Earlier this week, Adam Nason of Beer Pulse wrote a letter entitled “Journalists: embargoes are dead”. He ends his post with this:
What you report and whether you are first matters. A lot.
What you know and whether you know first matters very little.
The relationship between a company and a publisher is as he describes, “murky”. In the competitive world of online publishing, a website hoping to break news about a craft beer company needs to compete with the publishing capabilities of the beer company itself. The web has provided social networks like Facebook and Twitter, where a company has a lower barrier to entry into self-publishing. These tools make it effortless for a company to spread its own voice to consumers. Adam, in his piece, posits that an online publisher needs first-hand access to information to be acknowledged as a competitive news source. It is my opinion, however, that first matters very little.
My issue with his assumption is the value that is placed on who breaks news. There is value to driving clicks to a website. More viewers means more advertising potential and revenue. But a publisher needs lots of resources to keep track of all the potential news breaks, as well as who else might know the news. If you’re one of five people that is vying to be first to break a headline, then you have to watch your sources as well as your competition. To what end? Being first.
Being first means posting what you know and when you know it, hoping no one else has what you have. You risk having incomplete or inaccurate information. But, your publication lives by its reputation. Can you trust your source?
Adam discusses what he does once he comes across information. He tries to validate his information by reaching out to the subject. He has been burned in this process. He sometimes won’t get a response, maybe the company posts the information first as a result, or maybe the company will give the exclusive to somebody else. That’s the game of publishing, and the game is what leads to the “murky” relationship.
So we are back to my issue of “being first”. If you get advance information, I say post it to the world. But be prepared to back it up with sources or face the repercussions. Posting false information will prevent companies from trusting you further, and you’ll betray your readers. There is nothing to be gained in that game.
Embargoes mean that a journalist can gain access to information as long as that information isn’t published until a designated time or condition is met. You won’t be the first to break the news. You’ll be one amongst many. The upside is that you’re going to have all the correct information. If you keep up your end of the embargo, then the company may continue to provide information to you beforehand. You’re building a trusting relationship with the ability to provide news to your readership.
What you know and whether you know first matters very little.
I value accuracy. Accuracy builds trust. With trust comes readers.
Minnesota does not allow for the sales of alcohol on Sundays. There is a lot of discussion to change the law, but there are also lots of feelings towards both sides of the argument. I think it’s a discussion that needs to happen.
How do you keep track of your homebrew recipes? Do you use any software on your desktop or mobile to write down your recipe ideas? I commonly carry around a Field Notes notebook, or jot down some ideas in a .txt file and save it to Dropbox. I’ve recently come across a service that I’ve integrated quite easily into my homebrew workflow, Evernote.
It’s pretty easy. Launch the app and give yourself an empty text file. I create a new note for each homebrew recipe I’m working on. I tag each note with the BJCP category number, beer style, and any random helpful tags I can think of (country of origin for example). This means I can launch the app on any of my devices, and all of my notes will be synced up and ready for editing.
I still carry my notebook around with me, but it integrates with this Evernote scheme rather nicely. I can take a photo of my sketches, notes, receipts using the Evernote app, which then adds these pictures to my notes. The best part is that Evernote has text and handwriting recognition, making all of my notes searchable. Check it out - it’s fun.
Molson Coors and other brewing behemoths like Anheuser-Busch have been experimenting with different flavors and creative product offerings to combat rapidly decreasing sales in the U.S and dwindling sales in Canada.
With the exception of Tenth and Blake, it seems that these large breweries are hoping for salvation in alco-pops. They’re beverage makers. I can’t imagine how beer flavors could possibly meld with the iced tea. It just seems like Coors will attach their brand if it should help with sales. Take some alcohol and add flavor - these aren’t how my beers are made.
It was at about this time last year that I started putting together my ideas for what a pumpkin ale should taste like. Granted, I was not sure if I would actually be able to deliver on the vision, but I was willing to give it a go. My pumpkin ale in 2010 was my first recipe from scratch; meaning, for the first time I was not brewing my beer from a kit, but instead with a crazy concoction of extracts and grains that I felt would generate the right flavors and characteristics. A year has passed and I have used each new homebrew since then as a chance to hone skills and further develop my process.
The New Brew
I created a Pumpkin Stout last Fall. This year I decided I could not make the same beer again, but instead I would make two new beers. I could have reused and followed my recipe from last year but I will tell you why I did not. First, I have not brewed all too many beers in the past year. I like to keep things interesting and once I really feel comfortable with my technique then I will try the same beer again and look for improvements. Secondly, I actually still have a few bottles of last year’s Pumpkin and it is drinking very well. So I did not see much need to try making the same beer again, yet. Instead my fervor for creating a pumpkin ale this year really came down to reading a few reviews and press releases of what other breweries were doing. The release that excited me most for the season was Oak Jacked Imperial Wood Aged Pumpkin Ale by Uinta Brewing Company.
