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  • Beers Made by Walking indeed...

    The folks down at Focus on the Beer have started a very cool and interesting program for making beer, Beers Made By Walking. The general idea is as follows: take a walk in your natural surrounding, find an ingredient to use in the beer making process, pick or order the ingredient in question (depending on the circumstances), make a beer using the ingredient, and lastly, enjoy the beer made by walking. Lots of people and breweries have gotten in on this action over the last several months, and now, I am happy to report, New Belgium has joined the fun... 

    About six weeks ago we took our walk. We have a very good, natural (and edible) landscape on the NBB property, so we decided to walk the grounds. We stumbled upon gooseberries, raspberries, blackberries, hops, sage, and other useable plants. All of them seemed great, but when we came upon the lavender and the plums we knew we had a match made in experimental-beer-heaven. I picked and dried the lavender, and we ordered the plum juice as it was late in the season and the birds (plus co-workers) had picked the plum tree pretty clean. I took counsel with plant engineer and brewer, Chris McCombs (AKA Puffy) to help with the recipe (and all the other stuff, like brewing and fermenting, etc...). He thought the plum and lavender flavors would display nicely in a something a bit sweeter, with a very low hop profile. He suggested we brew a bock, so that's what we're doing.

    We got the yeast all propped up, ordered the malt bill and called the Focus on the Beer folks to come up and help. They got here last Friday around 11am. We had lots to do. Our plan was to start the brew (mash in), then mince the dried Lavender and brew a tea to add after the boil. Then add the plums, mid-fermentation, to ferment some of the plum sugars, but still leave some fruity sweetness (and highlight the possible tartness). The mash in, boil, and hop addition takes about three hours, and on the new pilot system it's pretty straightforward. In fact, it's kind of anti-climatic. The new system is pretty automated, so no real heavy lifting is required (until the cleaning part). After we got the mash happening we got to the lavender chopping. We were looking at a big paper shopping bag stuffed with lavender sprigs, so it took a while. We got it done though (like a boss). To make the tea we had to weigh out the chopped lavender, separate it into game bags, and put them into hot water, it went well. It was about 12 gallons of tea, tasty, but not too strong. After we were done with the lavender prep, and the mash had moved into the boil, we got down to business on removing the spent grain. This is hard work (the heavy lifting part of the cleaning process), lots of shoveling and garbage can moving around. But it's an important step towards a clean pilot brewery. Then we went in for the tea addition. As the boil finishes, the wort (the malty liquid that will later ferment into beer) is whirl-pooled, to knock out any large particulates, and then sent through a chiller to cool it down from boiling temperatures (before the yeast addition). We added the lavender tea to the wort as this was happening. It went great... 

    After the chilling and lavender addition, the wort met the yeast in a fermentation vessel, where it will sit for a couple weeks as this (hopefully) delightful lager turns into a (hopefully) delightful lager. But before it finishes we will add the plum juice, about 10 gallons to the 8 barrel batch (a barrel equals 31 gallons (it's a old-tyme beer making measurement)). This addition will happen before the week is out. We want the fermentation to take hold, and remove some of the malt sugars before the plum sugars invade. Then, after the plum sugars invade, and mix up with all the malt sugars, the fermentation will continue, and a (hopefully) an awesome lavender plum bock will be ready to get kegged up. 

    And speaking of getting all kegged up... This beer is very limited, but it will be made available to the drinking public. A bunch of it will end up at the Focus on the Beer anniversary party happening in early December in Colorado Springs (you should go to that). And the rest will be poured in the tasting room here at New Belgium (a few errant kegs may make their way out, but let's not count on that). So if you are in Colorado you have a pretty good chance of getting some sips, but if not, maybe you should come to Colorado in December for your share of the sips (December is a a beautiful time to visit). 

    I want to thank everyone from Fous on the Beer for coming up with such a cool program, and also for the awesome execution of said program here at New Belgium. It was a real treat to work with you guys. Speaking of, here they are, in all there bearded glory:

    That's it and that's all, I am looking forward to this beer, and thanks for reading (and please go check out Focus on the Beer, and Beers Made By Walking, they are both linked above). 

    xo,

    -Juicebox

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  • Let's go to Indianapolis (and the Beer Bloggers Conference)!

    There is a Beer Bloggers Conference, did you know that? It's really fun, I've been every year. The 2012 edition was held in Indianapolis, and that's a really cool city. I had never been to Indy before (locals like to call it Indy) and my mind was blown. The conference was full of super interesting topics, beer and food (at the same time), informative panels, and seeing all of my beer blogger friends. I took a whole mess of pictures and I want to walk you through some of them in my photo essay. I call it "the 2012 Beer Bloggers Conference in Indianapolis (in photos)."

