Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Slaked Lime

With all of the cold aging going on in my beer fridge, I haven't been brewing much beer lately. I put an end to that troubling trend this morning and whipped out a batch of amber ale that should quench the late summer heat in a flavorful way. I usually dose my brewing water with lactic acid to hit my target mash pH, but I tried something different today: slaked lime. A big thanks to fellow homebrewers and MHTG members Ted Gisske and Mark Garthwaite for turning me on to the idea. I'd heard about the process before, but didn't pay much attention to it because I assumed that Madison's water didn't have enough calcium to make it worthwhile. Not true! Basically, slaked lime reduces residual alkalinity by causing calcium and bicarbonate to form chalk and precipitate out of solution. The reaction will occur on its own as carbon dioxide in the water and air reach equilibrium, but it happens at the speed of my grandpa driving. Slaked lime speeds up the process to a "let the water sit overnight" rate. Before adding the lime, I added some extra calcium to the water via gypsum and calcium chloride. The process worked really well, but the big test will come in three weeks when the beer will be ready to drink. If you brew your own beer and want to give slaked lime a try, you can find it labeled as "pickling lime" in the canning supplies section of Woodman's. I added some usage calculations to the files at Geek Central as well.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Halfway Home

It's business as usual on the business plan. I gave myself two weeks to finish a rough draft and I'd wager that I'm over halfway done. On tap this week:

-Finish the rough draft of the business plan.
-Meet with our lawyer to wrap up the operating agreement. Yup, our attorney is none other than Jeff from Madison Beer Review. I finally remembered to ask him if it's OK that we disclose said information.
-Brew an amber ale and order some ingredients for future batches.

Water chemistry! Excess alkalinity results in poor extraction efficiency (the "mileage" of malted barley) and harsh astringency. When malt and hot water are mixed, calcium and magnesium help combat alkalinity. For most beer styles, Madison's water has more alkalinity than its calcium and magnesium can handle. One method of reducing alkalinity is to add a food-grade acid to the water. Lactic and phosphoric acids are popular among brewers because they naturally exist in beer. I recently learned that phosphoric acid removes calcium from water. I can't quantify the amount, but calcium removal is usually not a good thing for brewers. Figuring out the specifics is way beyond my scope of chemistry knowledge, but I'm not going to let that stop me. I can't work on it during work hours because it'll completely consume me, but I might chip away at it during lunch breaks. How Poindexter is that? If you downloaded my water chemistry spreadsheet, ignore the part about phosphoric acid because it's horribly wrong.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Saturday, Saturday

It turns out that I was too ambitious last week. I deviated by about 4 hours to work on water chemistry calculations, but spent the rest of the week working on my scheduled to-do list.

On the business plan front (it's kind of like a war), I installed the numbers and wrote the product descriptions. Communicating math in concise English was a lot more difficult than I expected. In addition, I kept writing things like "most brewpubs do blah blah blah" and realizing "I have no idea if that's true." As a result, I spent a lot of time doing additional research to back up my claims. I expect that trend to continue as I make my way into less familiar territory, such as the marketing plan. From here out, I'm giving myself two weeks to finish a rough draft of the business plan.

Jane and I met to review the operating plan and told our lawyer what we think. We're very close to being done.

Creme de Menthe, mixed into Edmund Fitzgerald Porter at 1/4 tsp per 3 oz of total beverage volume, had a similar mint character as the beer I brewed. I liked my version better, which surprised me because cold-steeping ingredients in alcohol (Creme de Menthe) usually results in a smoother character than boiling (my beer). Stepping up the Creme de Menthe to 1/2 tsp per 3 oz didn't really increase the "minty" flavor. Instead, it imparted a harshness that reminded me of overcarbonation due to brettanomyces (wild yeast) contamination. I found it vaguely offensive, but Rachel liked it. I now have two theories of mint beer that need to be explored:

1. Mint and hops don't like each other. Edmund Fitzgerald is a pretty hoppy porter, which may have caused the clash.
2. Mint flavor is desirable, but mint aroma is too aggressive for beer. My 5-minute boil may have driven off some of the mint's harshness, and a 15- or 20-minute boil may be even better.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Water Treatment

I updated the recipe calculators on the dork page to improve the sections on water chemistry. I added a stand-alone water treatment file to the page, as well. The independent file is based on beer color instead of first runnings color, but the resulting difference is pretty small.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Sunday Confessional

Done last week:

-Read the Wisconsin LLC statutes.
-Read the operating agreement and prepared some questions.
-Met with an accountant, which was very helpful.
-Walked through a potential location.
-Wrote part of the business plan.

To do this week:

-Finalize the operating agreement.
-Write a complete rough draft of the business plan.
-Tour a farm that's starting to grow hops, which also happens to be the home of Maatwerk Studio.
-Conduct a commercial porter/Creme de Menthe experiment.

Yup, I'm feeling ambitious. Hopefully it doesn't make me look too ugly.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

We Exist

RePublic Brewpub, LLC is officially registered in the state of Wisconsin!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Reflection (Someone Else's)

Here's a nice tribute to the public house. Who'd have thought it would be in Forbes Magazine?

Monday, July 7, 2008

Sharing is Caring

Whether or not you like mass-produced light lagers, you should at least concede that the companies who produce them are very good at what they do. If given the task of making a nearly flavorless beer that's free of defects and always tastes the same, I'd wager that most craft breweries would fail. One reason why is because the major brewing companies have access to hundreds of years of of proprietary scientific research. When craft brewing started gaining momentum some 30 years ago, many of its participants literally didn't know how to make beer. Reinventing the wheel was a collaboration between microbreweries and home brewers who, through their willingness to share information, were able to greatly narrow the knowledge gap between themselves and the large breweries in a relatively short timespan. What would it have been like if every new brewer had to start naked in the woods? A lot of the beer we currently love would probably be lousy! The quality of American craft beer has come a long way since the start of its revival, but there's still a ton of room for improvement. I'm hoping to play my part by making it easier to share information than it currently is. As a start, I set up a little download area for files that I've made. It has two pages so far: one for brewing education and one for brewery calculations. Enjoy!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Week in Rock

I went 2.5 for 3 on my goals last week:

-Spent some time researching restaurant feasibility studies. They typically cost $500-$4500 and are meant to answer the question "can a restaurant of concept X and size Y survive at ABC Blablabla St?" We're not there yet.
-Scheduled an appointment with an accountant to review my projection methods and results, as well as answer a few specific questions.
-Left a voicemail early last week with the real estate agent in charge of a vacant bar we want to walk through, but he didn't call back. I missed the net on being persistent.

I get a little extra credit for last week, though:

-I read about half of the WI statutes on LLCs. I'll probably be the only non-attorney to ever read them all, including the people who wrote them.
-I added a lot of detail to my 5-year income projections by entering our milestone goals into my crude accounting spreadsheet. Doing so allowed me to make 5-year predictions of balance and cash flow.

Here's what I need to do this week:

-Read the operating agreement that our lawer prepared for us.
-Finish reading the WI LLC statutes and compare them with the operating agreement.
-Meet with the accountant and adjust my approach accordingly.
-Follow through with the real estate agent.
-Write some of the actual business plan! Jane is off to a good start, but the plan needs more geeky numbers. That's what I'm here for.