33 Books Co. Blog
Three Ways to Make Cider at Home, Part 2: Apartment Therapy Edition October 16 2019, 0 Comments
I'm lucky enough to live in a hobby farm-type situation just outside Portland, though that hasn't always been the case. Now, I have space for both my own apple trees and a small cider press.
But if you want to make cider from apples – and you absolutely should – and you live in an apartment ... I have an option for you, and you won't have to spend all your rent money on it, either.
Why Make Cider from Apples?
In my previous post, I outlined an extremely simple way to make cider at home that began with buying fresh juice from a local orchard or even a well-stocked grocery store. What that method saved in time and equipment, it lacked a little in both creativity and control. When you buy cider already pressed, you're usually missing some critical information:
- What kind of apples are in it? There are literally hundreds of varieties of apples available, but already-pressed cider tends to come from eating apples - the kinds you'd see at a supermarket under fluorescent lights. It's generally made from whichever of the orchard's apple varieties that didn't quite make the "pretty enough to eat" cut - totally fine if you're going to heat it up with cinnamon sticks and bourbon, but for making fine cider, you might want a little more creative control, selecting apples with a good balance of tannins, acids and sugars.
- When were the apples pressed? Believe it or not, some "fresh cider" might have been frozen and unfrozen from last year's harvest. If you've ever wondered how you're finding 'fresh' cider in May, here's your answer!
- What is its sugar content/acidity/etc.? These things can all be measured once the jug is opened, of course, but I like to know what I'm buying. If you press your own, you can literally bite an apple to get a sense of what kind of juice you'll get. The grocery stores I shop at tend to frown on opening a gallon of cider for "sampling purposes" before paying for it!
"So, How Do you Press Apples at Home, Dave?"
Obviously, you could buy (or make) a press. Most people don't have space for bulky equipment that is used just once or twice a year (like that rowing machine, amirite?). Many homebrew stores have presses and grinders that you can rent, but you should call at least a couple of weeks in advance to reserve time. During harvest season, presses can be in high demand.
But I have another method I think you'll like, both for convenience and cost.
The juice craze of the early twenty-teens has resulted in a lot of juice machines finding their way to secondhand stores. My local Goodwill had three on the shelf when I looked last week, all under $20. These make perfectly good juice for the home kitchen, and don't take up a ton of space.
I'm using Mountain Rose apples from my local supermarket which have a distinct rose-colored flesh. Their juice is also rose-colored, unlike what you'll find in the plastic jugs at most supermarkets, and at least one cidery nearby has made award-winning, single-varietal cider with its juice.
Simply quarter the apples, flip on the juicer, and shove them in. It's definitely a slower process than a big press, but I was able to make a gallon of beautiful-looking juice in just under 30 minutes.
Measuring Twice is Nice
Once you have enough juice in the pitcher, fill a hydrometer with some sample juice. Hydrometers are a way to measure the sugar content of juice, which will tell you a bit about its potential alcohol content. They're available at any local homebrew store for under $20. (Pro tip: buy a cheap one if you are clumsy, because you will break it. I think I am on my fifth one!) I had to let mine settle for a few minutes as the juicer had aerated the juice quite a bit, making it difficult to float the hydrometer initially.
This juice came in at around 1.050 in the "specific gravity" (aka "SG") measurement system. There are other scales (Brix is common among winemakers), but either will work just fine. The inside front cover of 33 Cider Pressings includes conversion tables between Brix and SG, as well as a table to calculate potential alcohol based on your pre-fermentation and post-fermentation readings. Not to spoil the ending, but your final gravity, or "FG," is likely to be 1.000 or even a little less. Yeast really, really like the simple sugars of apple juice, and will eat all of it if you let them.
But before we pitch yeast, let's take one more measurement. We're going to measure pH, which is another system for measuring our cider, this one describing how acidic the juice is to start. You can buy an electronic tool for this, but I find I use the inexpensive pH test strips from the homebrew store just as frequently, and they never run out of batteries. This juice weighed in at 3.5, which is a little on the acidic side, but totally acceptable.
I won't get into the science, but this is useful data to have should:
- something start to go off in fermentation like a transformation into vinegar (pH will drop as acetobacter convert alcohol to acetic acid), or
- you decide you want to correct the cider to make it more or less acidic to taste by adding acid of some sort later in the process. I am a low chemical intervention-type person philosophically, but you can read up on citric and malic acid additions if this idea is interesting to you.
I'm making a single-varietal cider here, but if you are making a blend, you could achieve a target pH by selecting a good balance of both low and high-acidity apples.
Dump, (Pitch) and Stir ...
The rest of the process is very similar to the beginner cidermaking instructions I posted previously, but in this case, you'll perhaps want to supply your own fermenter, which is a fancy name for some kind of container you can both seal and sterilize.
You could absolutely use the plastic milk jug as before, or you could upgrade things and purchase a 1-gallon carboy from that aforementioned homebrew store. As long as you don't drop it, you can get years and years of good use out of it, and it's very easy to clean and accessorize. Mine is accessorized with a rubber stopper and airlock (from the homebrew store) which would also fit a larger 5-gallon size.
