Washington Cask Fest

This last weekend my wife, a couple of friends, and I went to the Washington Cask Fest to pour beer up in Seattle.  We brought a bourbon barrel aged IPA, a Irish stout, and a coconut brown ale.  It seemed like all of the beers where well received and I got a lot of return customers, which is a good sign.  One thing I’ve learned is that if people don’t come back most likely your beer is bad, if there is a lot of beer and a lot of breweries and they still come back, which was the case this last weekend, you know you’re doing something right.  Funny thing was one of the most talked about beers was the Irish stout and I made that beer on my home-brew system using my own recipe, to say the least it was a confidence booster.  Sometimes I’m not sure if opening a brewery is a good idea but then something like last Saturday happens and I know that I can make beer that would be well received.

Visiting Seattle or pretty much any other place than here makes me realize how lame the Tri-Cities is , I mean in Seattle there is more to do in two blocks than there is to do in most of the Tri-Cities.  The people in Seattle are more my kind of people too, sure there are still crazies, but I can wear my utilikilt and actually fit in and not get stared at like I do here.  Did I mention the food, pretty much freeking awesome in Seattle.  For reference I have posted a picture of our breakfast on Sunday at Pikes Market.  If you have never had perogies from Peroski Peroski in Seattle you haven’t lived, oh man the rhubarb perogie was sooooo damn good, I want more.

Well needless to say I had a great time in Seattle, not sure I would want to live there as it’s maybe just a little too big, but if I had to choose it over here well….. you know.  Looking forward to heading down to western Oregon this coming weekend.

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The Irish in Me

Last weekend we had some of Katy’s friends from work over to have a early St. Patrick’s Day party (I’m getting too old to do it on a work night I guess).  So I made Irish soda bread and Irish stew, I also made two special beers for the occasion, one being a traditional dry Irish stout and the other being a English pale ale.  This party also gave me the opportunity to try out my new cask ale jockey box that I recently made, so far I am delighted with the results, now lets just hope it holds up for the Cask Fest in a couple of weeks.  St. Patrick’s day always makes me reflect back on our trip to Ireland, I keep thinking I need to get back one of these days.

Speaking of our trip to Ireland, one of the foods I remember eating the most of in Ireland was Italian of all things so today instead of making the not so traditional corned beef and cabbage I decided to make spaghetti sauce from scratch.  Added a little Italian sausage and I must say it turned out quite tasty.  Katy sent me a recipe for beer and molasses bread today so I thought I’d give that a whirl as well.  I like molasses so I upped the molasses addition a bit and lowered the white sugar to get a little more of that molasses taste.  Oh man is this a good bread and it is way easy to make, it sort of reminds me of Otis Cafe’s black molasses bread, not quite as good but close.  The thing I like is that this isn’t a yeast bread so there is no need for prior planning, and it uses beer which is something I’m always trying to use up since there’s a lot around.  I’ll be making this one again simplyrecipes.com is turning out to be one of my favorite recipe sites.

By the way sorry for the sparse posting it’s been hard to find motivation to blog lately, just isn’t much in the way of excitement right now.

The Entrepreneur Within Us

I often ask myself late at night when I can’t sleep why I decided to leave my well paying job with full benefits and payed vacations for a job that is hard physically, pays little, and has absolutely no benefits.  Sometimes I’m conflicted, life as a brewer is hard sometimes, people come up to me all the time and tell me how cool of a job I have, but they’ve never washed kegs for 6 hours.  I look at being a assistant brewer at Ice Harbor Brewing as a paid education.  Sure my wife got a full ride scholarship for grad school, hell they paid her to go to school, but I had to pay for school.  Am I using my college education as a geologist at the brewery? Well, yes and no, I think sometimes us young graduates get bogged down in thinking we have to have a career in our specific degree.  I think if you look around it’s a pretty high percentage of graduates that end up doing something completely different.  I have to laugh a bit now when I think about how much I used to complain about taking all of those required courses that had little or nothing to do with my major.  Those college advisers are smart really, they know that you need to be ready for anything, even being a brewer if that’s what you eventually end up doing.  I had an auto shop teacher in high school who once told me “If you love to pump gas, go to college for the experience, and when you get done go back to pumping gas because that’s what you love, but go to college for the experience and for the possibility to open you eyes to new ideas.”. What wise words those where, that very idea drives me now as I make my journey to the cut throat land of business.