Jacked is brewed with fresh pumpkin and fall spices and has been aging in Oak barrels for 6 months. The oak barrels add subtle nuances of toasted vanilla and bourbon notes. With an ABV of 10.31% (a play on the date of Halloween), Jacked is a big, unique pumpkin ale.
My mouth could not stop watering. I have not tried this beer and I doubt I will, sadly. But it gave me the Brewer’s Itch™ and I knew I had to recreate this beer for what my mind thought it should be. Again, though, today’s story is not about my take on this beer. That idea will become pumpkin beer number two for the season. It did however fuel the flames and lead us to today, where I present the story of a desire for an Oktoberfest, but with pumpkin.
I love a traditional, German Oktoberfest. My favorites have a rich, malty backbone. If one were to look at the grain bill for one of these beers, I would venture a guess that very few different grains are used. Last year I decided on brewing something of an Irish ale, with dark malts and an Irish ale yeast. This year I wanted a lighter colored beer, but still the rich body.
Pumpkin ale and Oktoberfests are the two popular seasonal beers available at this time of year, but they can be quite different. A pumpkin ale can choose to embrace its unique flavor and delve into the world of sweet and spicy by mimicking the flavors of pumpkin pie. Other brewers instead choose to make their pumpkin ales using the fruit as a way to add a bit more earthiness and body to what is usually an Amber lager. These are two different interpretations (and there are more) of the seasonal beer, and I think both can be great.
The other idea floating around was to make a traditional Oktoberfest. This presented a number of problems for me as well. I don’t have the proper lagering facilities. I cannot control the temperature of my fermenting beer enough to really get it in the range that lager yeast do their work, roughly 45 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit. The other problem in my mind is that I believe Oktoberfests to be a fairly simple grain bill and probably more appropriate to be brewed using all-grain methods as opposed to extract. I did not rule out the idea, however, and decided to conduct some unofficial research by sampling whatever Oktoberfests I could find at the local store. It was in the Victory Festbier and Hacker-Pschorr Oktoberfest that I found my answers. These wonderfully malty, and nutty beers were the flavors I craved. I would recreate them, but I would not be creating an Oktoberfest. I would instead use their recipes and inspiration and brew an ale with pumpkin.
Putting It All Together
Maybe I was making an Oktoberfest. By any traditional means, and especially by the reinheitsgebot, this was no Oktoberfest. But the flavors I tasted in the Hacker-Pschorr and Victory cemented in my mind that I needed to use a simple grain bill to build out that malty backbone. I lacked the proper fermenting temperatures to lager the beer, or did I?
Wyeast 2112 California Lager ferments in the range of 58 to 68 degrees Fahrenheit, and will help me retain some of the lager characteristics I seek if I can keep the temperatures just a little bit lower. This was my answer going forward. In choosing my yeast it was important to try and find something that wouldn’t necessarily impart a lot of flavor but at the same time perform respectably at these early Fall temperatures. I had also considered using Wyeast 1338 European Ale but it gets very active and likes a bit higher gravity than what I was aiming for, I believe. Even when I first started conceptualizing the beer I had considered a Scottish Ale yeast. Rich and malty? You bet. It’s homebrew and it’s pumpkin; why not be crazy?
In researching the Oktoberfest beers I scrounged for clone recipes and tidbits residing on brewers’ websites. It became evident that one of my main grains would be Munich. Fortunately it seems that Northern Brewer, a local homebrew shop, recently added Munich Malt Syrup to their inventory. This would become my “base malt”. In keeping true to the idea of a simple grain bill, I didn’t stray far from the German malts and included a small amount of Vienna as well.
- 6.0 lbs Munich Malt Extract
- 0.5 lbs Dark Dry Malt Extract (DME)
- 0.5 lbs German Dark Munich
- 0.5 lbs German CaraMunich II
- 0.5 lbs Vienna
- 45 oz. Canned Pumpkin @ 15 min left in boil — pre-baked for one hour in oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit
- 1 oz. Cluster (6.8%) @ Sparge
- 1 oz. German Tettnang (3.7%) @ 60 minutes
- 1 tsp Nutmeg @ 15 minutes
- 1 tsp Cinnamon @ 15 minutes
- Batch Size: 5 gal
- Original Gravity: 1.054
- Final Gravity: 1.013
- ABV: 5.5%
- Bitterness: 24.4 IBU
- Color: 10.9 SRM
Mr. Glasheen brews beer, which he sometimes trades for prawns with the crew of trawlers that anchor off shore.