April 20th, 2010

The First Sip: Labelers, Hopsters and Maltsters, Oh My

The First Sip is a virtual beer flight written by Brian Royo, the brewer out at No Label Brewing Company. He will select a beer style, pick a few craft or micro brews that he’s been sampling, and discuss what he likes about them. For the beer connoisseurs, it’ll be a unique chance to hear a local brewer’s thoughts on what makes these beers great. For the novices and aspiring beer knurds, he’ll walk you through what you should be looking for in a good beer and offer some suggestions on quality suds for you palette.

The 2010 Craft Brewers Conference April 7-10 in Chicago, Illinois. A conference for beer? Who knew? What could they possibly talk about for four days? Well, come to find out, plenty. This conference is home to BrewExpo America (trade show for beer), the World Beer Cup, about fifty different seminars and classes, as well as countless events throughout the week. In other words, it’s a big freakin’ deal!

This was my first Craft Brewers Conference to attend. I was extremely nervous because I had no idea what to expect and I knew I was going to be in the same room with Dogfish Head, Sierra Nevada, New Belgium, St. Arnolds, Real Ale, Flying Dog, and many other established brewers. Just about every craft brewer was represented in some fashion. Also in attendance was Charlie Papazian, a major contributor to the craft brewing movement and author of 5 books. Most notable among those is the Complete Joy of Homebrewing. He could be considered the godfather of home brewing. I sat next to him in a seminar and was too chicken to ask him any questions. He probably thought I was a creep for staring at him.

First day of class was Wednesday; it was the MicroMatic Dispensing Class. This was a seven hour class on how to properly set up, clean and maintain a beer dispensing system. I won’t bore you with all the details but there is a lot to think about when it comes to dispensing beer. It’s more than hooking up a CO2 tanks to a keg and pulling a tap handle. The goal is to make a balanced system between the CO2 in the beer and the pressure exerted on the kegs. Many craft beers have different CO2 concentrations which require different pressures of CO2 for each keg. Too much or not enough pressure can cause foaming.

Other things need to be considered as well, like the length the beer has to travel, the diameter of the beer lines, the temperature of the beer, the temperature of the beer lines, the material of the beer lines, types of taps being used. Another thing to consider is whether nitrogen is involved. Nitrogen can be used with CO2 to reduce the amount of CO2 being used in order to prevent over carbonation of the kegs, a practice that many Stouts employ.

Thursday, Friday and Saturday, we attended more classes. The CBC offers a myriad of classes, ranging from legal advice to technical brewing. Luckily, I had my parents and wife there to attend classes that I could not attend. My wife, who handles all the marketing for No Label, went to all the marketing classes. Some of those classes included using social media like Facebook, Twitter and FourSquare. Others were geared towards how to give interviews and ways to market yourself. My parents attended all legal and financing classes. Those classes ranged from financing a start up brewery to Malt Beverage Labeling. I attended many of the technical brewing classes. These classes made me realize that I have barely scratched the surface of brewing and brewing practices. I learned a ton and I can’t wait to put what learned to test.

In between classes, we attended the BrewExpo America. This is the trade expo for brewers. Imagine a bridal extravaganza, but for beer, and unlike the extravaganza, this was fun. Anything that had to do with beer was on display. There were labelers, bottle companies, hopsters (hop suppliers), maltsters (grain suppliers), brewing equipment manufacturers, keg suppliers, cleaning suppliers and, of course, beer. You name it, it was there. What a great time we had drinking beer and talking to people about beer. Suffice it to say, the BrewExpo might give Disney World a run for it’s money as the happiest place on earth.

One event that I wish we did attend was the World Beer Cup Gala. This is the awards ceremony for the World Beer Cup, the Olympics of Beer Competitions. It is held every two years and is considered to be the most prestigious beer competition in the world. This year’s competition consisted of 3,330 different beers from 642 brewers in 44 countries. Gold, Silver and Bronze awards are given in 90 beer style categories. That’s a lot of beers to sample! Check out http://worldbeercup.org/winners.html to see this year’s winners.

That’s it for this article. Next article will be on American Lagers. I think I will do another blind testing and see if people really can tell the difference between Miller, Bud and Coors. Coors Light did win a bronze medal at World Beer Cup in the style of American Lager. I will go out on a limb and say people can’t tell them apart. What do you think? I will also see if I can find some craft brewers that make an American Lager. If you know of any please post them or send me an email brian@nolabelbrew.com.

Support your local brewery!


Brian Royo

— Brian Royo


Andy Sparhawk — Tuesday, April 20, 2010 5:38 pm

Full Sail Session is a Premium American Lager. cheers!

Jeff Rocheleau — Wednesday, April 21, 2010 12:56 pm

Sam Adams Light. Always a good American alternative to BMC.

Truth be told, albeit a beer geek, I’ve been known to enjoy a Coors Light on occasion.

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