Friday, December 31, 2010

Grateful for plenty this year

Image found at

The closer the new year gets, the more i realize how good i have it here in Chicago for multiple reasons.

Chicago's beer scene is continuing to expand with the opening, or planned opening, of a few new breweries/brewpubs such as
The breweries that were & have been here before 2010 began have continued to push themselves, and in the process, they have expanded their offerings.

Beer undertook a greater role in the restaurants around town, and a few opened that gave it a prominent place in their business.
In short, Chicago's beer scene had a great deal going for it in 2010, and things appear to be looking up for things to continue in 2011. Happy Holidays!!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

My trip to Founders

A few weeks ago my friend Mike, and I made a pilgrimage to Grand Rapids to visit a favorite brewery of ours: Founders Brewing Company. This trip had been the top item of our beer to-do list for nearly 4 months. So, saying we were excited to get to Founders would be a grand understatement. We eventually decided that to make it happen, and to avoid spending an entire weekend in Grand Rapids (no offense intended), an early morning bus trip to Grand Rapids coupled with a late afternoon return would be our best bet.

Our bus ended up arriving in Grand Rapids around 10a (after having departed Chicago at 230a). Unfortunately, Founders does not open until 11a on Saturdays so we had some time to burn, and breakfast to find. Luckily, Mike found a joint called San Chez, which was a convenient place to grab a bite to eat (they also make a great french toast btw). After that, we spent some time wandering around downtown Grand Rapids where it became evident that art is a big part of this city’s identity. We saw at least two murals every 3rd or 4th block, and a real eye grabbing piece of art in the heart of downtown (picture of said eye catcher here) that I stared at for 5 minutes (due to both it’s awesomeness and it’s use of rocket/plane engines). In short, Grand Rapids is an art loving town.

After escaping my art-induced hypnosis, Mike and I finally made our way to Founders. When we walked in the front doors, we were immediately blown away by how homey of a place it is. Founders’ utilizes simple tables, an old wood bar, and plenty of windows to create an environment that is very relaxed and approachable. Simply put, Founders dining/bar area is the club house you wish you had.

After finding a seat, Mike and I ordered our first beer: the Newaygo County Cherry ale. This beer utilizes cherries sourced from Newaygo County, Michigan to provide a pleasant bitter/sweet duet that plays itself out differently with every sip, It was a very enjoyable beer, that ended up being my favorite beer of the day.

After that, Mike ordered their Endurance Ale (a GABF 2010 silver medal winner in the session ale category), and I tried their oatmeal stout. Both beers were quite nice, but Mike’s choice won that round for its aromatic bounty & ballet dancer-esque mouth feel (pleasantly jumping all around).

After the 2nd round, we decided that we had best take the opportunity to hightail it to a liquor store recommended by my friend Michigan Microbrews called Martha’s Vineyard.

I am quite grateful that Michigan Microbrews recommended Martha’s because it is quite a store that not only offers plenty of Michigan beer (from breweries of all sizes), but it also caters to the pastry, snack food, and fine liquor folk of Grand Rapids. It is definitely worth a stop if you have time.

While at Martha’s, Mike picked up a variety of things, but I focused on getting some beer from Short's Brewing. They are a brewery that, up until this trip, I had only read about, and their decision to only distribute in Michigan helped make them a brewery-to-seek for me.

Of all of the Short’s beers I have read about, their Key Lime Pie (a 2010 GABF gold medal winner) was the Alpha-1 numero uno beer I hoped to find. Unfortunately, I did not have any luck finding that beer, but I did find & get the Shorts beers listed below.

Some of the non-Shorts beers I picked up were the following:

After picking up the aforementioned beers, Mike and I returned to Founders for a few final rounds before going to the bus depot. Mike chose to go with the Backwoods Bastard and Nemesis as his 3rd & 4th picks. I chose the Breakfast stout and the Devil Dancer. I had the good fortune of having tried a bottle of all of them before except for the Devil Dancer. That beer is one of the smoothest, most sneaky, yet enjoyable triple IPAs I have ever had the good fortune of trying. It could be compared to a golden retriever in that it is friendly and playful but you had best not ignore it lest you want to risk being knocked down by its (unleashed) playfulness.

In summary, the trip was definitely worth it, the beers were truly great, the people at Founders were very friendly, and Grand Rapids is a place that I could see visiting next summer. So, if you have not been to Founders yourself, make it your New Years goal to make the trip. You will not regret it.

P.s. If you are interested in seeing the rest of my pictures from this trip, go here

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Festival of Barrel Aged Beer (FoBAB) review

Picture found at the Wort Hog Beer Blog

Last night I had the good fortune to be asked to volunteer at the sign-in station during the evening session of the FoBAB at the Chicago Plumbers Union.

Thanks in large part to Fonz (sp?) who checked ids and kept the riff-raff away, Jim (another Half Acre fan) and I checked people in, distributed sample glasses, tickets, and wrist bands. For being such a repetitive job it was a good time. Thanks mostly to Jim's sense of humor and the beer that was brought down for us.

After putting in my 3 hrs, I was granted my freedom to go and enjoy the remaining beer. I do not have much experience with bourbon, whiskey, wine, etc so I was not 100% sure what kind of flavors I should expect the different barrels should impart to the beers they contain. Regardless, I was excited to try out what was still available.

Since I did not think it wise to take the frat-boy approach (drink as much as I can), I set out to try the ones that interested me above the rest:

From the Bluegrass Brewing Co (KY)
  • French Oaked Mephistopheles (Belgian-style tripel aged with new French Oak)
  • Cherry Inyourendo (Russian Imperial stout aged in Woodford reserve bourbon barrels w/ supporting tart cherry fruit character)
Cleveland Chophouse & Brewery (OH)
  • Bourbon Barrel Belgian Double (aged for 2 years in a Woodford Reserve bourbon barrel)
Firestone Walker Brewing (CA)
  • Black Xantus (Russian Imperial Stout infused w/ Mexican coffee in the frementer then aged in circa 90's Heaven Hill bourbon barrels for up to 8 months)
Fitgers Brewhouse (MN)
  • Bourbon barrel aged Ole Redbeard Barleywine (American-style barleywine aged in 1st use Heaven Hill reserve barrel)
Maui Brewing Co (HI)
  • Heaven & Hell (Barleywine aged in Heaven Hill bourbon barrels for 9 months)
Nebraska Brewing Company (NE)
  • Black Betty (Imperial Stout aged 6 months in used Stranahan's whiskey barrels)
  • Melange A Trois (strong Belgian-style blonde alge aged 6 months in French oak Chardonnay barrels)
Revolution Brewing Company (IL)
  • Barrel Aged Bad Man (Old Rye Ale aged in Heaven Hill barrels)
Smuttynose Brewing Co (NH)
  • Tripel (Belgian-style tripel aged in a used J. Lohr Chardonnay barrel)
Upland Brewing Co.
  • Bourbon Barrel Teddy Bear Kisses (Imperial Stout aged in 23 yr old Pappy Van Winkle barrel)
  • Bourbon Barrel Warmer (English-style barleywine aged in 3 yr old Buffalo Trace barrel)

After trying the majority of these beers, I can say that the barrels do add some new flavors, depth, aroma, abv points, etc that could not be attained without the use of barrels that previously housed other substances.

