08 Mar 2010 @ 9:30 PM 

What I needed, more than anything, was another project to work on.

My brain has delivered unto me another idea.

Back in February, a buddy and I went up to Winston-Salem for the Foothills Sexual Chocolate Release Party. There, we ran into the gents from Hop Cast. Nice guys. I mention them as gents, however, because of their participation in The Fellowship of Gentlemenly Gentlemen. It is a group of people who get together on a general basis with a plan for tasting beer, cigars, and liquors in a social setting. As it’s been described to me, it sounds like a good time, and in our brief conversation we said – maybe we should start something up. After all, “Southern Gentlemen” has quite a ring to it.

Then my brain started working on it, which is never healthy.

Sometimes, when I’m working on something but not moving on it, the idea kind of ferments in my head: starts off as one thing, I add beer, it kind of works around in there, I add more beer, and then three weeks later it emerges from its alcohol-soaked chrysalis as some sort of… insect, I guess.

Here’s what came out:

I want a tasting group.

Stuff that’s somewhat similar to my idea already exists in my local area. There’s TriBeer, but it seems to be about just showing up and socializing where there is beer. While that’s cool, it’s not what I’m looking for. There’s the classes put on by our local homebrew mecca American Brewmaster. They focus on styles, how to taste them, and how to make them. They’ve got one coming up on Belgian Ales. It’s definitely a good resource, but I’m not really looking for another homebrew event or how-to-brew information necessarily. And that tasting panel is really wide. “All Belgian beers”? Holy moly. That’s quite a target.

I want something like this:

A group of people show up at a bar. They know ahead of time that there’s a theme. Tonight, we’ll be drinking porters. Someone (who was prepped ahead of time) gets up and talks a little bit about the history of the style, what people generally expect when they drink porters, maybe a rundown of the BJCP style and the BA style. Then, you drink a porter. You talk about what you just had. What flavors did you taste? What components of what you just talked about did you notice in this porter? Then, you drink a different porter. How did it compare the previous porter? How as it different? How was it alike? How do either of these beers relate to the style overall? Then, you drink a third porter. Same questions. Talk, educate, taste, learn.

Basically, I guess what I want is a book club, but for beer. I want it to be educational, and I want it to be for people who are not necessarily beer geeks. I want to help people explore their palates, and learn new things. I want them to be able to talk about it and not be afraid of sounding stupid. I want people to learn what they like and what they don’t like. I want people to grow and help craft beer grow at the same time.

So I’m putting one together.

I’m putting the wheels in motion next Monday. I’m planning on doing it at Tyler’s Taproom in Durham. The first week will most likely focus on IPA, mainly because – after perusing their menu – that’s what they have three of. Until I can get permission to actually bring beer in somewhere and create a more customizable flight, that’ll be the easiest thing. I hope to be able to put a handful of people together and I hope to god that there will be somebody there that I don’t know. Bonus points if they also don’t know beer (or IPA) and are there to learn.

I don’t know. The whole thing could be a bust. It might just be me hanging out with friends drinking IPAs on a Monday night. That doesn’t sound so terribly bad, though. But I’d really like it to be the start of something great.

Next comes the huge question: What do you call it?

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Posted By: erik
Last Edit: 09 Mar 2010 @ 11 44 AM

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 29 Jan 2010 @ 9:39 AM 

If you’re in North Carolina, especially the Central part, you should consider putting the evening of February 20th aside and heading over to Chapel Hill.

Why? To drink my beer, of course.

It’s part two of the “World Home Brew Fest“. Nah, I don’t know why it’s worldly, either, but I know that it’s as local as local beer gets. Last time there were roughly 15 homebrewers showing off their beers and this time there promises to be more. I’ll be pouring two beers – one on behalf of the burgeoning Chapel Hill/Carrboro Homebrew Club … which may be called Orange County Homebrewers or something like that now. I’m not sure – regardless! We made a Dry Irish Stout at my house with little incident, and I’ll be pouring that. In addition, I’ll be pouring an Abbey-style Dubbel which is currently being aged with oak, bourbon, and vanilla. That should taste like cookies, and you should come drink it.

So come on down! February 20. Drink my beer and the beer of many talented homebrewers, make a little donation to MS to make the event planners happy, come have a blast, and say hi.