If you sourced your apples from a store, you'll want to pitch a commercial yeast. Dried packets work great here as before, but I'd go with a wine yeast, which tends to let the flavor of the apples show through more than a beer yeast does. You've gone to all this trouble, why cover it up with yeast-derived flavors? We're not cavemen here!
If you sourced your apples from a friend's orchard, or foraged them from a tree someplace ... you could go for natural fermentation. This is a much riskier proposition - not necessarily from a health standpoint - but from an effort wasted standpoint.
I have always had good luck with natural fermentation, which uses the yeast already on the apples' skin to promote fermentation. However, it is a gamble, and it is possible that the yeast on your apples is either too funky or too weak to ferment the juice before other microorganisms get to it, increasing your chances of a gallon of vinegar, or more likely, a foul-tasting and/or -smelling drain pour. 99.99999% it wouldn't kill you, but as lawyers like to say ... it's on you, bub. Take your own chances.
Next up - Part 3 of making cider at home, from apples ... so, so, so many apples!
Three Ways to Make Cider at Home, Part 1: Dump and Stir September 12 2019, 0 Comments
I love everything about cider. The drink, of course, but also the making of it. There's nothing quite like a cool fall day and crushing and pressing apples outdoors with friends and family. I'm lucky enough to live in the middle of apple country, but even if you don't, it's easy to make your own cider at home with some simple equipment and materials.
Over the next week or two, I'm going to share three ways you can make cider at home, starting with the method I lovingly refer to as "Dump and Stir." It's a great place to start your cider-making adventures.
"Dump and Stir" Cider
1. Buy yourself two gallon jugs of juice. If you're almost anywhere in America, there's an apple orchard nearby (thanks, Johnny Appleseed), and most commercial orchards sell freshly-pressed apple juice to-go in gallon containers this time of year. If you can't locate one, many supermarkets sell fresh juice in the fall, usually near the orange juice. Look for organic juice with a recent press date. If bought at a store, it will almost certainly be pasteurized, which means there won't be any living yeast or bacteria in the juice. Un-pasteurized cider is far less common, but if you go to an orchard and explain your intentions, they may find you some in the back if you ask nicely and quietly, and it will result in a slightly more interesting cider.
2. Find a homebrew store, and take along this very tidy shopping list.
- A packet of yeast. Use dried wine yeast if you have great, fresh apple juice, beer yeast if you don't. Look for dried yeast, which is cheaper than "fresh" yeast.
- An 18" length of plastic tubing.
- Optional: sanitizing solution. You can use a homemade bleach solution at home instead, but there are many ready-to-use options available for purchase if you want to keep it simple.
3. Empty one full jug and about two cups of the other juice into a crock pot or large pot on the stove at home. Add a cinnamon stick and/or several whole cloves and set to warm. Enjoy with friends, dose of bourbon, blended Scotch or rum optional. Save the empty container for step 6.
4. Drill a small hole in the top of the cap which very closely matches the outside dimension of your tubing. Insert tubing slightly so it just reaches the bottom of the cap. This is your "airlock."
5. Dump the yeast into the remaining jug of juice according to the instructions on the packet. Stir to incorporate the yeast and aerate the juice.
6. Screw your airlock onto the juice jug tightly. If your tubing is a loose fit, use hot glue or candle wax to make as airtight a seal as possible where the tubing enters the lid. Place the other end of the tubing into a glass of water on a tray, and move the entire setup to a cool, dark place. Closets are good. As the yeast eat the sugars in your juice, they will "burp" carbon dioxide gas and convert the sugar to alcohol. The tray will catch any splashing caused by the yeast burps!
7. Gently pour the cider into the clean, empty jug from step 3 once the bubbling slows wayyyy down (a burp every 20-30 seconds). Leave the layer of dead yeast in the first jug. You should sanitize the jug and hole-less cap with a bleach solution (find a recipe on the Google) or sanitizing solution you bought at the homebrew store. Cap the cider tightly.
8. Enjoy! If you want a lightly carbonated cider, put the completely sealed jug back in the closet for a week before moving to the refrigerator. The yeast will consume the small amount of sugar still remaining and carbonate the cider. Keep the cider in fridge and consume within a week or two using your Cider Mug! Easy!
You Say It's Your Birthday ... June 03 2019, 1 CommentI recently did a very special batch of tasting journals for the 33rd birthday party of my awesome Instagram friend, Dr. Dance. She put together an amazing birthday party themed around tasting, and gave guests books to use during the event.
"Read the Back of the Book." April 22 2019, 0 Comments
Good advice for all books, but on this Earth Day, if you'll indulge me, I'd like to walk you through the back of my beer journal for a moment. It'll all make sense in time, I promise.
Starting from the top, the blank area. Here, I often write little notes to myself, sometimes recommendations for new tasting experiences from people I meet. This particular book went with me to Baltimore last year, and includes some professional drinkers' recommendations* for breweries and bars to to visit (recommend: Max's Taphouse).
