Ann Arbor: Beer City USA?

Charlie Papazian, on Beer Examiner, is accepting nominations for the Beer City, USA contest. For a city to be nominated, it must receive 70 votes on the page. 16 Cities have already reached the required 70 votes, and a number of others are close – including Ann Arbor.

Per a Papazian tweet earlier today, Ann Arbor is one of the few additional cities within reach of a nomination:

Huntsville(26), Ann Arbor(20), Baltimore(16) in the hunt for nomination. Need 70.

You can only vote once per IP address, so round up as many friends as you can (or visit a bunch of different coffee shops), and try to get Ann Arbor nominated. A2 isn’t an option on the page’s poll, so you’ll have to write it in. Voting closes at 2PM Eastern on Sunday.

Why is Ann Arbor deserving? The home of Grizzly Peak, The Blue Tractor, Jolly Pumpkin (taphouse only – though the main brewery is still in metro Ann Arbor), Arbor Brewing Company, Ashley’s, and a robust homebrewing community, it’s almost certainly beer city, Michigan. Might as well keep aiming higher.

Founders Fest 2009

This is really late. I’m publishing it without further review to get some content going.

A downtown street festival celebrating beer sounds like a great idea, no? That’s the inspiration for Founder’s Fest, the 2009 edition of which was the second in a series. The concept is good: people, music, beer. The implementation, however, left a little bit too be desired.

Founders closed a block of Grandville St. directly in front of their tap house, and had the parking lot in front of their building open as well. The Tap House was not open, which was an unwise choice. There was a large tent near the entrance with row of tables and foldout chairs, and at the opposite end of the block a mobile stage was set up for the bands to perform. About halfway between, there were a beer tent and food tents from three restaurants. On this sunny day, being able to step inside of Founder’s would have been a welcome opportunity for all involved, especially with the garage door-style front to the building, the entire thing could have been left open, so festivalgoers could meander in and out. The setup, with the seating tent very far off to one side, was highly counterintuitive.

Make no mistake about it, this was not a cheap event. There was a $15 charge to enter, along with beers priced at $4, $6, and $12 for a 14-ounce cup. What it boiled down to was $15 for the right to spend more on each beer than you would at a normal day at Founders. Sure, the cover was to offset the costs of closing the street, etc., but much of that seemed so unnecessary to me. If the tap house had been open to the public (even with the garage doors open), there would have been much more space, and closing the street may not have even been necessary. The food, from area restaurants, was also more expensive than one would expect.

The Cottage Bar, Sami’s Gyro, and Maggie’s Kitchen were the food options. The options were good enough, with the American, Greek, and Mexican cuisine, respectively. I went with a gyro from Sami’s and (as mentioned above), it was more expensive than it typically is if you order one in the restaurant. The setup was also subpar here, as there were no defined lines for people to wait in, and the tents seemed to be situated right in the way of an area most people wanted to walk through.

The beer selections were… lacking. On top of costing more than they typically do, there were fewer options available than one would see simply walking into Founders on an average night. The distribution was done by purchasing $2 tickets, which you exchanged 2-3 of for a beer (or half beer, for the rotating taps). The tent was set up as a free-for all, which was actually pretty cool, not to mention the multi-taps – which were on the sides of Airstream-style trailers.. When I first arrive, I though that the taking of tickets might be done a little… inconsistently, and they wouldn’t really care to make sure that every beer was paid for in full (a la the winter beer festival from the Michigan Brewer’s Guild). This was not the case, meaning that it was just really expensive beer.

The local bands that played were standard-to-good examples of a local music scene, though I had never heard of any of them. There were some eclectic jams – but I guess that worked out fine for much of the clientele of the Fest. As bands were tearing down or setting up for their sets, a hippie drum band, which seemed to be composed mainly of Founders employees, played on the front porch of the building. It made the whole thing feel rather Ann Arboreal – and that’s not a good thing. Hippie drum circles suck.

This event is great in theory, but the planners need to pay a keener attention to the details of making sure it’s set up to operate more smoothly in future years. The physical layout and pricing options were the most egregious parts. Like many bars, the problem was primarily that the purveyors weren’t thinking about the setup through the eyes of the consumer, and therefore set it up illogically in certain aspects. As someone who was not a planner, but rather a customer going through the motions of the whole thing, it was easier to see what could be improved upon in future years.

Elsewhere: MLive previews the event.

