it has also spawned a great deal of art and design work. Craft breweries are more than just sources of intoxication; they are community hubs for all types of creativity. So this Pour Curator will try and look at craft beer's contributions to art, whether it's through label art, posters, tap handles, or something even stranger, preferably with a glass or goblet of deliciousness in hand.
You have no longer any excuse not to be able to be an art loving cultured person. The time to leave discussions of art to wine drinking snobs is over! Follow Greg in his writing and musings, and learn all about art, while never letting your glass by empty. Next time you're with your buddies, you'll know how to impress them.

Check out his article about our logo here: The Pour Curator.

Next is a great duo of brothers, Don and Jim Galligan, the Beer & Whiskey Brothers . Their motto says it all: "Keep in good spirits, and keep the good spirits in ya!"
We’re two brothers separated by 2,500 miles of America and united by a love of beer and whiskey.
Jim is the beer geek, with a true passion for big character beers and the brewers with the guts to make them.
Don is the whiskey guy, with a palate like fine food critic and a love for all things whiskey; the history, the distilling process, and the drinking. Especially the whiskey drinking!
Beer & Whiskey Brothers is our chance to celebrate the amazing variety of really special brews and batches that continue to emerge at a wonderfully rapid pace, and to talk about life as beer and whiskey lovers just trying to keep up with it all.
With a great sense of humor, they show a deep understanding of the high culture of drinking: they  know that at the core, drinking is social, a way to connect with people, both old friends and new friends alike. A wide range of topics is discussed, always with a fun and different take. A great place to stop by once in a while!

To see Don's article mentioning Saint William Brewery, click here: Beer & Whiskey Brothers.

One of the most amazing things I am learning on the way to our first batch of delicious brew, is the great camaraderie, the warm welcoming people everywhere in beerland. As a friend commented on the article on beer in the Ancient Middle East: "As I could see on the news today, they are urgently in need to learn to brew and drink it again..." If only we could share this great friendship and peace enhancing habit of sharing beer together all over the world... So, next time you pour yourself a cold brew, raise your glass in a toast and prayer, that all might convert, one pint at a time.


Thursday, June 2, 2011

Beer in the Ancient Middle East

Beer is probably the oldest alcoholic drink known to man, dating back at least 6000 years. The first definite proof of beer is through written records, such as Chinese writings 5000 years old that talk about Kui. The Babylonian king Hammurabi regulated tavern keepers on his famous Codex, his law for the people. Similarly, the Sumerians had Nin-kasi, a main goddess in their pantheon, from their early dynastic period on (2900-2350 B.C. ). As the daughter of the goddess of birth Nin-Ti and the head God En-ki, she was a very important deity! As the brewer of the gods, she was named “She who sates the desires”. Not surprisingly, beer was an important gift for the gods, through libations and as offerings to various temples. It is also known that the Egyptians possessed beer, and highly valued it. Ancient Egypt had their priorities straight: beer was part of the daily diet of everyone, including Pharaoh, and was thought of as the most proper gift to present to him. It also was a valuable thing to sacrifice to the gods in various rituals.
Interesting to note, is that both in Egypt and Mesopotamia, it was women who were brewers. (shoutout to all you women in beer world: there are great antecedents for what you're doing!)  Perhaps that has to do with the fact that brewing beer and making bread was so intimately linked. There is ample evidence that they existed side by side. A great Ushabti Egyptian model of a bakery/brewery (a small funerary statue or model given with the deceased to serve them in the afterlife) has been found in the tomb of Meketrê, prime minister to MentuhotepII (11th Dynasty, ruling somewhere between 2050 and 2000 B.C. It is currently exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and the text explaining this particular model states: “"The overseer with a baton sits inside the door. In the brewery two women grind flour, which another man works into dough. After a second man treads the dough into mash in a tall vat, it is put into tall crocks to ferment. After fermentation, it is poured off into round jugs with black clay stoppers." Every single person in Egyptian society was entitled a ration of beer, from Pharaoh down to the lowest slave working on the building projects. It was a great addition to their diet, and was used for various medicinal purposes as well.
Even in ancient Israel, beer was known and well liked, albeit quite unknown to us. There are several references in the bible to ‘Shekar’ (שכר), a word that some scholars translate as beer. A great verse in the book of Deuteronomy (chapter 14,verse 26) states: “Use the silver to buy whatever you like: cattle, sheep, wine or other fermented drink, or anything you wish. Then you and your household shall eat there in the presence of the LORD your God and rejoice. “ Not only was beer known, God wanted his people to drink it in His presence to celebrate! Michael M. Homan wrote an excellent article about this subject in ‘Biblical Archaeology Review’, about which Managing Editor Dorothy D. Resig wrote because of some mistranslation, mistreatment and misidentification on the part of Bible scholars and archaeologists, the important role of beer in Israelite daily life has been largely overlooked.” That brings me to how the ancients made beer.
They did not use hops (even in Europe the use of hops in beer did not become widespread until the late Middle Ages), but rather baked loaves of barley bread, that were then placed in a jar with water, where it would then start fermenting. The beer would not stay fresh for long, so had to be consumed rather quickly after brewing. Drinking occurred from vases or drinking vessels that either had some sort of filter/mesh build in to keep out large particles of what was left of the bread, or they would use straws to drink from (metal straws have been found, and are commonly depicted in murals and drawings).
One of the problems with this is that it is hard to find conclusive archaeological evidence of brewing, partly because it was so linked with and almost indistinguishable from baking bread, and partly because beer was consumed so quickly that there rarely is enough residue left in the ceramic jars (contrary to wine, which can be kept for years in the same jars). The process of using the grains to make a rough dough, wetting them, then baking them resembles the malting process, which then enables those grains to release the starches and sugars to the water (forming the mash), which in turn would start fermenting with wild yeasts. The ancients already observed that making beer in already used vessels would give better and more reliable results, and traveling brewers would bring their mashing jars with them.
With that in mind, it seems very plausible that people discovered that wet or soaked bread that was left for a while would turn into a pleasing drink, and the historical records show they discovered this very early! So when you next grab a beer, and sit back relaxed as you enjoy that beer, raise a toast to our earliest ancestors, who knew from the very beginning of civilization how important beer is to society and to personal enjoyment of life. Prosit!

For the fun of it: here is part of probably the oldest drinking song ever recorded, a Sumerian song written on a clay tablet about 2 to 3 millennia B.C.

In the troughs made with bur grass, there is sweet beer.
I will have the cup-bearers, the boys and the brewers stand by.
As I spin around the lake of beer, while feeling wonderful, feeling wonderful, while drinking beer, in a blissful mood, while drinking alcohol and feeling exhilarated, with joy in the heart and a contented liver — my heart is a heart filled with joy!
I clothe my contented liver in a garment fit for a queen!
The heart of Inana is happy once again; the heart of Inana is happy once again!
A …… to Ninkasi!