Get your (free) tickets online.

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Posted By: erik
Last Edit: 29 Jan 2010 @ 09 39 AM

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 01 Jan 2010 @ 12:13 PM 

This post was originally going to be for this month’s Session, #35: “New Beer’s Resolutions, but I canned it. It’s a cute topic, but I can’t do it. I don’t believe in looking back at mistakes. To learn from your mistakes is paramount, to dwell on them is folly. They are done and I won’t revisit them, but rather stay positive with their lessons in mind and move forward to greater achievement.
The future!
At the same time, I feel like resolutions are bunk. The number one way to not get something done is to make it a New Year’s Resolution. If you want something to get done, you need to roll out of bed in the morning and do it. Screw tying it to the calendar. Just get up and go.

I also won’t attempt to make any predictions about what could happen in 2010. The problem with predictions is that they are based on the past; they’re based on our current knowledge set and our current environment. We cannot forsee individual random events or, even more importantly, what will be invented that will change the world in the next 12 months. It’s impossible and fruitless to speculate. You can only be ready for anything and enjoy the ever-living-crap out of it.

But! The dawn of a new year is an opportunity to look forward to all of the wonderful things to come that you DO know about. Here’s my personal list of things to come in 2010:

Homebrew and Competition

After withdrawing myself from homebrew competitions for a while, I plan to get my feet wet again to see what comes out of it. I’ve had some rather snarky judges in the past that have made me feel rather jaded about entering competitions, but in the spirit of “I’m going to start a business.” I’ve decided to say screw-all to the critics, throw my hat back into the ring, and wait for the Gold Medal to arrive in the mail. If the rest of my big bold headings work out as I expect them to, this will also be the last year I enter into homebrew competitions.

Here’s where my beer is going:

  • 2010 Winter Brew Bash, Carrboro NC: Start local, right? These guys are working hard to have what appears to be a really incredibly non-traditional homebrew competition. What I like about it is that it is built around a homebrew tasting, so that brewers and the public alike can come in and try all of the beers that are entered into competition. It’s a lovely PR event for homebrew and has the possibility of getting a lot of new people involved in the hobby. At the same time, I love sharing my beer with other people and it’s a good opportunity for that, as well. Finally, as far as I can tell, it’s not tied to category, and thank god for that, because I don’t fit inside categories well.
  • LoneRider Brewery‘s Brew It Forward: Another style-less competition, where the prize involves getting your beer made and sold. I’m not sure when this is coming up – spring sometime – but they’re so close to my house that it seems ridiculous to not send them some beer.
  • National Homebrew Competition: My opportunity to play to style and send something out, and maybe – just maybe – I’ll get a feedback sheet from a judge that doesn’t make me want to punch them in the throat.

2010 Craft Brewers Conference Panel Presentation: I’m a Social Media Guru Now!
One of the things that I am both looking forward to and slightly terrified of is the 2010 Craft Brewers Conference where I will be part of a panel presentation entitled Storytelling 2.0: Social Media as Conversation with some colleagues that I feel rather starstruck about. Fullsteam’s Sean Wilson (one of my co-panelists) posted a nice up front review of what we’re attempting to do. Here’s the selected excerpt from our draft pitch that sells it best:

It’s time to stop thinking of Twitter, Facebook, and blogging as simple extensions of your press releases. Storytelling 2.0 will help you discover your own unique voice, and connect, build, and bond with your fan base. It’s time to talk with — not at — your audience.

Craft brewing is story-driven. Each individual brewery has a unique story to best engage its customer base. Social media empowers your brewery to include enthusiasts in that story, giving them access to your narrative voice in an unparalleled way. Well-crafted updates, photo postings, and personalized responses engage your customers, giving them a chance to see inside your operations and meet the characters in the story first-hand.

By the by, I hope nobody ever calls me a social media guru. I don’t use it enough (I’m sure my wife would argue that I use it way too much) – on purpose – because I feel like it’s easy to spam and therefore achieve negative impact through annoyance, but I think that automatically takes me out of “guru” running.

As we work on the conference panel over the next few months, you’ll probably see a few columns here about social media and how it pertains to breweries. These columns will not be meant as part of the presentation or may not even be related, but it’s the best way I have to work through things. At the same time, I hope that my ramblings will be useful to the internet/brewing community at large.

