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!
A Vending Machine for Those with Great Taste November 14 2016
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.
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.