Review: Fraoch Heather Ale

Fraoch Heather Ale is not only Scotch-style, but is also actually imported from Scotland – where they’ve been brewing it for more than 4000 years(!). On the nose, this beer is fairly fruity, though the aroma doesn’t really find its way into the flavor. It has a light feel, and finishes cleanly. As far as flavor, it doesn’t taste as malty as I usually expect Scotch Ales to be, and doesn’t have the flavor of a slightly stronger beer, though not all Scotch Ales are higher in alcohol content, those are the type that I’ve experienced. Though the flowery, fruity aroma doesn’t make its way into the flavor, there is a honey flavor added. The suggested serving temperature of Fraoch Heather Ale is slightly warmer than the fridge.

Fraoch Heather Ale
Fraoch Heather Ale

Bare-Bones Basics #3: Bottling

Bottled beer has been around since the 1500s. Before that, the only real way to get your beer was straight from the barrel. Now, the most common way for you or I to have a beer at home is for us to buy a six-pack. So, how is beer bottled? What gives it the carbonation? Why are some beers more carbonated than others?

There are two major ways for a bottle of beer to have carbonation in it. The first, and original, way for beer to be carbonated was the beer was to be sealed in bottles before the fermentation was finished. When fermentation occurs, it releases CO2. Airlocks in fermentation tanks release this CO2.If the tank is sealed, the CO2 has nowhere to go, and therefore stays in the liquid. Since bottles are airtight, the it continues to ferment, carbonating the bottle of beer.

However, this is more difficult to do than it sounds, since bottling the beer too early in the fermenting process could easily result in the bottles becoming too carbonated, and burst the bottle. This resulted in a modified method of bottling beers. The modern method is to ‘prime’ the bottles. In non-filtered beers, yeast is still present in the bottles. Therefore, just before bottling, priming sugar mixed with water is added to the fermented beer. This allows for a more controlled amount of sugar to be present in the bottle before it’s fermented inside the bottle.

In modern mass-produced beers, bottling is very different. Since most mass-produced beer is filtered, and therefore, lacks yeast to ferment inside the bottle, the carbonation is more directly added. The bottling company simple adds CO2 inside the bottles and the gas enters the liquid.

Some beers, notably Guinness, and other similar beers, like Tetley’s, use Nitrogen for most of their pressurization. The nitrogen is less soluble than the CO2. This means that the beer can be pressurized higher with less ‘fizzyness’. This is why, when you drink it, nitrogenated beers taste so smooth. The bubbles of nitrogen form very small bubbles compared to CO2, leading to a creamy head.

ESB Recipe

The Ingredients

  • 1lb American Crystal Malt 40L
  • 2oz British Chocolate Malt
  • 6.6lbs Liquid Dark Malt Extract
  • 2oz Chinook
  • 2.5oz Fuggle

The Process

  • Bring ≈3 gals of water up to heat.
  • Between 160-170ºF add grains in muslin bag and remove from heat. Allow to steep for 40 minutes.
  • Remove spent grains and bring mixture to boil.
  • Once malt is mixed bring to a boil and add 2oz Chinook hops. Start boil timer.
  • 50 minutes in/10 minutes from the end add 1.250z Fuggle and mix in.
  • After the boil is completed (60 minute mark) cool, and add an additional 2 gallons of purified water.
  • Add 1.25oz Fuggle.

The Stats

  • Original Gravity: 1.052
  • Bitterness: 67 IBU
  • Color: 28 HCU (~15 SRM)
  • Alcohol Content: 5.0% ABV

This should be a pretty standard ESB. We brewed the beer with only two people this time (Tim was out of town) but it went off without a hitch. We’ll tell you how it tasts in a few weeks.

Notes from Brew Day

  • True Brew All Malt Pale Ale Kit (Beer Depot). Instructions used – from kit. Tap water from Paul’s apartment.
  • Brewpot rinsed
  • Stirring spoon sanitized
  • Tablespoon sanitized
  • Measuring cup sanitized
  • No yeast starter jar
  • Fermentor and lid sanitized
  • Airlock sanitized
  • Thermometer sanitized
  • Hydrometer sanitized
  • Initial Boil: 1.5 Gal. Oven Rack over electric Stove.
  • Steeping grains cool for 30 min.
  • Malt added, smells like Pumpkin.
  • Mash on stove for too long (no sterilized water) but heat was turned down after 25 minutes
  • Slightly less sterilized water than recommended <3 gallons
  • Cooled mash before adding to carboy
  • Buy sterilized water (keep in fridge)
  • Added yeast to still hot wort
  • Buy 5 gallon bucket
  • Did not stir in yeast, swirled.
  • Did not take gravity measurements before fermentation

Friday Status Update

The beer is fermenting, as evidenced by the bubbling and whatnot. It’s starting to smell hoppier than it did. It appears the yeast is going to town on the malt, which is really reducing the pumpkin smell.  The closet where we are storing the carboy smells deliciously like beer.  Still lagging behind on the, like, posting actual information. Informative update still pending, along with the photos we took on day 1.