Know Your Brewer Re-Launches

We haven’t said a whole lot about this yet, but I am working with Sean over at Fullsteam on a little project that I think will turn out for awesome. Know Your Brewer, a website that was originally focused on North Carolina Beer as part of Pop the Cap 2.0. The site provided the basic template and early content for the North Carolina Brewers Guild website NCBeer.org, which I’m also helping on, but that left a domain and a concept unoccupied. I’ve somehow managed to convince Sean to let me help retro-fit Know Your Brewer for a new life.

The re-launch is coming and it’s coming nationwide. I’m not yet sure of our official re-launch date, I can say that I think it will be pretty terrific. The site will focus on the men and women behind craft beer – the people that make it, the brewers – and look at their beer and their breweries through their eyes. We’re hoping to have writers and bloggers across the country interviewing brewers from across the country, with lots of added content – recipes, Q&A, etc, all in a regular weekly format.

I’ve already done interviews at a couple of breweries and I have a half-dozen more scheduled in the next few weeks. It’s been a ton of fun talking to brewers about their work, how they got into it, and what they enjoy the most about it. It’s been a ball and I can’t wait to share it.

What you see there isn’t the final design, but it’s on its way. Look for an official announcement here (and, of course, on Know Your Brewer) soon. In the meantime, we’re recruiting writers – are you interested? Let me know!

Announcing the Location of Mystery Brewing Company

Finally, in either the second or third quarter this year, I will be making the announcement on the geographical location of my own startup: Mystery Brewing Company.

At that point, the blog will likely go through a slight transition where you end up hearing a lot more commentary about startup issues. On of my major criticisms with startup brewery content I have found, read, and yes, even paid thousands of dollars for, is the lack of practical detail. I get a lot of “you need to fill out TTB forms and apply for licensing.” And while it’s true, it’s not necessarily as helpful as telling me what forms are around, what information they tend to expect, and what pitfalls I should look out for. Not to say I’ll be posting how to fill out your TTB label forms here, but I will, whenever possible, post practical information about the startup process specifically pertaining to startup breweries in the hopes that others coming after me will find something useful. I believe that the future of the industry lays in continuing spread of the individual small brewery, rather than the continual creation of more megabreweries, and I hope that I can help the industry in the right direction.

Back when I was in high school, as a miserable teenager, I remember somebody taking me aside and telling me: “Remember these days, because these are the best days of your life.” And then I remember thinking, “Oh god – kill me now.” They were wrong. Totally and completely and in all ways possible: wrong. They were not even remotely the best days of my life. Every year that I’ve been alive, things have just been better and better, more fun and more awesome, and I can’t imagine that changing now. I’m looking forward to 2010, for all of these reasons up here and the hundreds of reasons that I haven’t found out about, yet.

Happy New Year, everyone. It’ll be a great one.

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 02 Oct 2009 @ 10:06 AM 

Today is the eve of a beer festival double-header. I’m sure everyone is just about tired by now of hearing me rail on about tomorrow’s World Beer Festival/Backyard Beer Festival marathon. I have a plan for tomorrow (and not just for a day-long tweetcast), and I thought it would be worth sharing.
Yep, it's a Beer Festival
I have a plan for myself, and my group of friends, to make it through the whole day on our feet. A lot of beer festival veterans will should know this information, but judging by the amount of vomit I’ve seen at beer fests, the ranks are many who need to follow this advice.

Beer Festival Survival Guide

Regardless of the fact that the beer festival session that you are attending is only (only!?) 4 hours long, a beer festival is an all-day event that must be planned accordingly. You may think that 2-ounces at a time over 4 hours isn’t very much beer, but you’re wrong. Very, very wrong. In fact, because samples are so small (and rarely only 2 ounces) it is much easier to over-imbibe very quickly and turn a wonderful experience into an uncomfortable one.

Start preparing the night before

Hydrate. Yeah, yeah. It’s a party weekend, you wanna hang out and have a good time – it’s gonna be a great weekend! Beer festival! Par-tay!

Sure! Agreed. Live it up. But live it up in moderation. If you start the day hungover, it’s going to go downhill from there. WAY downhill. Have a few beers, have a good time, and have lots of water. Over hydrate today, because tomorrow you’re going to under-hydrate.