Moving down, you'll see a handwritten-looking note from me indicating which beer I put in the ink for this batch of books. In this case, it's a hazy IPA from Olympia's Matchless Brewing. Yes, I put beer in the ink (and cider, and coffee, and tea, etc., etc.).
And last but not least, just before the copyright notice, one last little note from me telling you about the earth-friendly materials and processes used in making my books. Told you we'd get back on track!
TLDR: 100% recycled paper throughout, made in America, mostly in the Northwest, with soy inks in Portland.
These choices aren't accidental, nor are they born of patriotism or local pride. Although I am generally guilty of both, I have a desire to make a low-impact product.
Recycled means trees stay trees longer, and when they are eventually made into paper, they are used thoroughly and responsibly. Making books close to home results in a lower carbon footprint. And soy inks because the last thing we need is another oil well.
So on this April 22, here's me wishing you a very Happy Earth Day from sunny Portland, Oregon. Thanks for reading.
* Related, similarly good advice, "Ask a bartender/barista/server where she likes to drink." But I digress.
A Graphic Designer Walks Into a Hop Field April 16 2019, 0 Comments
What does a graphic designer know about making varietal hop concentrate? After all, I'm no chemist, brewer,* farmer** or any kind of food scientist.
What I am is really, really stubborn, and really, really passionate about hops! And apparently, that's what it takes! Through trial and error,*** I've figured something out.
I am beyond excited that people I respect think so, too! Jamie Bogner of Craft Beer & Brewing Magazine made Bert's Beer Baster™ one of his Editors' picks in the February/March 2019 issue of this delightful magazine. Full review below in case you can't read the tiny print in this tiny staged photo.
"When Dave Selden of 33 Books hit us up with the pitch, we were skeptical—what’s the point of hops concentrate like this? He shot back with a few use cases—understanding what each individual hops variety tastes like by adding to a “neutral” beer, the “Midwest wedding” case where you’re stuck drinking beer you don’t want to drink and can add some interesting flavor to it, and (of course) the homebrewer case—adding hops flavor without all the vegetal matter that absorbs and robs you of precious homebrew or clogs your siphon. Curious, we tried the concentrates ourselves (for science, of course) and found that in practice, they’re every bit as useful as he advertises for beer drinkers looking to understand unique hops flavors or homebrewers looking to use similar advanced hops products for their beers that the pros use. The concentrates are intense, but the “bang for the buck” factor is high, and in practice they’re perfect for everyone from beer enthusiasts looking to articulate the flavor of individual hops to homebrewers who want to add that hops character without all the muss and fuss."
Craft Beer & Brewing Magazine
You really get me, Jamie. Thank you for the kind words.
If you'd like to give Bert's a shot yourself, there's a four-pack sampler available for $38, or you can try individual varieties for $10 each. I just added a new one, Saaz, which is in super short supply but super, super awesome. I hope you dig it.
* I am a homebrewer.
** I do care for 30-something cider apple trees. So, more of an orchardist, really.
*** Soooo many errors. My first batches were charitably described by some as "extremely bitter hop-flavored milk." Yuck.
****Yes, he writes a newsletter about hops. Yes, you should subscribe.
The Water of Life April 13 2019, 0 CommentsToday, we are in the midst of a whisky boom, and new distilleries are being opened all over Scotland. They're hard to find stateside, as most remain small and are still in a growth mode, but they're there, and if you're even half the geek I am, you're probably looking to try them, too ...
Three Irish Whiskeys that Aren't Jameson March 14 2019, 2 Comments
Nothing against Jameson - it's great - but Ireland makes other whiskeys, too, and in the interests of exploration and fairness, you owe it to yourself - and the Irish people - to try a few others. Here's what I've got on my Irish Whiskey shelf at the moment.
Redbreast 12-Year, Cask Strength
Okay, so Redbreast isn't actually Jameson, but it is made in the same facility (Irish Distillers in County Cork). The two differ in ways that are illustrative of some key concepts in Irish Whiskey.
- Distillation process: Redbreast is a single pot still Irish whiskey, while Jameson is a blend of of both pot-distilled malt whiskey and column-distilled grain whiskey. Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey is a legal designation in Ireland which requires the whiskey in question be made of at least 30% malted barley and 30% un-malted barley and made in a traditional pot still, while some of the whiskey blend in Jameson is made in newer, more efficient column stills.
- Mash Bill: Redbreast is 100% made from barley, although the mix of malted vs. un-malted is unknown. Single malt Scotch whisky is made of 100% malted barley, but the Irish for a variety of reasons use a portion of un-malted whiskey in their recipes, which gives these spirits a full, creamy mouthfeel. Jameson uses other grains (corn, wheat, etc) as part of their recipe, in addition to the use of both malted and un-malted barley. This mix of grain and malt is what defines Jameson as a blended Irish whiskey.
- Age: Redbreast makes a variety of expressions, but the one I have is the 12-year old. They make a 15- and a 21-year-old, both of which are highly rated. Jameson's Original doesn't have an age listed on its label, but it's generally thought to be a blend of whiskeys that spent at least 4 years in a barrel.