Of the beers I tried, did any single one stand above the others? No, but I blame that on the high alcohol content of the beers. With such a high abv, your palette becomes numbed quicker than if you started with a session beer & progressed through the evening to different, higher abv beers.

I do recall not caring for the barrel aged double (Cleveland Chophouse) due to it seeming more like a Scotch Ale than a dubbel.

It was a good time, a great setting, and the other attendees seemed to be enjoying themselves a great deal. I hope to be able to make it to the festival next year.

trial and error, and it's a good thing

Today I brewed a stout with the intent of 'converting' it into a holiday ale by adding cranberries & cinnamon in the secondary. Currently, I think I used too much roasted barley based on the aroma during the boil. It was used in proportion with chocolate malt (also 1 lb), but I think I will change it up next time. I mention this because i think it is the first trial and error I have experienced in which i don't feel bad about having goofed up. Typically, at work, in my personal life, etc when a trial and error goes wrong their are repercussions that I often do not care for. When a homebrewing trial and error goes wrong I have an excuse to try the recipe again & make more beer.

Yes, I realize this is all pretty 'thank you captain obvious' stuff, but since the aforementioned stout is the 2nd recipe of my own creation, and thus I only have an assumed idea of how it will turn out, I can do nothing but wait & see & review the results to determine how I can make it better next time. I find it to be really exciting stuff.

I am looking forward to my next brewing session with great anticipation.

The plan for next time? A bock.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Belgian Dubbel brew day

I brewed the first recipe I ever composed myself yesterday morning. Recipe follows below:

2 lbs of Muntons plain malt extract
2 lbs of crystal malt 80L
1 lb Belgian aromatic malt
1 lb flaked oats

0.5 oz saaz @ 75 mins (4.8% AA)
0.5 oz tettnang @ 5 mins (6.8% AA)

Mashed at 152-ish, and boiled for 75 mins. This was my 1st boil +60 mins, and I had read a longer boil results in greater 'mouth feel', and hop utilization.

My concerns for this brew are as follows:
  • Too great a temp rise, too soon, during mashing
  • Inability to maintain a constant temp during mash
  • Too sweet a brew due to the long brew time + 80L
Some positives from this brew day:
  • Fastest cooling to 70 deg I have ever attained (note for every brew day after this: always get a bag of ice)
  • 1st 24 hr yeast starter cultivated & (hopefully) maintained
Next time, my goals are as follows:
  • Split up the wort into 2 different containers & try a different yeast in each
  • Think up a means to acquire enough wort to measure OG (I am weary to wait around and siphon wort off the cooled, exposed-to-the-elements wort

Saturday, September 25, 2010

National Happy Hour

Image found at Bjs Brewhouse

This past week I came across an article that mentioned Budweiser has announced that they are planning on sponsoring a national happy hour on September 29th as a means to attract more of the under 30 beer drinking crowd (which is not as into Bud as they'd like), and to help Budweiser regain lost ground in the beer market (sales were down 9% last year and are down the same this year according to the Beverage Marketing Corp). This happy hour will be preceded, on 9-27-2010, with the campaign's kickoff with the slogan "Grab some Buds". In case you are curious, the free samples on 9-29 will either be 6 or 12 oz of Budweiser.

After reading this I began to think about a few things.
  1. Would I care if Budweiser, Miller, Coors, InBev, etc ceased operation (for whatever reason)?
  2. How much success/repeat business can this campaign bring Budweiser?
My answer for #1 is no. It has been quite some time since I purchased their product. So the absence of their product from my local's shelves would not affect me in any way. Sure, there may be some price changes at my local due to the absence of the 'big boys', but i would not miss the Bud, Miller, Coors, or InBev product lines.

For #2, it is probably safe to assume that people will take free samples of beer (is there anything better than free?), but will free samples be enough to hook customers for the long term? For a product to be successful in the beverage industry, few things are more powerful in swaying public opinion than positive reviews via word of mouth or opinions/reviews posted to pertinent websites (for beer, & for example). Unfortunately for Budweiser, they do not have a product that gets discussed because it's a great beer. Rather, it is discussed more for the commercials in their marketing campaigns (I really enjoyed the real men of genius commercials). Jeff Wuorio, a freelance business writer proposed 7 tips on keeping customers for life in an article for Microsoft business.
  1. Deliver what you say you're going to do
  2. Expect the best
  3. Go beyond the usual
  4. Watch your customer, not your bottom line
  5. Nurture lifelong employees
  6. Make customers want to stick around
  7. Be picky about lifelong customers
After reading these seven points of advice, I feel safe in writing that craft brewers who make it in the long run adhere to all 7 of these points without fail. How the big brewers (i.e. Bud, Miller, Coors) do it is beyond me.