I have started reading Sam Calagione’s book “Brewing Up A Business” which is a first account tale of Sam’s successes and mistakes on his way to making his brewery Dogfish Head a well respected business.  So far it gives me hope for my dream of opening a brewery in the future.  The overwhelming theme of the book is that if you are passionate enough about something and have the willingness to do the hard work anything is possible.  Personally I know I could run a brewery successful, anymore the only thing that really scares me is getting capital to get this thing off the ground.  It scares me when my boss says “you need a million dollars” I’m not sure I can really get that much put together, especially with banks being very tight with money.  I know I’m going to have to do a lot of the work myself, tap into friends and family, and probably use a lot of used stuff but I think I could get something going for under $500k (still seems like an impossible amount of money to acquire).  Ask my wife, I have ideas, lots of them, and even she is starting to warm up to the idea of owning a brewery, it seems like it has to be a reality now.  i see people open businesses all the time, and if they can do it well you know I’m sure I can do it too.  Note to self, start business plan soon….

Doing the brewing thing

Things have been kind of slow after the holidays, I’m not sure if people are doing the New Years resolution thing or if the general public is just poor from the holidays.  I actually got to brew today which naturally being a brewer is always a good thing.  It was stout today, just 10bbl total, we never seem to go through much stout.  I don’t know if that’s a common theme at every brewery or just ours, my feeling is that dark beers probably never sell that well anywhere.  A lot of the beer drinking public are intimidated by dark beers, which makes absolutely no sense since we are a coffee drinking culture.  Sure our stout is a little too big and a little too in your face for most, I’d probably tone it down a bit if it was me but then again that’s something to do for my future brewery some day.  I guess the real argument is whether or not trying to brew an easier drinking stout would really sell all that much more, I think it’s the color not the taste that gets people.

In other news I’ve really been interested in session beers as of late, pretty much anything 4.5 abv and less I consider a session beer.  I’m a responsible drinker and I feel like there has to be a place for smaller beers that have a lot of flavor but can be enjoyed without the ill effects of higher alcohol beers.  I really think the craft beer movement is about being social, spending a couple of hours with friends at their local brewery and having a few, I believe session beers make this possible.  Word is 2010 is the year of the session beer.

Lastly I’m sad to hear about the devastation in Haiti and while I pretty much feel helpless I encourage everyone to make a donation to a charity that is helping over there, one of my favorites is Northwest Medical Teams.

Psycobabble

Today was one of those days….I guess sometimes i just get really frustrated at how the brewery doesn’t seem to be going the direction I would like it to go.  It’s all been talked about and plans have been made to expand but nothing seems to happen.

I was kind of in a funk today so I decided to listen to Alan Parson’s albums “Eye in the Sky”, “Turn of a Friendly Card”, and “Tales of Mystery and Imagination” all on vinyl.  Been a long time since I have busted out the vinyl but I’m always glad when I do, there is just something that you don’t get from the old ipod.  Listening to Eric Clapton’s “Behind the Sun” album right now on vinyl. Damn the music stations up here suck ass, when I move I’ll be happy if I never hear another song from Bon Jovi, White Snake, or Def Leopard.  Please someone give me 106.3 KLOO FM from the valley.

Anyway another thing that usually makes me happy is cooking. Tonight I decided to make Meatloaf and baking powder biscuits.  My mom used to make baking powder biscuits and I always remember them being awesome.  Busted out the old Betty Crocker book and made some, damn they are tasty especially with butter and home-made strawberry jam.  Guess I know what I’m having for breakfast.