- Alcohol: Standard Redbreast 12 is 40% alcohol by volume (abv); the bottle on my shelf is 57.7% abv, considerably stronger and undiluted, aka "cask strength." Before bottling, many mainstream whiskeys (Jameson, for example) are diluted with water to a standard alcoholic content of 40% abv. Whiskey nerds such as myself prefer to dilute whiskey to taste with a few drops of water just before serving.
I've had this particular bottle open for awhile ... probably because it's not my favorite. It's rich and sweet and full of interesting flavors of golden grapes and raisins and toffee, but the alcoholic flavor is overwhelming, even when diluted with water. I prefer the standard Redbreast 12 year for this reason. It just feels a little bit more rounded and harmonious.
Teeling Small Batch Irish Whiskey
This whiskey is a product of the first distillery to open in Dublin in more than 50 years, opened in 2015 by the namesake Teeling family, whose ancestor opened the first incarnation way back in 1782. The original closed sometime in the early 20th century. The Teeling family have a more recent history with Irish whiskey, having opened the Cooley distillery (makers of Tyrconnell, see below) in 1989. They sold that brand in 2011 to Beam (now Beam Suntory), but were allowed to keep 16,000 casks of whiskey from the Cooley warehouse. It's not known how much of that is in today's Teeling Whiskey, but it doesn't take a rocket surgeon to guess at least some of that Cooley whiskey is being incorporated into today's Teeling - not too many new distilleries are able to supply the global market within 4 years of opening their doors!
Teeling's flagship whiskey, the Small Batch, has a unique flavor derived from spending the last six months before bottling in Central American rum casks. It's got some unique banana flavors that nicely complement the traditional vanilla/sweet notes from the former bourbon casks it spent the first few years of its life in.
It's also a blended whiskey, composed of approximately three parts grain whiskey to one part malt whiskey. For me, it's a really unique and very drinkable blended whiskey, perfect for sipping, even in warm weather.
Tyrconnell Single Malt
According to the Tyrconnell web site, “Before Prohibition, The Tyrconnell was claimed to be the best selling Irish whiskey.” Kind of a weird way of making a non-claim claim but this is a personal favorite whiskey of mine. It's unique in the Irish whiskey world for being distilled only twice (vs. the traditional triple-distillation process). Theoretically, this leaves more flavor in the spirit, which certainly holds true in this whiskey. It's aged in ex-bourbon barrels, and bottled at a somewhat diluted 43% abv, but punches way above its weight class in terms of flavor. Really cool and interesting tropical fruit flavors from dried mango to ripe cantaloupe. As a single malt, it's also made from 100% malted whiskey (vs. Redbreast's mix of malted and un-malted, and Teeling's combination of malt and grain), more like the Scotch whiskies I drink most often. Definitely worth picking up a bottle of this one.
Getting into Whiskey?
The best way to improve your palate is by taking notes. My pocket whiskey journal has helped tens of thousands of people get more out of their whiskey tasting experiences. Give it a try!
Happy New Year! A look ahead ... January 07 2019, 1 Comment
Happy New Year!
After a week or so of decompressing from all those trips to the post office, it's fun to get the creative part of my brain working again and start thinking about some new projects!. Here's the current list of what I'm hoping to launch in 2019:
- 33 Tequilas: March-ish
- Super secret tasting map project: May-ish
- 33 Gins: July-ish
- Oyster Tasting Set (Fall sometime)
- Something 10th Anniversary related ... (November-ish)
I might squeeze one or two more things in along the way, too ... and if that release schedule seems a little lighter than in previous years, you're not wrong! But I'm not slacking, I promise! I'm working on something a little bigger than I normally do ...
My family moved just outside of Portland in 2016, to a little area along the Historic Columbia River Highway called Springdale. The property came with a small apple orchard, which I've been bringing back to health, and added a few new trees in 2017 (16 or so!). You've probably seen more than a few photos of that process in my Instagram feed over the last 18 months or so! But ... it also has enough space for a small studio for me!
Assuming all the legal dominos fall the right way, this is something I've always dreamed of: a new studio building, purpose-built to house 33 Books Co.! Aboce is a little rendering this amateur 'architect' put together. Financing is secured, now we're just putting together our land use application for the county we live in. Fingers crossed!
The 3:33 Sales November 20 2018, 0 CommentsI am running one awesome sale for each of the 33 days of holiday shopping this year, starting Friday, November 23, 2018 (aka Black Friday). Each sale lasts just 33 min...
The 33 Books Co. Holiday Roadshow! November 05 2018, 0 Comments
Well, the pumpkins are slowly rotting, which can only mean one thing ... it's time for holiday gift shows! I'll be selling my tools for considered consumption at a few events in and around Portland (and one special appearance in Seattle). I'd love to see you there.
Saturday, November 17, 10-6 PM
Bell Harbor Conference Center
2211 Alaskan Way, Pier 66, Seattle, WA
This specialty food event is open to the general public, as well as to restaurants, chefs, and other professionals in the industry. And, how can you beat free admission (with advance tickets)? I'll be there with my tasting notebooks and super-giftable tasting sets along with lots of other food makers, including one of my favorite hot sauce companies, Hot Winter.