As a comparison, here is how I think the craft brewer v. big brewer address each of the 7 aforementioned points:

  • Big brewer = The do not deliver a beer of any appreciable substance, and there are never any real bikini clad women around when Budweiser is imbibed. There are occasionally cardboard cutouts, but they have no discernible pulse
  • Craft brewer = Delivers a beverage that is an expression of their creativity. For example, Dogfish Head's 120 IPA, and Mikkeler's single hop IPA line. I doubt any of the big brewers considered such an approach or project.
  • Big brewer = Budweiser doesn't expect as much as they hope a shit ton of people will purchase their product over-and-over again.
  • Craft brewer = Every day beer leaves a craft brewery they (the brewer(s)) expect it to live up to the expectations they have for it. They expect people will appreciate the time, effort, and love that went into making their product good enough to be considered sell-able to the public at large. More than anything else, they expect people will enjoy the beer they purchase.
  • Big brewer = I do not think I would be remiss in stating that the products of the big brewers define 'expected' in the beer industry. There has been no change at all to their product. Instead, their big changes come to their product line.
  • Craft brewer =Continue to push the envelope of creativity. Whether it be with unique ingredients or re-invigorating once forgotten styles, craft brewers are the most creative individuals in the beer industry.
  • Big brewer = I have never seen a big brewer rep discuss their product with a (potential) customer. As long as the product of the big brewer is purchased, the rep is happy.
  • Craft brewer = To gauge the passion and love that brewers have for their customers, look at the close relationship some have fostered with the AHA, the time they spend engaging with their customers at events such as the GABF and the Great Taste of the Midwest. Craft brewers care about their customers, and their developing tastes. It shows in the brewers continuing effort to bring new beers to market to maintain an interest in their brewery.
  • Big brewer =I cannot find any information on employee turnover at the big brewers.
  • Craft brewer = I have never heard of someone quitting the beer industry to get into another industry. Rather, it's often a brewer leaves one brewery for another, or to start their own.
  • Big brewer =If they could keep customers around, they would not need the 'Grab some buds' campaign.
  • Craft brewer = See opinion in #4 above.
  • Big brewer = Will take anyone.
  • Craft brewer =Does not want anyone that will put down the work of a craft brewer. Whether it be their own product, or that of a fellow craft brewer. They want someone who is open to new taste experiences, and someone who is interested in learning more about the beer.
The big brewers are in trouble, and I think they know it. I will be curious to see what lasting effect the national happy hour will have on Budweiser, and the big brewers as a whole.

Monday, August 9, 2010

A (happy) void for homebrewers

beer Pictures, Images and Photos
Image found at Photobucket

In last month's issue of Beer Advocate, the Alstrom brothers used their 'editors note' to state that they believe there is a negative current forming in the beer community. This current has been created/fostered by people who publicly rant and rave (on twitter, facebook, face-to-face, etc) about rare beers that they have, are trying, or have en route to them. For those of us that do not have the good fortune of being able to try rare beers as often as others, a feeling of envy is unavoidable. This can lead to a division in the beer community that results in those that do and those that cannot enjoy rare beers. This division, if maintained/acknowledged, will not do anyone any good. How can it?

Personally, a day does not go by when i do not read on twitter how someone is going to open and enjoy some beer that is rare, not available in my area, or that i have not found available via trade. Occasionally, such posts do have an aire of arrogance along the lines of 'i am awesome because i have this beer readily available and you do not', which does nothing but stir the fire of jealousy. Please, do not get me wrong, I am a strong supporter of people trying new beers, new styles, etc so that they expand their palate, personal beer knowledge, and appreciation for beer. It's the rubbing it in the faces of others that irks me.

I understand that every beer is not going to be made available everywhere. While such a situation would be ideal, it is not realistic for most breweries. What is realistic is that this lack of availability of beer leaves a void that must be filled (ok it does not have to be filled, but as a beer fan I feel it must). Who better to fill this void than homebrewers. There is not one group of culinary artisans that is more creative, driven, and exuberant than homebrewers. I firmly believe that it is the homebrewer that will take up the slack present in various beer markets around the country that do not have as wide an array of beer available as large cities do.

If you are not already a homebrewer, consider this the excuse to take up homebrewing you have been waiting for. Give beer brewing a shot: it is easier than you think, more fun than you realize, and it will save you money in the long run.

So, instead of focusing on what is not available in your area at the store, focus on what you can bring to your community yourself. Brew a barleywine that uses molasses, an IPA that utilizes chilies, etc.. Fill the void yourself, and bring new beer to your area.

Yes, the perceived growing snobbery in the beer community must cease. We do not need to perpetuate this perceived schism in the beer community. Beer is a means to bringing people together, and that community should be fostered through constructive participation, encouragement for those that pursue something new to them, and fostering of the pursuit of creativity in brewing and in beer.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Beer glassware 101

Image found at

Craft beer greenhorns (i.e. people who are new to craft beer) may be surprised when a bartender reaches for a different glass with each new beer requested. To be honest, I was not aware what glass style goes with each beer style until I did research for this post. In an effort to help others, and myself, I have provided the following information about beer glasses (fear not, nothing bad can happen if you choose to read on).

Below, I list the nine major beer glass types and a few beer styles that are often associated with it:
These glasses are not exclusive to the beer styles listed. They are merely a few recommended beer styles for the glass type listed.

There are a few other glass types that are said to be helpful, but may be a gimmick. Three that come to mind are as follows:
In the end, the beer you drink and the glass you drink it from, is supposed to be an enjoyable experience. So, do what makes you happy, and share your pairings with others (the good and the bad). They will thank you for it.

For a great reference, and more information on glass - beer combos, consider reading this essay at Beer Advocate. has their own glassware article which can be found here, but I did not find it as helpful as the Beer Advocate article.

Also, if any of you create your own glassware, and even if you do not, send us pictures of your favorite drinking vessel. We'd love to see what other beer fans fancy drinking beer from.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

New pairings

Image found at

For some time now, a big deal in the craft beer industry is how craft beer pairs with food. This is a facet of the beer industry that has been realized and grown in recent years. Some proof of this is as follows:

  • Garrett Oliver wrote a well received book called 'The Brewmasters Table'.
  • Sean Paxton, the homebrew chef, is renowned for the dishes he creates to pair with beer.
  • Stone Brewing Company's Dr. Bill Sysak & executive chef Alex Carballo regularly host beer pairing dinners at the Stone World Bistro and Gardens.

  • In short, beer is a beverage whose utility in the culinary world continues to be realized by more people every day.

    I mention this as a lead in to a new idea for pairings. Beer + life events.

    No doubt I am not the first person to come up with the aforementioned partnership, but the beer + food union In the most recent issue of Zymurgy, Charlie Papazian took the opportunity to mention how a great number of his recipes are named after, or in honor of, important events or people in his life. Most recently, Mr. Papazian provided a recipe called Carla’s Oat Brown Ale which he named after his newborn daughter. If you are interested, the recipe can be found here.