    Indy has a lot of really great sculpture/art on the streets. This one has something to do with basketball (forgive me, I'm not a sports fan).

    When I arrived at the hotel I was very confused by this sign (it wasn't even pointing west)...

    We went to Flat12 Bierwerks while we were in town. That place was full of great people and great beer. The hospitality was of the top-est notch. 

    Dinner Friday night was very fancy. A few of us bloggers snuck out to a place called Recess. Go there, it is so worth it. Here is the salad course.

    Here's Eric (from FocusOnTheBeer.com) concentrating on his wine (more like FocusOnTheSparklingWine.com).

    This is another shot of Eric with his dessert plate.

    Here is another handsome blogger standing in front of the giant Kurt Vonnegut mural (he's from Indy (Vonnegut, not the to-remain-name-less blogger)).

    The next morning at the conference I saw this guy (total-sports-coverage). Yes, that's a helmet cam, affixed to a helmet. Some folks take panel discussions very seriously...

    This is Troy, he works at Schlafly in St. Louis, he is my pal. This is my pal working.

    There was a great presentation from Spiegelau Glassware featuring Brooklyn beers (oh, and Garrett Oliver did some talking)). I learned more about glassware in that hour than I thought possible. I am sold on nice glasses, good-bye frozen (or un-frozen) pints. Here is the piece de resistance from that talk, A Black Ops in a tulip, thanks Brooklyn.

    And then I took a plane home and the clouds looked pretty.

    Overall, my experience at the conference was a great one, and I am excited for next year. Hope you liked the pictures and if you get to Indianapolis make sure to drink a few beers for me...

    -JUICEBOX

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  • Beer labels, leaked on the internets.

    Let's pretend there is a new beer in the pipeline at NBB. Say, a brettanomyces inspired collaboration with Lost Abbey. Then, everyone involved decides on the beer (recipe, brewing, etc...), and then decides on the name (let's call it– the Lost Abbey Collaboration), the next step is to design the label. A designer at NBB takes the overarching ideas about the beer, gets some input from her co-workers and considers the overall aesthetic of New Belgium. Then she gets to work designing. She puts some loop-dee-loops here and some color there and then BLAM-O! The label art is done and awesome. But we can't just throw the label on the bottle, and then fill them bottles up with beer, and then ship them out to you. Nope, we have to get the label art approved, by the TTB (the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau). This holds true for anything we do: new beers, beer updates, new labels for existing beers, etc... The TTB wants to make sure the label art fits in with all relevant federal regulations. They are there to make sure we are saying the right things, on the label, in order to correctly inform our consumer. The TTB expects labels to include our name and address, brand name of the beer, class designation of the beer, net contents of bottle, etc (you can go to their website for more information). They do good work, important work. But, as part of their label approving process, they release an image of the beer label on their website for all to see.

    When the TTB releases new beer label art, before this new beer hits the liquor store shelves, it's kind of a stinker for us. This practice takes away our chance at a Big Reveal on the new, awesome label art that we have worked so hard to create. And then there's the bloggers. I love bloggers, beer bloggers especially. I mean shit, I am one. These are the people, the men and women, who preach the good and sound word of craft beer. They inform the public of everything from beer reviews, to events, to local tap lists, to news, to anything else beer related. Some beer bloggers also release the images of the new label art from the TTB's website. They take the rarely seen content from the TTB's website (lets be honest, how many people are just perusing the TTB's site?) and launch it into the blog-o-sphere. The idea is to inform their readers of new beer releases and to speak to the general happenings in the world of craft beer and beer styles. It's a scoop-able story, for sure. And, it's flattering. To see that writers and readers care enough about your brand to want to see the art (and style, and stats, and etc...) before it's released is a compliment. And we appreciate that compliment. But it still doesn't put the punch back in the Big Reveal.

    So here is a couple questions for you– Is there a way for breweries to band together and get the TTB to stop publishing the label art in their approval process? And if that's not possible, is there a way for bloggers to get their story and then not re-publish the art? Is that even worth it? Probably not. But I would be interested in any opinions you folks have on this matter. Let me know on Twitter (or anywhere else, the social web is very wide).

    Until next time,

    JUICEBOX

    Follow @NewBelgium

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  • Beer, Food... Together

    Lately, dinner around Juicebox Acres has been an exercise in classy dining with winter season vegetables. Squash, beets, chard, etc, and I have also been very into big, hoppy beers since the weather has turned here in Colorado a couple weeks ago, it's cold and dark outside and some very nice food pairings have been blossoming in my kitchen.

    Dinner from Monday night: a red chard, bacon and rice goulash (thank you Rachael Ray (she calls it Red Chard and Rice (and she also calls it a side dish, we went main course and put our own spin on it with beer and brown rice))).