Eat well beforehand

Afternoon session? Eat a big breakfast. And some lunch. Evening session? Eat a big breakfast. And some lunch. And a decent dinner. Just eat well.

Why? Because you’re going to be drinking a LOT. You don’t want to be drinking on an empty stomach. It will end poorly. And don’t just trust that you’re going to get food there. You might! But chances are you’re going to be well into sampling before you get around to eating and by then, it’s already too late.

Wear comfortable shoes

You’re going to be on your feet for a long time. Most beer festivals don’t have any place sit down and take a load off. Yet, I still see women in high heels at beer festivals. Blows my mind. Make sure you’re going to be comfortable, it will make a difference on your whole day.

Drink water through the entire festival

Most beer festivals have water stations around. They’re not just for rinsing out your glass. Drink a few ounces now and then. If you drink 2 ounces of water every 15 minutes you’ll drink half of the water you should be consuming for the day, anyway. It’s not a lot of water, and it will keep you fresh and ready for more beer.

There’s also the added benefit of cleansing your palate. I try to drink a little bit of water every time I have a particularly heavy or hoppy beer so I can keep my palate ready for more delicate flavors later.

Don’t be afraid to dump your beer

This is huge.

If you don’t like a beer, dump it, don’t chug it.

If you’re not finishing a beer, dump it, don’t just walk around with it.

There are dump buckets everywhere for a reason. If you dump, you will drink more beer that your enjoy, and you will be a hell of a lot less likely to be over-intoxicated.

Bring something to write with/on

Most festivals will have some sort of program available for your reference, make sure your bring a pen or something to write on it with. You might find a beer that you really like that you want to remember for later. You might find a guy or gal that you really like that you want to remember for later. You might just want to remember where you parked your car. No matter what, take notes. Believe it or not, this will enhance your enjoyment of the festival.

As I’ve mentioned (ad nauseum), this weekend in lieu or written notes, I’ll be tweetcasting my World Beer Festival/Backyard Beer Festival experiences. Join me! We can all share beer notes together!

TASTE your beer

This is the most important thing.

It’s not a drinking contest. They’re not going to run out, there will be plenty of time to get lots of samples.

The whole purpose behind this event is to taste your beer. So taste it. Talk it over with your friends. Write it down. What flavors did you get out of that one? Bananas? Plums? Chocolate? Pine trees? You can get all of those things and so many more flavors. The more you talk about it, the more you will develop a vocabulary for your beer, and the more you will enjoy it.

For the love of god, take the time to enjoy it.

Plan some time within or after the festival to sober up

If you didn’t bring a Designated Driver, you are a total asshat if you leave a beer festival and go straight to your car and drive away. In fact, if you do this you are so much of an asshat you should be banned from going to future beer festivals.

Go get a pizza somewhere, or have one person stop drinking an hour or so before the end of the festival, or call a taxi, or something.

Beer Fest Veterans!

Did I miss anything? Any quick and handy tips about keeping your glassware handy and/or clean? Share the knowledge!

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Posted By: erik
Last Edit: 02 Oct 2009 @ 10 06 AM

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What a great weekend to be a beer drinker in North Carolina. We get a double-whammy of the World Beer Festival and, in the interval between sessions, Fullsteam’s Backyard Beer Festival just a block away.

In one small (and very chic) city, we have the opportunity to get some of the best craft beer and some of the best homebrew around.

Holy awesome.

My plan in all of this goes like this: Myself (and a group of wonderful friends) will be attending the afternoon (12-4) session of the World Beer Festival, then we will be trucking over to Fullsteam where I’ll be pouring some of my homebrew at the Backyard Beer Festival.

If you’re around at either event, stop me and say hi. I’ll be wearing my bestest Top Fermented T-Shirt.

If you’re not around either event, I’m trying something a little new. Using the magical power of Posterous and my Android I will be recording short audio and video notes as I go and posting them (along with photos) live from both events. All of that stuff will dump onto Twitter automatically, as the day goes and I’ll wrap it all up with highlights here on the blog.

So join me online and off for a great weekend of beer, and witness, firsthand, my descent into rambling drunkenness. It should, at the very least, be entertaining and who knows? There might even be a nugget or two of good beer information in there.

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Posted By: erik
Last Edit: 29 Sep 2009 @ 01 03 PM

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