Contemplating Changes

“Change is inevitable, except from vending machines” – a joke I read on the Internet before vending machines had credit card swipers

I’ll start with what’s really bugging me: I hate this WordPress layout. It’s probably one of the better ones for the content I have and the information I like to have displayed but it just looks so amateurish (which, I am, but I’m trying not to look it, you know?). I started searching through replacements and anything else that worked just seemed so sterile. That started a long chain of thoughts about Anti-Hero Brewing.

I was reading an article on personal branding (yeah, I know) and it brought up a few salient points that I hadn’t thought about when I started this blog. One thing I had thought of: if I ever want to “go pro,” Revolution Brewing would probably sue the tits off of me. Anti-Hero is a name (and, generally speaking, a concept) that I really like, but beyond that… it’s kind of all over the place. Mostly because I’m all over the place. I lack focus. And a lack of focus means I don’t have a truly unique voice, and without a unique voice you’re really just making noise.

But that’s something that I can adjust. I know what I like. I like making beer, I like drinking beer, and I like writing about beer. With a little time and effort I can craft that into a focus/purpose for my writing, and contribute a little more than fiery word vomit to the already over-flowing toilet of the Internet.

Essentially – from a blogging perspective – I’ve having an existential crisis. I want to start over, but I don’t want to lose what few friends and readers (branding term: “audience”) I’ve made through this blog. A “re-branding” is one thing that I’m considering for the short-term: new logos and links, cleaner layout, more substantive posts, etc. So be on the look-out for an updated look and feel to this site.

I’m going to try to continue to post more often, and also go into a little more depth about what I’m doing with my brews, and how I’m trying to progress as a brewer. I’ll also try to do less whining about the endless list of beer-related news items that piss me off, but some ranting is surely inevitable.

Stay tuned.

Great Beer Writers

It seems like every time I have a “controversial” stance on beer I’m standing opposite of Andy Crouch. For what it’s worth, Crouch is a far better and a far more respected writer than I ever hope to be. And he uses a lot less fucking curse words (and I respect him a great deal). That said, his latest Beer Advocate column found its way across my Facebook feed and I can’t help but take issue with it.

Crouch’s article deals with the issue of beer dating, and not the kind I do with an empty can and a bottle of lube. Crouch goes after breweries for administering a “Best By” date to their products. His argument boils down to the fact that there is no uniform measure – by style or brewery – for when a beer falls out of sync with its intended flavor profile. This is an inarguable fact. However, the solution that Crouch seems to propose (in lieu of any actually proposition) is a bottled on (or brewed on) date. The problem with this is that it suffers from the very same problems that a “best by” date suffers from:

  • There is no uniformity for style
  • There is no uniformity for brewery
  • Any date stamped on the bottle is essentially meaningless for the two preceding reasons

The concept beyond the “best by” date is that it provides the consumer with a time-frame within which the brewer feels their product is at its peak. There are innumerable variables for which the brewer cannot control, most of which deal with shipping conditions. A “best by” date, through the very nature of the beer industry is – at best – a best guess. Crouch, in his article, lambasts the “best by” date as an:

amorphous, arbitrary tactic that only a manufacturer could love. Masquerading as an effort to help consumers, such dating of beer results in the illusion of honesty, leaving drinkers with no actual tangible information on which to base purchasing decisions.

Okay. Not wrong. But I defy Mr. Crouch – or anyone else – to offer an adequate solution. Crouch states, “As a customer, I want to know when my beer was bottled (or better yet, brewed), not the outer limits of when a lab technician thinks it will still taste like beer.” And that’s a fair point, but what REALLY does that date tell you? Does it provide you with any more tangible information than the nebulous “best by” date?

In practically, no it doesn’t. It can tell you the date a beer was brewed on, but that serves no greater purpose than drinking a “best by” beer further away from its “best by” date. In essence, both dates suffer from the same meaninglessness. There is no standard against which to judge this beer, making any measure of its “freshness” thereby irrelevant.

This is my problem with “great beer writers.” Too often they crusade for the “rights” of the consumer while losing track of the numerous variables that exist between grain and glass. Mind you, nothing in Crouch’s piece is wrong – per se – but it is wrongheaded in that it puts the onus on the brewer to force intelligence upon the consumer. Please name another food product – or any product – on the market where the onus is put upon the manufacturer to educate the consumer to the downsides, flaws, or shelf-life of the product within any reasonable timeframe. None exist. Your closest parallel is in dairy products, but those date are just as meaningless; a by-product of government regulation. What – exactly – are breweries putting over on consumers by not placing dates on their products? Remember, breweries have little to no input on how/where their products are distributed and even less influence on how/where/when/and for how much their products are sold to end consumers (Thanks, three-tier system!).