    This past weekend my girlfriend and I combined beer with one of our favorite things: the outdoors. This past Friday we held our first beach picnic of 2010 along Lake Michigan. I have to tell you, if you ever have the chance to combine beer, a picnic, and a body of water (lake or river) do it. It is incredibly relaxing, fun, and easy to do. We were blessed with great weather, a hesitant breeze off the lake, dogs frolicking in the water, and the occasional bit of foot traffic.

    Good food + good beer is good, but i'll take beer + life any time.

    Anyway, I will provide some pictures from this Friday's beach + beer picnic. Hopefully it will inspire you to give it a go for yourself, or to come up with your own beer pairing. We would love to know what pairing you choose/come up with for beer.

    Let us know!!

    Sunday, June 13, 2010

    Yeast - one of the best fungi around

    Image borrowed from

    There are a few things that all beers utilize: water, hops, yeast, and malt. Over the past few weeks I have been thinking about the great effects that yeast has on the flavor of beer. I have set out to investigate the qualities of beer that I enjoy that I can thank yeast for. lists the following as flavor qualities beer yeast can impart:
    • acetaldehyde (green apple aroma)
    • diacetyl (taste or aroma of buttery, butterscotch)
    • dimethyl sulfide (DMS) (taste or aroma of sweet corn, cooked veggies)
    • clove (spicy character reminiscent of cloves)
    • fruity / estery (flavour and aroma of bananas, strawberries, apples, or other fruit)
    • medicinal (chemical or phenolic character)
    • phenolic (flavour and aroma of medicine, plastic, Band-Aids, smoke, or cloves)
    • solvent (reminiscent of acetone or lacquer thinner)
    • sulfur (reminiscent of rotten eggs or burnt matches)
    To receive such qualities from such a small organism made me want to learn more about where yeast came/comes from. I began by researching the scientist who first discovered the role of yeast in fermentation of alcoholic beverages: Louis Pasteur.

    Image of Louis Pasteur borrowed from

    In 1857 Louis Pasteur proved alcoholic fermentation was performed by living yeasts and not a chemical catalyst (he reported these findings in his paper entitled "Mémoire sur la fermentation alcoolique"). An aside for you homebrewers: in the aforementioned paper Pasteur also showed that you can increase yeast cell growth by bubbling oxygen into the yeast broth. Keep in mind that adding O2 inhibits fermentation (this detail is called the Pasteur effect). In other words, introducing air to your fermenting wort increases the amount of yeast cell growth but it weakens the amount of fermentation those yeast cells can perform.

    Image of Emil Christian Hansen borrowed from

    In the late 1800s and early 1900s a fellow from Denmark named Emil Christian Hansen studied the difference between top and bottom fermented yeast while working at the Carlsberg brewery. Yes, his great contribution can be summed up in one sentence, but because of Mr. Hansen we are able to better pair yeast with the wort we make at home, and the goals we have for our brewing endeavors.

    The life span of yeast

    Based on what I have read, yeast need a few things to live (seemingly for perpetuity):
  • Sugar to eat
  • Air to create energy to continue their work
  • A constant temperature (typically for lagers and for ales) to work in
  • Something to grow in (such as a 'solid growth media' or a liquid broth

    These days there are numerous strains of beer yeast available for brewers as a result of the work of Pasteur, Hansen, and many other scientists. More than enough to keep brewers busy for a long time figuring out which strains they like, and which ones work best for their brewing system.

    Yeast is (still) such a mystical being, that people continue to explore, test, learn from/about, and play with. I hope you will do your part and continue to brew and try new beer with as many different yeast types as possible.

    If you want to learn more about yeast, I suggest checking out this article.
  • Sunday, May 30, 2010

    Sunday, May 23, 2010

    Maine, 2010

    Image borrowed

    For the past week (May 15 - May 22), my family and I had the pleasure of visiting the state of Maine. My folks had traveled through Acadia National Park on their honeymoon, and they wanted to show us around the park. With that as the goal, my family opted to make a week long trip of it starting with two days in Portland, ME.

    Portland, ME is a town that reminds me of Duluth, MN in that it is an old town that exists next to a large body of water, there is a college branch in both towns(U of MN Duluth & U of Maine Portland), each town has a brewery/brewpub (Fitgers for Duluth and Shipyard Brewing Company for Portland). Between the two, I prefer Portland. It has an old world aura in that it has cobble stone roads, old architecture, and it is not enveloped with the exhaust fumes from a paper mill (as is the case in Duluth).

    While in Portland we took in the city, enjoyed the wharf, and stopped in at the best beer bar I have ever been to (Novare Res). You can see some pictures I took of & in Novare Res here. It had a fantastic beer selection (on draught and in bottle). Our first time there (we stopped back in on Friday 5/21/2010 for their 2nd anniversary party), a fellow who referred to himself as the Persian provided some back story for the beers offered by Novare Res, Novare Res itself, and he also gave us a growler as a souvenir from a place called Marshal Wharf Brewing Company which brews a beer special for Novare Res. I could go on about how great great the place is, but I'll save my breath and simply say that you owe it to yourself (as a beer fan) to make the time to visit it yourself.

    The other beer related highlights/notes from the trip follow below:

    - Belfast, ME: Marshal Wharf Brewing Company. We did not get to use the growler we were given by the Persian at Novare Res, but the Marshal Wharf Brewing Company has a nice setup in that the brewery + brewery gift shop is in its own building, and the restaurant the brewery feeds (3 Tides) is next door to the brewery. 3 Tides and the brewery rest along Belfast bay, and both have an exterior that look like works in progress in that their construction looked haphazard (the 3 tides website says it was started in 2003, so perhaps they are going for the haphazard look). Unfortunately, when we arrived at the brewery they were not open, and would not be open for a few hours. Thus, they will need to be visited again another time.

    - In Bar Harbor, ME we tried some beer from the Atlantic Brewing Company. At the hotel we tried a bottle of their Honey Bragget Ale which is a barley wine style ale that uses wildflower honey. I thought it was enjoyable, but the heather honey dominated the flavor s little too much. My family and I also stopped by their brewery's restaurant for lunch. During lunch, we tried/shared a pint of their Bar Harbor Real Ale, the Special Old Bitter, their Scottish Ale, and their Coal Porter. It was a nice meal, and the beer was enjoyable.