WoodWorker Holiday Market
Saturday, December 1, 11-6 PM
2235 SE 11th Ave, Portland, OR
This is my third appearance at Baerlic Brewing's WoodWorker Holiday Market and it won't be the last. A mellow event that's well-curated, and ... there's beer! The event is a celebration of all things wood, from furniture to housewares; syrups to aged cheeses; jewelry to pizza; coffee to beer. I'll have a variety of my beer- and wood-inspired goods on hand.
Portland Made Creator Market
Thursday, December 6, 12-4 PM
WeWork @ Pioneer Place Mall
700 SW 5th Ave, Portland, OR
Don't buy gifts at the mall, unless you're shopping at Portland Made's pop-up market, hosted in WeWork's Pioneer Place Mall location in downtown Portland. More than 12 Portland makers will be there (including yours truly) with a wide range of goods and gifts. Come down for lunch and get some shopping done!
Friday, December 7, 5 - 9 PM (ticketed)
Saturday, Dec 8 + Sunday, Dec 9 from 11 AM - 6 PM (Free, no ticket required)
Oregon Convention Center, Hall D
777 NE Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd, Portland, OR
This is the big one! Imagine a 60,000 sq. ft. hall at the Oregon Convention Center. Now imagine more than 250 of the best and brightest handmade vendors from the Northwest. Now imagine a company that makes unique tools for tasting beer, wine and lots of other good things, back there in aisle 9, booth number 183. Looks pretty cool, right? You have a great imagination.
You should do a book for ... August 15 2018, 5 Comments
It's an occupational hazard. Like an off-duty doctor being constantly asked to examine oddly-colored skin lesions, there is a point at every social event I attend where people start to play a game I call "33 Somethings."
After meeting someone new and quickly explaining what I do - no easy task in itself - you can see the ideas beginning to form.
"Do you have a <person's favorite beverage> one?"
Increasingly, I do have that book, as my tiny publishing empire continues to expand.
"R(h)um?" Mais oui!
"Mezcal?" ¡Si, señorita!
"Mustard?" Uh, no. Are you serious?
"Caesar Salads?" Wow, you must really like caesar salads.
"What about ... you know ... 33 Chicks?" I'm sorry, I think I need to plug the meter ... Nice? to meet you?
In all seriousness, I think I'm really fortunate to have such a flexible platform from which to publish and love the smiles these conversations inevitably create.
For now, my focus remains on fine food and drinks, but who knows where this crazy boat is going? As Mr. Willy Wonka put it, "... the rowers keep on rowing, and they’re certainly not showing, any signs that they are slowing…"
Getting Better All the Time ... January 28 2018, 2 Comments
When people ask me if I'm an expert in all the food/drink items I have books for, I often joke that "I'm more of a blue belt. I know more than your average person about all of them, but that's also enough to know I don't know everything."
Thankfully, I know people that do know everything, and that's an awesome opportunity for me to learn and improve, two things that are very important to a one-man operation. Sometimes that growth even leads to refinements of my books.
As an example, shortly after launching my 33 Meads book, I got some further feedback on its flavor wheel. Katie Heyn, formerly of the much-missed Mead Market here in Portland, had a few ideas for me after judging the 2016 Mazer Cup, which is basically the Oscars for mead.
She felt the flavor wheel was missing something to cover more full-bodied meads like buckwheat or fall honey meads, which tend to have a fuller, nuttier flavor.
In my own sampling, I realized I wasn't encountering tropical fruit flavors in mead as often I thought. And with more aged meads, pyments (grape mead) and melomels (fruit mead) available, the "fruity" section of the wheel was missing some low notes, the darker fruit flavors reminiscent of plums, red cherries and figs.
And because I'm the decider, I made a new edition, which you can see for yourself, above. It's available today! The new version is on the left, and the first edition on the right.
I make these kinds of subtle improvements to books from time to time, which you may have noticed ... or not! I'm working on some small changes to my coffee, chocolate and tea books that will come out soonish. Best to follow @33BooksCo on Instagram and Facebook and see when new editions debut.
Holiday Shipping Season December 14 2017, 1 Comment
Ho, ho, ho! The elves and I are up to our knees in envelopes but thought we'd surface for a moment to provide some holiday shipping info for this, the season where postal trucks multiply like rabbits!
As usual, almost all orders are shipped within 1-3 business days, usually on the quicker end of that spectrum, sometimes even the same day! Everything is mailed (by hand, with love, Monday through Friday) from my studio in Northeast Portland, Oregon.
2017 Holiday Shipping
USA orders should be placed by December 18th for Christmas delivery if you choose the standard shipping option. You can order as late as to the 19th if you choose Priority Mail. As always, I will make every effort to get your package shipped as quickly as possible. If you have a holiday emergency, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll see if there's anything I can do!