So please, continue to ignore the hypocrisy of drinking a gallon of milk a few days past it’s “Best By” date while turning up your noses at a “hop-faded” IPA. Rest easy knowing all the “great beer writers” support your decision.

Welcome to 2016

Okay, so it’s February. Little late for a “new year” post, but I’ve been pretending to be busy. So I’m writing this now while waiting for Lucha Underground to be uploaded to torrent sites (stupid Comcast not giving me the El Rey Network).

So what’s been happening at Anti-Hero Brewing, you (didn’t) ask? Actually, a lot of shit.

  • You’ll be seeing a lot more of my beer-related musings this year, because I was offered the Honest Pint column over at the Dig. I’m really excited about this, as I’ve been hammering out details with the editor, but hopefully we’ll see my first column this month. If all works out – and I get the “okay” – I’ll be linking my posts from this blog.

 

  • I was reinstated (re-elected without an opponent) as the Metro South Homebrew League’s (a.k.a. the Mash Holes) Vice President (a.k.a. President of Vice) for 2016. This is an exciting year for our club, as it is our second full year as a group. We’ve been asked to partner with an upcoming local brewery; one of members is an assistant brewer at another local brewery; and we continue to grow in size and influence in the local community. We’ve got a lot of big plans for the year and I’m excited to be helping with that.

 

  • In addition to all that, I’ve actually been brewing, too. I’ve got 2 brew days and 16 gallons under my belt so far for this year. 10 of those gallons are for an imperial stout, Carcosa, which will be entered in the Mash Holes’ Stout Competition next month. I’m planning for this to be the first beer I age on something other than hops. I’m hoping the beer itself, combined with the additions I’m planning, will make for a flavorful (hopefully award-winning beer). I’m splitting this batch so that 5 gallons is read for the competition and 5 can age longer. I also brewed 6 gallons of a new amber ale recipe. There’s a local homebrew competition taking place in a few months for red-hued, hop-forward beers. The winner will see their beer produced on a commercial scale, which is fucking awesome. This is my first shot at this brew, and I’m hoping to brew it at least once more so that I can make sure I have it down in time for the competition.

 

  • I’m also making a concerted effort to understand all the various maths and sciences of my brewing system. I’ve never had great luck with getting my calculations right, and if I want to be able to reproduce my beers with consistency this is the next big step for me.

 

That’s about all I’ve got for now. I’ll update you guys and gals on how the stout and amber ale turn out, along with the recipes, when they’re finished.

Until then.

 

Ugh I Hate You People

So this fucking post still keeps getting traffic, probably because people don’t know how to use Google properly and end up here, assuming I give a shit about their opinion (or anyone’s opinion). In the past couple weeks, there have been spikes in traffic to my “Sam Adams v. Hipsters” post and despite the fact that it is close to a year old, people keep commenting on the damn thing. I’ve pretty much stopped reading the comments, but I’m hungover today and my eyes worked faster than my brain, so I skimmed the most recent blurb of word vomit.

Are you people familiar with commas? How about periods? Jesus Homebrewing Christ. But this is less about your collective poor grammar and lack of better things to do with your clearly ample free time, and more about the whiny entitlement of Craft Beer People.

“I don’t like what this brewery is doing.”

“This brewery is a sell out.”

“This brewery is just chasing the latest trends.”

Shut the fuck up, holy shit. This – apparently – will come as a surprise to you, but if someone writes an article about IPAs, and everyone discussing the article is talking about IPAs, no one gives a shit that you prefer pilsners. You do NOT have to be involved in every single Internet discussion. I know you clearly try to be, especially if you’re reading some dipshit’s homebrewing blog, but take a break (from this site, forever). I’ll avoid going into a diatribe about the past two generations and their entitlement issues, and just say this: your opinion doesn’t matter. We live in a nigh-infinite universe and the thoughts in your head aren’t worth the atoms that created them. Life is a meaningless span of inconsequential time in which your thoughts, being, and accomplishments will amount to fuck-all. Welcome to the suck.

So maybe think about that before slamming your pudgy fists against the keyboard for a 270 word sentence, devoid on grammar, on a post from January. Maybe just have a beer instead.