    - Back in Portland, ME we stopped at the following breweries:
    • Allagash Brewing Company: Is more beautiful/relaxed than I thought it would be. With how much press/great reviews they receive around Chicago (and around the web) I thought it would be a madhouse. According to our tour guide Allagash brews from 5a to 12a Monday to Friday. Allagash will also be adding onto to their current space before the year is through to help increase capacity to meet demand. I really really liked how Allagash had their brewery setup, the size of the windows around their brewery (bigger is better), and the music they had playing was great as well. Easily my favorite brewery of the breweries that we visited on this trip.

    • Maine Beer Company: Is a brewery that started recently (2009) by two brothers. One runs the administrative side of things, while the other brews their beer. They were easily the smallest of the breweries we visited, and I could only muster a talk with the brewing brother. I asked about their beer (if you get a chance try their Peeper ale and their Zoe ale), but they only offer it in cases from their brewery. Unfortunately, we visited them on our last day in Maine and drinking a case of beer was a tall order at the time. Next time I am in Portland, more of their beer will be enjoyed. Coincidentally, the Maine Brewing Company is located a block or two from Allagash. Real convenient to visit both should you ever be in the area.

    • Shipyard Brewing Company: This brewery was my family's and my least favorite of the breweries we visited. I understand every business has to make a profit, but the Shipyard tour was 60% encouraging the people on the tour to purchase stuff from the Shipyard gift shop, 20% tour, 20% taste testing. The tour guide was an impatient oaf who wanted to get through the tour, and paid no mind to the questions of the people on the tour (ex: my Dad inquired about where a person can get used brewing equipment and the tour guide brushed the inquiry aside with 'i cannot answer this right now'). Finally, I did not enjoy any of their beers that I tried. I tried the following from Shipyard: Export Ale (plain, no attractive qualities other than it was wet), Old Thumper (confirmed my anti-bitter ale stance), Shipyard IPA (Fuggles a British IPA make, but I did not care for it), Summer Ale, and Pugsley's Signature Series Barley wine (info on these beers and others can be found here).
    Overall, the family trip to Maine was a great great time, and I really hope that we (my family and I) can go on many more family trips in the future.

    Friday, April 30, 2010

    Packaging in the marketplace

    Image taken from

    The other day I was walking to the warehouse of my workplace, my water bottle in hand, when the thought hit me: 'Man, I really like containers. How they hold things, how they look, and how they come in different sizes. But i do not know why I purchased this container." Being a beer fan, this stream of consciousness got me to thinking about the containers beer comes in, and the influence the beer's label/packaging has on whether or not i purchase it.

    Now, personally, I think I am a pretty normal person when it comes to what does and does not catch my eye. I like pretty things, shiny things, animated things, colorful things.. All of these qualities attract my eye and provides the fodder for a quick day dream on what the artist was thinking when she/he/they came up with the bit that grabbed my attention: did they set out to make something beautiful, or did they utilize psychological/sociological approaches to heighten the chances it would attract more attention.

    One example of an approach that could increase sales, if successful, is appealing imagery.

    One facet of this subject was mentioned in an article on about the Normalization of maleness and whiteness in beer packaging. In this posting the author, Rachel McCarthy James, points out that males and whiteness are constantly normalized within the design of the boxes. A few of the boxes she uses to highlight her point are Rogue's Mocha Porter, the Carolina Beer Company's Low Down Brown, and McSorely's Irish Pale Ale.
    Personally, I think that the 'normalization of maleness and whiteness' is a non-issue with most beer labels. These days, most labels seem to utilize animals, words, or objects. I believe it is these things, or a combination of them, that attracts us. Case-in-point: Mr. T's 30 lb necklace.

    A site called The Simpsons Archive takes this imagery notion a bit further. Jeffrey Katzin, in an article entitled Advertising of America's Beer Companies and the Duff Corporation(2002) states that the big beer companies try to not only attract attention with their ads, but they also try to associate a mindest/image with their product. Mr. Katzin provides examples of this using each of the big beer brands in the USA:

    For Budweiser:
    The Anheuser-Busch Company bases its advertising on athleticism and humor. The symbol of the Budweiser Clydesdales affixes an association of speed, strength, agility and swiftness to the company. The company's slogan is "Budweiser - The King of Beer," to assert its dominance and superiority over rivals.

    For Coors:
    The Coors Brewing Company associates itself with the rugged outdoors. The late 1990's featured commercials based around the slogan, "Tap the Rockies, Coors Light." These commercials featured giant, skimpily-clad, young, attractive people playing volleyball, Frisbee, or bowling through the Rocky Mountains, each of course toting a Coors Light.

    For Miller:
    The Miller Brewing Company's slogan for its newest drink, Miller High Life, is "Experience the High Life," and expresses the company's desire to be viewed as the intellectual, upper-class brand of beer.

    Duff beer:
    The Duff Corporation looks to take advantage of the typical Homer Simpson consumer through Duff Man, the athletic, suave, good-looking superhero spokesman. Duff Man's coined phrase is some masculine formed grunt of "Oh yeah" and usually is followed by some sort of body thrusting.

    These points are not made to ridicule, but to point out a marketing tactic that does work, even sub-consciously: buy our product, and in doing so show/tell others what kind of person you are. The 'big boys' do this through tv/radio commercials (i.e. their marketing/advertising budgets).

    The great thing about being a microbrew fan is that when we purchase a microbrew the image we immediately create is not open and shut as it is for people who purchase bud (fun person), miller (classy), coors (outdoors fan). Rather, since our purchase is unfamiliar to most beer fans we create curiosity: 'why did she/he purchase that beer?' 'What is it about that beer that makes it worth the price?'. We can't help but attract people to craft beer albeit in small steps.

    So, this all brings us to a final question: When you are in your favorite/preferred beer store, and you are interested in trying something new and you have no pre-conceived idea of what you want to get, what gives the upper hand to one beer over another? Let us know.

    Wednesday, April 28, 2010


    Hey folks I wanted to apologize for falling off the 'an update a week' wagon, but I can assure you that my absence has been due to beer related (i.e. genuine, non-drinking) projects.

    More on that later I promise.

    Currently, I have a few ideas in draft form that i need to add some color to, perhaps a little flash, and in no time I will cease to be gravity's bitch and shall instead become her nemesis.


    Saturday, April 10, 2010

    The craft brewing industry: a case of unique competition

    Image taken from

    In most veins of business, national or international, competition often creates a ruthless atmosphere in which competing companies/products do whatever they can to weaken their opponents. Whether it be through litigation, negative marketing campaigns (see verizon v. at&t), or huge marketing campaigns. With that being the norm, it is incredibly nice to see that paradigm turned on its ear in the beer industry. In recent years, and especially recently, collaboration between breweries has become a popular endeavor.