International orders probably should have been placed by November 28th, especially if you are shipping to Central/South America, Germany Africa or Asia. I can't guarantee the arrival of international orders as the process is mostly outside my control, but this is the season for miracles, and I will do everything I can to get your order shipped out quickly!
Homebrew Like It's Your Job June 21 2017, 0 Comments
I've been a homebrewer since 2005 or so. I began, as most people do, with a lesson from another homebrewer, the HR manager where I worked. We brewed a beer on the loading dock, and three weeks later, I was officially hooked. "Brewing beer is easy!"
From there, I advanced bit-by-bit, gathering knowledge and recipes from books and the corners of the internet. I brewed like I cooked, starting with an idea, finding a recipe, and then ignoring most of its details as I created something which was usually - but not always - pretty drinkable.
At right, an old photo of my friend Thom and I brewing riverside on the Metolius River near Bend, Oregon. We drew our brew water from the mouth of the river about 100 yards from its source. I'm the one in the Red Sox hat.
While I had fun, there were two problems with this approach:
- I was never able to brew the same beer twice. The reason? I didn't take good notes, and those I did were often scribbled in the margins of loose sheets of paper. I made frequent ingredient substitutions, usually failing to write them down! If I took notes during the brew day, I'd often fail to record subsequent milestones, such as the final gravity, or how long it fermented, when I racked it, etc.
- Brew days took forever, particularly as I moved into all-grain brewing. With good intentions, I'd assure my friends and family that "it should only take a few hours," and the projected finish line would move farther and farther away. Usually, I'd end up alone, in the dark, washing something, long after my helpers had lost interest. I missed a lot of dinners.
When I got the idea for my new homebrew book, I knew I could fix the first issue with good graphic design, which is where my professional strengths lie.
The second issue was solved when I asked my friends at Gigantic Brewing in Portland if I could observe a professional brew day. In all my years of beer, I'd never watched a pro brewer at work, start to finish, despite having toured breweries in at least 20 states.
The difference between home brewers and pro brewers? Pro brewers leave at the end of the day, and they pretty much know they'll be home for supper. They plan their brew day before they fire the kettle, usually to the minute. I took that idea, and modified it slightly for homebrewing. It's a segment of the page I call "Brew Milestones," and it just might save your marriage/friendships.
The idea is that you put your time milestones in before you start. If you know you're going to fire the kettle at 1:15, write that in the first box. From there, your recipe should tell you how long to mash, sparge and boil. This way, you can work towards a plan, and you'll know what's coming next.
Here's an example brew.
Like my other books, this journal contains space for 33 brews, which should last you a good long time. Unlike my other books, it's a bit larger at 5 x7 inches. Still compact enough to put it in your pocket, and it'll keep all your recipes together in one convenient place. Happy brewing!
Fun fact: this business started as a direct result of homebrewing. In 2006 or so, I was working in marketing at a technology company, and got curious about a blog software platform called Wordpress. To kick the tires, I set up a fake blog for my homebrewing collective, affectionately known as BS Brewing. I started writing about our beer and brewing adventures. With its memory-erasing side effects, beer can be difficult to remember the next day, so I made a little tool to help me take quick tasting notes, a project which became 33 Beers, my first tasting notebook.
My Books, Your Logo March 30 2017, 0 Comments
I get asked about co-branded “33” books almost every day, which I take as a huge compliment. I'm delighted when people want to align their brand with my pocket tasting notebooks! Historically, doing so has required high minimums and cost.
I was delighted to discover a new solution recently — an awesome, American-made machine sold by Ernest Schaefer Inc. that lets me add custom, foil-stamped imprints to my in-stock tasting notebooks!
This machine allows me to create logo'd books with quick turnarounds (about a week from order to shipment), very low minimums (24 books!) and you can mix-and-match titles in your order to hit my normal price breaks.
Logo imprinted books make great retail items in tasting rooms, or use them at special tastings or events (wedding favors?).
To order, simply complete my inquiry form and let me know the number and flavor of books you'd like to imprint. I'll eventually need your high-resolution, one-color logo or artwork. I prefer Adobe Illustrator (.ai) if you have it. We'll collaborate from there!
A 7.09 Year Reunion February 07 2017, 0 Comments
It was super fun to run into Chris at last weekend's Artisinful Chocolate and Beer Festival at Culmination Brewing. As he walked past, he waved his book at me as he passed by my table.*
Seeing the faded ink from across the room (I am a designer with very sensitive eyes, you know), I said, "Wow, that looks like an old one!"
To which Chris replied, "I've had it a long time.**" When he got closer, I asked to examine the book, and when he flipped it, I saw a familiar logo, marking his book as either a first or second edition. Those printings were the only ones which used the BS Brewing*** logo. After that, everything said "33 Books," as that little book slowly became a little business.
Fun memory - and great to meet a longtime fan! Thanks for sharing, Chris!
* Actually, my electric delivery trike.
** If you're wondering why he hasn't filled it up yet, Chris told me he reserves it for "very special" beers only. He brought it to the fest in case he encountered something really magical, but has set the bar so high he doesn't always record a beer at every fest!