And maybe don’t tell me about it.

What Does Your Favorite Beer Style Say About You?

You can learn a lot about someone from the type of beer they drink (is the way that most of these articles start). So what does your favorite beer style say about you?

IPAs and Double IPAs

You like IPAs. And maybe Double IPAs. Possibly even the occasional Session IPA.

Pale Ales

You like pale ales.

Stouts or Porters

You like stouts. Or maybe porters. Or maybe both!

Sour Beers

You like sour beers. Or you’re trying to stay up with the trends, but since I don’t know you I’ll assume you just like sour beers.

Hefeweizens

You like hefeweizens. You might also like fruit in your beer, but you might not. You should eat it anyway though, because you’re probably not getting enough Vitamin C.

Some other type of beer not listed here.

Look, man, I don’t care what you drink. In fact, I don’t even judge you for what you drink (unless it’s Heineken, because fuck that shit). And really this post has no reason to exist, much like it’s several billion click-baity predecessors. Instead of reading crap like this, maybe – I don’t know – go have a brown ale, or a bock, or an Oktoberfest, or an amber ale, or shit even…

Macro-Brewed Light Lager

You don’t give a fuck, and I respect that.

Pumpkin Brew Day and Shut Up About Seasonal Creep

If you know one thing about me, it’s probably that my blog posts are absolutely riddled with typos. But if you know two things about me, the second is probably that I’m an unabashed fan of pumpkin beers. And though I was largely underwhelmed by last year’s commercial offerings, I have always enjoyed brewing my own pumpkin beers. Last year was the first time I brewed two pumpkin beers (my signature pumpkin ale, Symphony of Decay, and a new recipe, Pumpkin Pie Porter), and this year figures to be the first year that I brew three – count ’em – THREE pumpkin beers. The new addition will likely be a pumpkin saison, both thanks to the success of the saison I made over the winter and the shocking deliciousness of Troegs’ Master of Pumpkins.

This afternoon, I knocked one of those brew days out by making Symphony of Decay. It was unbearably hot just south of Boston today, with highs in the 90’s and a humidity rating of “Satan’s sweaty taint.” Nevertheless, we here at Anti-Hero Brewing persevered, totally missed our numbers, and managed a sunburn along the way. Basically, an unqualified success like all brew days that don’t end in fatal injuries.

Though the combination of brewing a pumpkin ale in the oppressive heat, and reading some posts on the Book O’ Faces got me thinking about the commercial pumpkin beers that are on their way/already here. Yes, now is the time for pumpkin beers to start appearing and for members of Craft Beer Movement to start bemoaning seasonal creep. To these people I have one very simple thing to say:

Shut. The. Fuck. Up.

This comes not from a defensive position as someone who enjoys pumpkin beers – I won’t even start purchasing or drinking them until the end of this month at the earliest – or even a place of anger at those snobs that turn up their nose at pumpkin beer as if it is somehow inferior to more haughty styles. No, my cursing and demands for silence comes from a place of utter frustration at the hive-mind and idiocy of those loud-mouth pumpkin-pundits who think that 1. they have any real ability to affect change and 2. that things you be changed because they want to be. This, ladies and gentlemen, is what the textbooks would refer to as “entitlement.”

I have to make the assumption that any brewery with a working knowledge of arithmetic and access to a spreadsheet can crank out the rudimentary analysis to determine how to make the most bank from their brews. Pumpkin beers – like IPAs – are an undoubtedly popular “style” and frankly no one gives a shit if you’re “over them.” The reason for seasonal creep is a basic Capitalist calculation: a brewery will make more money putting out pumpkin beers in August, because people – despite what keyboard warriors may write – will fucking buy them in August. Not only that, but they will buy them in higher quantities than whatever summer varietal or other beer they are (nebulously) “sacrificing” to put it out. The same goes for draft lines. If a beer doesn’t think it will make money on a pumpkin beer in August, it’ll sit on the keg. At least any smart bar manager would.

So what’s the problem? The “problem” is that people like summer. Not summer beers, mind you, but summer itself. They don’t even actually like summer itself so much as the concept of summer. People bitch about the heat constantly (I did it twice already in this one post), even in places like Boston (hi!) where the snow just finished melting last month. People don’t like seeing the bright orange bottles on beer shelves because it signals to them that summer is ending. As if this hasn’t happen every previous year of their existence, and as if the summer’s actual length is affected by the arrival of Jack O’Lantern-themed bottles. The appearance of pumpkin beer – essentially – gives them a sad.