    A few collaborations that I am aware of:
    I have never been a part of such a project (yet, giggity) but I presume that material cost, freight cost, marketing cost, etc are split between the participating breweries. Not only that, but it strengthens social bonds, creates new ones, and helps the participants foster a greater appreciation for their fellow beer industry brethren. In short, I cannot think of a downside to collaborative brews, and I hope they continue. Beyond the benefits listed above, they prove that while 'competition' is an unavoidable facet of every industry, the brewing industry proves that it can be more than a term that insinuates animosity.

    Personally, I would like to see a collaboration between Surly and Schell's brewery of Minnesota. Surly + Schell's + Great Waters Brewing Company would be great as well. Ok, need to stop the day dreaming.

    Teamwork in the beer industry is also starting to exist beyond one-off collaborative beers. Earlier this year Dogfish Head, Russian River, Teo Musso (brewmaster of Birrificio Le Baladin) and Leonardo Di Vincenzo (of Birra del Borgo) teamed up with chefs Mario Batali, Joe Bastianich, and Italian food emporium Eataly to open a brewery-pub on a New York City.

    Where would you like to see collaborations occur next? Whiskey? Cheese? Toy stores? Let us know.

    Monday, April 5, 2010

    2010 Craft Brewers Conference (CBC)

    Image taken from

    This year the great city of Chicago has been blessed with the opportunity to host the Craft Brewers Conference.

    For those of you coming for this conference, or to enjoy the related festivities, I thought it would be helpful to provide links to listings of some of the aforementioned festivities, to some of the great Chicago breweries/brew pubs, as well as some links to bars that may or may not be hosting anything official but are worth a visit.

    Listings of events and special taps available during the conference:

    Chicago breweries and brew pubs that are well worth trying/visiting (in no particular order):

    Some great bars that are worth visiting (in no particular order):
    • Delilah's - a bar that Michael Jackson, the beer hunter, called 'one of the most important bars in America'.
    • The Map Room - constantly rated in the top 25 beer bars in America.
    • The Hop Leaf - Another one of the top beer bars in America.
    • The Village Tap - a great low key bar that has a great beer garden.
    • Clark Street Ale House - a classy joint that provides great beer in an atmosphere that will make you feel important midway through your first round.
    • The Long Room - real laid back vibe, nice beer selection, and a great crowd.
    • Quenchers Saloon - free popcorn, great beer, great love of beer, one of the best bars in the city. A personal favorite.

    While you may not get to all of these places, or try all of their wares, I hope you have a great time in Chicago (while you are here), and that you will come back soon!!

    Friday, April 2, 2010

    The first days of the Stone Brewing Company in Chicago

    Image taken from Grilled Ribs

    April 1st marked the first day that Stone Brewing Company has been available in Chicago and in greater Illinois. For the craft beer fans in Illinois, this has been a long time coming. With Illinois, in particular Chicago, being as big a state as it is (in terms of population and beer consumption), there are many people who are surprised that this did not happen sooner. According to an interview Greg Koch, the CEO of Stone Brewing company, did with Metromix Chicago this teasing was not done on purpose. Rather, according to Greg: At Stone, we felt from the very beginning [a loyalty to] a very strong philosophy and ethics-driven company. So we focus on making the very best beers that we can and we do not participate—ever—in shady business practices. I’m really not trying to give Chicago a bad time, but the reality is that the beer business in Chicago kind of has a reputation. So we knew that if we were going to be successful we would have to build our reputation as a brewery and as a sought-after beer up very significantly or we’d be left out in the cold.
    This is completely true. Any new brewery owner in Chicago will tell you that there is a huge, seemingly endless amount of paperwork that needs to be filled out, and permits that need to be aquired before you can begin brewing beer.

    Regardless, Stone is in Chicago now and people could not be happier. For those of you who are not aware of the Stone Brewing Company, here are a few bits of information about this very respectable company:

    If this was not enough, the Stone Brewing Company has collected instances where they were the focus of articles/news pieces in various magazines, newspapers, etc. In short, for a beer company that has been been making world class beer since 1996, this day was a long time coming.

    Personally, I am quite happy to be able to enjoy what the other major beer markets of the country have been enjoying before 4/1/2010. So, if you live in Illinois, be sure to pick up some Stone when you get the chance.

    Sunday, March 28, 2010


    I updated the posting about unique ingredients in beer due to an article about the Twisted Pine Tree Brewing Company. The article I speak of can be found here.

    Saturday, March 27, 2010

    Kissing cousins

    Images taken from &

    Seemingly on a daily basis, Charlie Papazian writes an article for his page. On 3-25-2010, Mr. Papazian's article was on an Italian microbrewery called Loverbeer. Loverbeer was founded by a homebrewer named Valter Loverier who was a Senior Embedded Software Specialist before founding Loverbeer. With each beer Mr. Loverier creates he attempts to combine an old Italian passion and an emerging new one: he tries to combine traditional wine-making techniques and beer brewing. With his creation called BeerBera Mr. Loverier utilizes “indirect” fermentation because it is activated by Barbera grape must (which is the beer's main ingredient). More can be read about LoverBeer at a beer blog called Beer Chronicles which bills itself as being an interpretation of the craft beer world seen by an Italian beer lover.

    Suffice it to say I was impressed to read about this for a few reasons:

    1) Proof that creativity in beer is not limited to loading up beers with hops or unique ingredients. Don't get me wrong, beers with huge amounts of hops are great, but it is very black and white (many hops or not that many hops). This blog has touched on unique ingredients before.

    2) I was concerned that the dominating trend would continue to be migrating from one beer style to another would continue (does it seem that sour beers are overtaking imperial/double ipas as the style of the moment?), and that creativity had become second to the number of IBUs in a beer or getting the abv percentage real high or low.

    I am looking forward to reading more about Italy's growing craft beer scene, and hope that the craft beer itch will take hold throughout Europe. Speaking of which, I wonder if the Stone Brewing Company has taken any additional steps towards opening a brewery in Europe (first discussed by Stone here.