*** I started 33 Books Co. in November of 2009, as a side-gig to my side-gig: blogging part-time at BSBrewing.com. I was still gainfully employed as Creative Director at a small interactive (websites, apps, etc) ad agency in Portland. Little did I know what kind of an adventure that little book would lead me on!
Holiday Shipping Deadlines (and Buttons!) November 28 2016, 2 Comments
I've been busy all year stocking stuff to stuff your stockings. Wait, that doesn't sound right ... What I mean to say is that I'm all geared up and ready to help you fulfill your holiday gift-giving dreams with a stockroom full of great gifts for those with great taste.
From now until I run out, I'll be including a 1-inch round "I have Great Taste" button with every order, my little gift to you.
Speaking of gifts ...
When Should I Order to Receive Stuff for Christmas Morning?
Standard Shipping:order by Noon on Friday, December 16th
- Priority Shipping: order by Noon on Tuesday, December 20th
I'm in Portland, Oregon, so all times are Pacific Standard. Allow an extra two business days for APO/FPO addresses, and US Territories (I'm looking at you, Guam!)
I can't guarantee anything once it leaves Portland. Customs processing in the US or in your country can be totally hit-or-miss. Generally, things take 7-10 business days to arrive once they ship, but again, no guarantees. I do promise to ship your items within 1 business day of your order to improve your chances of gift-giving greatness!
- Standard Shipping: order by Noon on Friday, December 9th
A Vending Machine for Those with Great Taste November 14 2016, 3 Comments
When I was looking to move 33 Books Co. out of my garage this spring, I looked at a lot of prospective spaces. I knew I wanted something larger than my garage, with ground-floor access, and ... somewhere that I could sell my books directly to consumers: brick-and-mortar. A store. The final frontier.
I had big ideas. Classes! New products! Booze! A cash register!
And then I remembered an important detail: I don't particularly want to work retail! Set hours, schedules, the public ... no offense, but I like peace and quiet, time to design and print and make, where I can play loud music and listen to podcasts while I work.
Thankfully, I had this realization before signing that lease, and am now located inside a working cidery (Cider Riot!) where I am happily shipping books and maps and coins all over the world, alone and happy.
But, as fate would have it, my friends at said cidery opened a public taproom this summer, which re-opened the possibility of selling directly to you, gentle reader.
Rather than open a "book window" or standing awkwardly in the corner with a cash box and a box of books, I decided to use the power of techmology, in the form of a circa-1998 vending machine (a restored AP-111, if you're curious).
I am pleased to introduce to you the 33 Books Co. Automated Bookshop and Larder.
It's stocked with 20 books of my own design, Drinking Coins on demand, and a small selection of my favorite goods from Olympia Provisions, Woodblock Chocolate, Daneson, Smith Tea and Portland Bee Balm should you require logbooks or sustenance while enjoying some of Portland's finest English-style dry cider.
It's open - like the taproom - Wednesday through Sunday. For current hours, check out the Cider Riot! web site.
Come see it (don't forget the folding money*):
33 Books Co. Automated Bookshop and Larder
(inside Cider Riot!)
807 NE Couch St.
Portland, OR 97232
* The machine takes $1 and $5 bills, plus coins.
It's a Small World, After All September 28 2016, 0 Comments
I just returned from the Canadian Coffee and Tea Show in Toronto. Beyond being a great excuse to visit a new city, it was a reminder how simultaneously small and large our world really is.
Next to my booth: a Canadian born in Mexico City who imports coffee from Africa and the Americas. Later, a friend from Africa stopped by to chat about the coming U.S. election.
And me, a boy from Iowa — in Canada for the second time ever — drinking it all in, literally and figuratively.
It was the perfect place to debut my new coffee tasting map.
With it, and the help of your local roaster, you can take a journey of your own around the world of coffee, trying (and logging) samples from the 40 countries growing the world’s best Arabica beans.
It's the product of a lot of design experimentation, and an awful lot of research. I hope you enjoy your own journey. I know I did.
It's a Tough Job, But Somebody Has to Do It! September 19 2016, 0 Comments
I just got back this morning from a quick (23 hours!) trip down to San Francisco, one of my favorite cities on the planet. It's got a killer food and drink culture, and I always try to visit a few new places (recommended: Cellar Maker Brewing) and stay in touch with some of my favorites (Zeitgeist: much more fun with a group).
I was there judging the Confections category for the Good Food Awards. I have judged before, but this was a new one for me (and pretty delicious, too).
With beer, wine, cider, and probably every other beverage, there are general style guidelines (e.g. "IPA" or "Chardonnay") you can reference when evaluating a particular sample. The Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP, for short) publishes very well-defined guidelines for hundreds of beer styles (Foreign Export Stout, India Pale Ale, Barleywine, etc.). When judging beer, you can compare the sample beer to this ideal, and note any deviations, which usually count as penalties. This removes most of the subjectivity from judging.
But it also reduces the impact of how pleasurable a particular product is (in the BJCP judging system, only 10 of 50 possible points are reserved for "overall impression").