     

    Yep, I know goulash is typically a noodle dish but I had no better way to describe this and I didn't like Red Chard and Rice. We fried up five or six slices of bacon that had been cut up into "bits". A few minutes of browning happened and then we threw in some garlic and let that cook up too.  Then comes the chard, 1 bunch, stemmed, rough chopped, dropped into the pan. As the chard is carrying on, take this time to spice the whole deal with a little nutmeg, salt, pepper and paprika (of the Hungarian variety (another reason to call it goulash)). Let this cook until the chard has a chance to wilt and heat through. Before starting the bacon we steamed up some brown rice and put it to the side. Now that the chard and bacon and everything is cooked, throw the done rice in, add some chicken stock and a little hoppy beer just to wet everything down and let it simmer for a little while.  Once the liquid is all soaked up put it in a bowl that also contains a fork and crack a Fresh Hop IPA. The bursting citrus of the hops in the beer go well with the savory nature of this dish. While not the spiciest dinner (typical IPA pairing is with spicy food), the richness of the bacon and chard use the hop oils to their advantage and the bitterness of the beer compliments the earthy nature of the chard. A major dinner success.

    Then we have last nights dinner: butternut and beet soup with a yogurt and cilantro sauce-like-topper.

    We took this recipe from food blogger extraordinaire Foy in her regularly updated- Foy Update. I would normally take this time to explain how we cooked the dish but Foy does that task so well I better leave it to her, so follow the link above and take in her wonderful descriptions and pictures. I will, however, take this time to talk about the Ranger IPA pairing that we served with it. This soup is a bit sweet and a bit spicy. The yogurt sauce has Siracha in it and the beet and ginger in the base soup make for a wonderful juxtaposition of toothsome and hot. This two part flavor plays right into the hands of Ranger IPA. The bitterness in match with the citrus and maltiness of this beer offer the fun two parter as well. The hops play with the spice and the malt plays with the sweet. The citrus flavors compliment the ginger and the lingering slickness of the soup is cut through by the dryness of the Ranger.  Really, a great pair. You should try it (and you should read the Foy Update more regularly, maybe my favorite food blog).

    These hoppy beers and these late harvest veggies are making for a great dinner-time-hours and eating and drinking (at least close) to seasonally is a wonderful challenge. I never thought I liked chard, turns out I do (especially with bacon).

    -JUICEBOX

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  • Whole Foods, Beer and Twitter!

    Have you ever heard of a Tweet Up?  Me neither, that is until my dear friend The Beer Wench asked me to help out with one.  Turns out a Tweet Up is when a group of folks get together in the Twitter-o-sphere and use a hash-tag to talk about the same thing.  What's that you say?  Never heard of a hash-tag?  A hash-tag looks like this: #awesomegloves and you can attach that pound sign, followed by some words (in this case: awesome and gloves) to the end of your Twitter updates (henceforth: Tweets) and everyone using Twitter can search #awesomegloves (or whatever hash-tag you like) and see every Tweet using that hash-tag and see what the whole world thinks of their awesome gloves.  Using a hash-tag is like a proactive keyword search.  Make sense?  OK, so back to The Beer Wench, she has teamed up with Whole Foods and they have crafted a series of beer tastings to take place, live, in the Twitter-verse.  Head over here for the full and mighty press release. This model is based on the Whole Foods #WFMdish Tweet Up that happens on Thursday nights talking about food and recipes and all the specifics and generalities about those things, crammed into 140 characters.  It is fun and anyone can participate (assuming you have a Twitter account (if you don't you can still follow along, but not post your own thoughts on the matter)).  In this vein Whole Foods and The Beer Wench have slated #WFMbeer as the relevant hash-tag and put together some American Craft Breweries to start firing away with Tweets and the hope of your participation.

    The first in the series of craft beer tastings is scheduled to happen live, one week from today (on 12/20) at 7pm EST (again, using the hash-tag #WFMbeer), and the schedule for the night is as follows:

    7pm EST: New Belgium (@newbelgium) Snow Day
    7:15 EST: Deschutes (@DeschutesBeer) Jubelale
    7:30 EST: Bison Brewing (@bisonbrew) Gingerbread Ale
    7:45 EST: Dogfish Head (@dogfishbeer) Chicory Stout

    8pm EST: After party (free for all!!)

    As you can see from the schedule we here at NBB HQ are participating and we're bringing Snow Day to the (virtual) table and the other breweries look to be bringing some heat as well.  My recommendation is that you head over to your neighborhood bottle shop, procure these beers, get your Tweet-Deck running and get in on the fun.  This Tweet Up is a really good way to hear about new beers, try new beers, hear other people's opinions about said beers and also give your opinion (and I value that).  In other words, (capitol F) Fun...

    I'll see you in the Twitter-scape,

    Juicebox

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