    Sunday, March 14, 2010

    Thoughts on 'too many breweries'

    Image taken from JUS 394 CyberPolitics

    On March 10th, the blog of World Class Beverages submitted a posting entitled 'Less is more? Are there too many breweries?'.
    From the blog posting:

    Right now, the Brewer’s Association will tell you that there are almost 600 breweries in the United States that bottle, can, keg or otherwise distribute beer. That number doesn’t count the many hundreds of brewpubs that brew beer for sale in their restaurants. In most markets, there are only 2 or 3 beer distributors that will carry and sell craft beer, which leaves a theoretical total of 200 to 300 brewers per distributor in any particular area, not including the wide array of import brands that are currently available.

    For those that have not heard of World Class Beverages before, they are an association of beer distributors located throughout the United States that has dedicated themselves to the promotion of craft and specialty beers.

    While i have not read any responses from professional brewers, breweries, or brewpubs there has been a lot of feedback from beer fans all over.

    A selection of some of the responses:
    The majority opinion appears to be that the problem is not too many breweries, but the three tier system is what is to blame (save the opinion which is the best retort I have come across). After reading it over, both the original blog post & some of the responses it elicited, I am inclined to side with in that
    1. The number of beer distributors is much less than the number of wine distributors
    2. The idea of 'beer education' is still a relatively new idea (the Cicerone program has only been around since early 2008)
    3. The 'local beer scene' is not that developed in much of the country

    I think it is safe to say that we all like choices, and the more we foster the local beer and wine scenes in our communities the more choices for all. A fostered beer/wine scene would cause an increase in demand, and thus more distributors would be needed (so as to not have quality issues and to keep up with demand), competition would increase for the available shelf space, and prices would go down as a result.

    I am curious how the discussion of this 'issue' will grow with input from people in the professional side of the beer industry, as well as more input from non-professional brewers. What are your thoughts? Are there too many breweries?

    Wednesday, March 10, 2010

    Pine needles, peppers, eye of newt, etc..

    This evening Sunshine and I tried a 2009 Allagash Fluxus. This beer stands out, for reasons other than it is a limited release from Allagash, for being brewed with sweet potatoes and black pepper. It got me thinking about other beers that have unique ingredients such as Rogue's Chipotle Ale & Juniper Ale, Sprecher's Mbege(bananas) & Shakparo (sorghum and millet), and The Bruery's Autumn Maple (which is brewed with 17 lbs of yams per barrel).

    I am curious about what the attendance would be for a beer festival that featured beers that were made with unique ingredients such as the ones mentioned above. It would be for professional brewers and homebrewers alike. There would be a pre-festival judging to filter out the stuff that may be brewed with unique stuff, but possesses a taste that is not palatable. It would be great if the beers that passed the pre-fest judging found a new way to use everyday foods/things that we may take for granted. Say, acorns in a bock beer. It would be mighty nifty to have a bock beer (or a brown ale) that had the nuttiness of acorns.

    I figure the beer fest could be called Beers from Beyond the Brink. Yeah, that name caters to the 'extreme' end of the beer spectrum but it does get your attention (especially if the banners for it had fire, skulls, or a cornucopia from which some demon emerged).

    Anyway, it's just a thought but i think it would be a lot of fun and would be a fantastic opportunity to see how creative your neighbors could get.

    UPDATE (3-28-2010): Found this article via It's focus is on the Twisted Pine Brewing Company and their plan release a beer that uses ghost chilies. The article also mentions two other beers from the Twisted Pine Brewing Company called “Poison Fish” (a beer laced with ginger, wasabi, horseradish and mustard) and Billy’s Chilies (a beer that uses anaheim, fresno, serrano, jalapeno and habanero peppers). I am curious if any of these beers are any good. Has anyone in Boulder tried any of these offerings from the Twisted Pine Brewing Company (or anything from them)?

    Sunday, February 28, 2010

    homebrew beer recipes and recipe calculators

    I have been looking to streamline my beer making process. Granted, it is easy to purchase a kit and then brew it, but i am going to compose and brew my own recipes this year. I have a series of two steps already in place but feel they need to be smoothed out further. By smoothed out I mean fine tuned by opinions of fellow home brewers as to where the best places are to get feedback, equipment, grains, etc. Any and all input is appreciated.

    Step 1: recipe composition.
    A chum of mine, Maggie shared a link to a homebrew recipe calculator site (click here). In it you can compose and save your beer recipes and share them with others (if you choose to).

    After looking at the different options for ingredients I became both overwhelmed and excited as all get out at the options available for use in beer recipes (what is carafoam?). The convenience that this service provides makes recipe making a lot less intimidating, and thus more approachable. As a result I have made it a goal to make a new beer every month (i already owe a friend a porter to be named after him).

    Step 2: Material sourcing
    I keep in touch with the homebrew, beer, and wine appreciation club I was a part of while i lived in MN (should you be in MN, the group is called the Worthogs). They have suggested the following places for equipment, grains, hops, etc.

    • Northern Brewer = Great selection of material for both home brewers & wine makers at all levels of experience. Perhaps the most attractive quality for this company is their optional $7.99 flat rate shipping.
    • Brew & Grow = A business that specializes in horticulture (advice, equipment & material) and home brewing supplies. I do not believe they provide wine making supplies (my Chicago branch does not as of my last visit to them). The benefit to using them is that they are a company with a local branch that is a nice bike-ride away, and when visiting they can provide advice in real-time.

    With that, I turn it over to you: Are there other sites or businesses that you frequent for brewing advice, equipment, grains, etc that you have found to be helpful and worth spending money/time at? Let me know.

    Wednesday, February 24, 2010

    Port Brewing - Santa's Little Helper 2009

    This is an Imperial Stout that is released annually by the Port Brewing company of San Marcos, CA. It was first released in 1997 (according to the bottle), and is the Port Brewing company's 'annual insurance policy against lumps of coal in [their] stockings'.

    As far as imperial stouts are concerned I was not greatly impressed. It stuck to the conventional qualities of most imperial stouts: bourbon-esque smoothness, use of numerous malts (specifically two row, wheat, domestic and english crystal, roasted, black and chocolate malts according to the Port Brewing website), and little head retention.

    The one thing that stood out about this imperial stout, compared to others, is that when I smelled it I composed a vision of the fermentation room where i think this beer aged. For this stout I imagined a dimly lit room with red brick floors, columns, and walls that are blanketed with shadows. A lone, halving path that runs the length of the fermentation room that is illuminated by what few lights there are. In my mind it seemed like a great place to visit, or stroll through.

    Back to the beer: the aroma brought to mind chilled kalua and bourbon. The latter not that surprising, but I did not expect the kahlua to come to mind. A pleasant surprise.

