33 Books Co. Blog
Homebrew Like It's Your Job June 21 2017
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.
A 7.09 Year Reunion February 07 2017
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!
It's a Tough Job, But Somebody Has to Do It! September 19 2016
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.
A (Not-so-Brief) History of 33 Books Co., Part 1 November 05 2014
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
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.
I Fear No Cheese June 24 2013
The American Cheese Society's annual convention has been described to me as "the GABF of cheese." The mind - and my cholesterol count - boggles.