I found it refreshing, then, when I got to the Good Food Awards tasting, and was told only to evaluate each confection on its sensory merits. How did it look? How did it taste? Did it meet your expectations for flavor as it was described?
I had a great time focusing on the flavors I was experiencing, and not worrying too much about what it was "supposed" to taste/look like. There were some surprises in there - who knew I could actually enjoy a marshmallow - and a whole lot of sugar, too.
Not a bad day at the office.
"Are There Really 33 Kinds of Oyster?" May 28 2015, 0 Comments
When Julie Qiu of the In a Half Shell oyster blog approached me about collaborating on an oyster journal, I wasn't sure. I like oysters quite a bit personally, but are there really enough out there for a whole book? "Definitely," was her answer, and after spending time working with her on this new member of the "33" family, and sampling several dozen oysters, I'm delighted to say I agree with her!
America is home to five distinct species of oysters, and every bay or inlet where they are grown provides another layer of differentiation. Oyster aficionados call this sense of place "merroir," after the French word "terroir," and we can borrow one more wine word while we're at it: appellation, or "place name." There are hundreds, perhaps thousands of US oyster appellations, and 33 Oysters is a way to track your journey as you sample them.
Terroir is a term most commonly applied to wine grapes, and it refers to the unique properties of a wine's home that can show in a wine's flavor and aroma. Soil quality, rainfall, altitude, sunlight and many other geography-related factors can decide why a Chardonnay grown in Champagne tastes this way, and this California version - same grape, remember - tastes completely different.
In the same way, merroir can help explain the differences in flavor between different oysters. A C. gigas (aka "Pacific oyster") grown in Netarts Bay, Oregon tastes completely different from the C. gigas grown farther north in Washington.
Which is all a very long way of saying, "There are a LOT of oysters out there."
Recommended reading: A Geography of Oysters, by Rowan Jacobsen
A (Not-so-Brief) History of 33 Books Co., Part 1 November 05 2014, 0 Comments
The story of 33 Books Co. could begin a few places. In 2001, when I moved to Portland, Oregon, and first experienced its amazingly vibrant beer culture. That was also my first visit to the legendary Horse Brass. I opened the beer menu and thought to myself, "40 beers?! There's no way I could ever drink that many!" I had a lot to learn about my new home.
Behind the United States of Beer Map October 07 2013, 2 Comments
When I first designed 33 Bottles of Beer, my goal was to create something small and portable that made taking notes on beers I tried fast and easy.
Four years later, I think I've succeeded, with nearly 100,000 copies printed, a fact I still find incredibly hard to believe. I agonized on printing that initial run, wondering if I'd be giving them away for gifts for decades to come, or using them to steady tipsy tables.
I've filled a good number of the books myself, most while attempting my "beer a day" project back in 2010. And while writing things down has helped me a great deal in remembering details about the beers I've enjoyed (or not), it's always felt a little solipsistic.
So I created this map.
With it, you can try a beer from each state in the US, logging it as you would with the standard 33 Beers book. There's a flavor wheel, and space for recording the beer's name, brewer, date you tried it, and your own rating, from 1 to 5 stars. Here's a great beer from Minnesota, Surly Brewing's Overrated! West Coast IPA.
The poster lets you take your reviews out of your pocket 33 Beers book, and put them on display for all to see. It makes a great visual for your cube, office, home bar, man cave, lady lair, dorm room ... I can't wait to see where they end up.
Post your poster photos on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook using the hashtag #unitedstatesofbeer and let's see who fills one out first, starting ... NOW.
Featured Partner: A Kitchen Box August 22 2013, 1 Comment
One of the best things about my day is finding out all the cool ways "33" books are used. The stories of personal enlightenment, great travel experiences, discoveries make this a really fulfilling job.
I also get to work with a lot of really interesting partner businesses, one of which is called "A Kitchen Box." You may already be familiar with the box model, but if not, there are a growing number of interesting mail subscription services that provide you a package full of unique and engaging goods on a monthly or quarterly basis (check out the "Must Have Boxes" blog for a nice list/review). Usually there is some theme - in this case, culinary items - but the contents are a surprise until you actually receive the box. It's kind of like a mini-Christmas every month. Here's what it looked like when I opened mine a few weeks ago.
Score! Freddy Guys Hazelnuts are a favorite stop of mine at the Portland Farmers Market, and while they're available in grocery stores here in Oregon, I think it's awesome the rest of the world gets to try them now. They are awesome (pro tip: get the pancake mix should you be lucky enough to visit their farmer's market stall).
33 Pieces of Cheese was featured in AKB's inaugural box, along with a lot of other really fun cheese-themed items, including a neato bamboo cheese spreader, flour sack towel, original letterpressed "fig and onion jam" recipe, porcelain cheese place cards, cheese storage papers ... I'm trying not to ruin the surprise, but there's a lot of fun stuff in there.
Check out A Kitchen Box!
I Fear No Cheese June 24 2013, 0 Comments
The American Cheese Society's annual convention has been described to me as "the GABF of cheese." The mind - and my cholesterol count - boggles.