    The dark smoke quality of the taste buffered the alcohol and caused me to nearly miss the taste of heated cinnamon that came out near the end of each quaff. The taste itself was layered in that the alcohol seemed to be the wave upon which the aforementioned malt rode over my tongue.

    As far as head retention is concerned, a peripheral ring of browned marshmallow foam remained throughout the tasting. The color was surprising in that most imperial stouts I have tried tend to have a darker brown color. Twas not a problem, it was merely a small surprise.

    The one negative, that was surprising, was the piece of flem-like material that found it's way into my girlfriend's glass. I figure it was some yeast that did not get filtered out, but I am not sure. Have any of you come across a similar hanger-on?

    In the end, I was not greatly impressed with this imperial stout, and I would not recommend this to someone curious about the style. I would be more inclined to suggest Bell's Expedition Stout, Great Divide's Yeti Imperial Stout, or Founders Imperial Stout

    Monday, February 15, 2010

    Flossmoor Station

    For valentines Day Sunshine and i went to Flossmoor Station for lunch and some sight seeing. For those of you who have never heard of Flossmoor Station brewpub I encourage you to go here to get a quick sense of the place.

    I cannot easily summarize how much I enjoyed the Flossmoor brewpub. It was cozy, tidy, old fashioned (the building it is in was founded in 1906), welcoming, the beer was great, the people were friendly, and we were blessed with some great weather during our trip there.

    During our lunch at Flossmoor we gave in and sampled a few of their beers. Sunshine had their Chessie Cherry Wheat, I had their CHAOS!!! IPA and we shared a goblet of their Up All Night Coffee Imperial Stout. The Chessie cherry wheat reminded me of New Glarus Brewing Company's Cherry beer sans the bite, and the CHAOS reminded me of a fresher Punk IPA but with a slightly larger malt presence.

    Their coffee stout was sweeter than expected for the style (presumably due to an addition of lactose), but it was enjoyable none the less. We took some picture of our travels (they can be found here). We are planning on returning in late summer 2010, but during that trip we are hoping to bring my sister and some chums along (if they want to go). I cannot wait for my next stop at Flossmoor Station!!

    Flossmoor has a listing for what is on tap on their blog page which can be found here.

    Again, I cannot recommend this place enough. The few downsides to Flossmoor, the city, that we had are as follows:
    - Nothing to do (by admittance of the people that worked at Flossmoor Station and our own opinion).
    - Eerily quiet.
    - We did not have our bicycles to get around on.

    In all fairness the above downsides can probably be chalked up to the season we are in (who wants to go outside for a prolonged period of time in winter?). With that assumption in mind i am sure that Flossmoor is a much more enjoyable town in the warmer months, and I hope it will be livelier when we return. Regardless, for what we saw, and experienced, I would whole heartily recommend Flossmoor Station to people. I would also recommend that you bring your bicycle along on your next trip to Flossmoor. It will aide greatly in further exploration and create fatigue which can conveniently be quenched by one of Flossmoor's great beers!.

    Friday, February 5, 2010

    Dugana IPA from Avery

    A description of this beer from the Avery website:
    'As fervent  devotees of hops, we found ourselves on a quest to create a transcendental IPA capable of quenching our voracious lupulin desires. Our mantra became "unity of bitterness, hop flavor and aroma." Enlightened, duganA IPA was born: A brutally bitter, dank, piney and resinous ale designed for those seeking a divine hop experience.'

    Avery is right on about the 'dank, piney, and resinous' bit. This DIPA is every bit of that, with less of a malt presence than Founders Double IPA (Double Trouble). I am not 100% sure about which of the three hops used in this beer (Chinook, Centennial and Columbus according to the Avery website) are the aromatic, bittering, etc. My guess is that the Chinook are the bittering hops and the Centennial and Columbus hops provide the aromatics.

    Now onto the specifics:

    Color = An unfiltered, browned marshmallow hue that sits beneath a cloud like head that maintains fantastically throughout the tasting.

    Aroma = grapefruit dominates the aroma. Cold tree sap and wet crab grass were also noticed. I have not experienced a DIPA with as big a grapefruit presence as this beer. I do not have much familiarity with DIPAs but the grapefruit quality is immediately evident.

    Taste = Before swallowing, the beer has a cellular membrane quality that encapsulates the bitterness and slows the beer's interaction with your taste buds. It tip toes along your tongue until you ingest it. Upon swallowing the beer the bitterness floods your tastebuds and refreshes immediately. The alcohol helps smooth the aftertaste.

    Overall = I understand that beers of this style are supposed to be large in the bitterness category but I have come to prefer beers that have sizable hop presence with a malt bill that nearly balances out the aforementioned hop component.
    I think this is a big DIPA that would be great at a summer bbq if partnered with pork chops that utilize a citric glaze (such as a pineapple focused glaze).
    I am still biased towards the Founders Double Trouble, but this was an enjoyable DIPA that I would recommend to someone looking for a DIPA from the bitter end of the style spectrum.

    Sunday, January 31, 2010

    Baume, Double Trouble, and another goal

    It has been a good weekend for beer.

    Half-Acre's Baume:

    On Saturday Erin, Alex and I caught up while splitting a growler of Baume from Half-Acre. It is a chocolate rye stout that has a greater hop presence this year than last year (according to Half-Acre's blog). The 2010 edition is a nice improvement over the 2009 edition which I recall having a more pronounced rye presence (not a bad thing at all). This year, the hops are kept in check, suppressed perhaps, by the rye. The beer's aroma is of dark chocolate and dried brownies. Baume is now available in 22 oz bottles in Chicago, and if you can get it I recommend it.

    Founders Double Trouble:

    Yesterday, I had some time to enjoy a beer and opted for Founders Double Tirouble. It is a great imperial ipa in that the bittering hops and malt are equal partners in this beer, with an alcohol presence that provides a road for the malt-hops bond to travel. The aroma is of warm sourdough bread with hints of sandal wood and summer prairie grass. The color is the expected clover honey brown/yellow. I would highly recommend this beer to people looking for a superior imperial ipa.

    On a personal note, I am going to make it my goal to update this blog more often. Ideally, a minimum of an update a week. I would also like to provide more notes on my homebrewing exploits, with more recipes, pictures, etc.. In short, I expect this blog to become more lively this year, and i fully intend on making this goal a reality.