Shut the fuck up, you whiny entitled gnat.

I, as a logical human being with functional brain cells, don’t think that people’s livelihoods should be beholden to the whims of my mood based on packaging I see at the packie. You don’t like pumpkin beer? Tough shit. I don’t like Donald Trump, but complaining about him isn’t going to make him go away or make him act like any less of sentient human feces in a ginger toupee. So, basically, grow up. Or if you really have a candle up your ass about this, continue to vote with your dollar. Just stop polluting my breathing space with your noxious and obnoxious hot air.

Women Hate Beer; Sexism in Craft Beer

Last time I went off ranting and raving, I actually (and accidentally) got noticed for it. So in the interest in learning from my mistakes I want to state up front that:

  1. I am a white, heterosexual, cis-gender male
  2. I was not in attendance at the Craft Brewers’ Conference (CBC) in Portand, OR
  3. I am really, really tired of having this discussion, bros

I follow a lot of beer nerds, geeks, dweebs, and various other beer-related non-norms on the Twitter. One of them, Carla Jean Lauter aka The Beer Babe*, tweeted this into my feed on Friday Night:

The hullabullow, which you can read a balanced take on here, involves craft breweries holding their events for CBC at strip clubs in the Portland area. On its face, this is obvious sexism at its most tone-deaf and basic. But… There’s a bit of nuance when you realize, holy shit Portland has a ton of strip clubs. Here in Puritan-founded Massachusetts, our favorite strip club is located in Rhode Island, so I’ll be forgiving and say that there is an aspect of cultural difference that may account for these events. And naturally Portlandians pride themselves on their craft beer almost as much as their fixies and ironic facial hair, so I don’t doubt that Portland’s strip clubs boast a more impressive beer selection than that BYOB joint we took Tim for his bachelor party.

There’s your argument that “this is not a big deal.”

Counter-argument: this is an industry business conference, not my shithead friend’s bachelor party in seedy-as-fuck Atlantic City. Look, I have no intention on getting on a high – or even medium-sized – horse about strip clubs and what they say about us as a society. I am much a feminist as Craig Grebeck was a professional baseball player (i.e. sure, I guess so, if you use the simplest, most basic, and loosest definition, then fine), so I don’t intended to make this about a larger societal issue.** But the Craft Beer Industry doesn’t exactly have a great track record with women. From off-color beer names and labels, to a general boys’ club culture and mentality, to the fact that just about every woman in the industry I’ve talked or read has stories like these… it’s just not a good look for Craft Beer Bros.

But no matter where you stand on the socio-political spectrum, even the most staunch “beer as art” pundits recognize that beer is also business. And if you don’t make the green, you don’t make the beer. So in an industry that has a clear, and public, perception issue with the way it does (or doesn’t) make itself more inclusive to women… why host your events in a venue where they get naked for money?

Hey, I like boobs as much as the next guy. And – as an Internet blogger – I hope to see some in person one day, but even I hear about these events and think “Well, that’s a pretty damn stupid business decision.” Do I think it was malicously-intended? Probably not, but you have to question whether or not you’d want to invest in a company – as an investor or a consumer – that is that ignorantly tone deaf. And it probably made a good number of the conference attendees (male and female) uncomfortable (good being described as “above 0” because this is – again – a FUCKING BUSINESS CONVENTION). Lack of malicious intent is not a money-making business model, and paints the breweries, the Brewers Association, the conference, and their supporters in a bad light (probably a shade of red, with some strobe effects, and Warrant’s “Cherry Pie” playing in the background).

Beer is for people. It doesn’t care what bits you have between your legs. It doesn’t care what color your skin is. It doesn’t care what language you speak or where your parents came from. Beer’s pretty fucking understanding that way (unless you’ve got Celiac’s. Then sorry. Beer’s not perfect). So I simply beseech everyone who makes beer their business, hobby, or passion… stop fucking it up for the rest of us with your bullshit. As Big Vin said to me once: “Vinny, life’s hard enough. Don’t make it harder by being a moron.”

 

* With all due respect to Carla, a moratorium forever on calling yourself “The _____ Babe.” There is one Babe, his name was Ruth, and I say that as a Red Sox fan. So please stop, or I’m going to start referring to myself as The Homebrew Stud, and no one wants that.
** I actually looked up Craig Grebeck’s career numbers and either I’m more of a feminist than I thought, or I owe Craig an apology.