Learning About Beer: The 4-Vessel Brewhouse

If homebrewing is a bike, then a 2-vessel brewhouse is your average car, and a 4-vessel brewhouse is a Tesla Roadster. Everyone learns to ride a bike and does so for many years. Many people graduate to cars, usually some cheap or used ride to get them around. Then, finally, a very few get something as profoundly bad ass as a Tesla.

I’ve lost count of all the breweries I’ve visited in the past 11 years, from folks as small as DogBerry to as big as Sierra Nevada. What I can still count, on my hands, is the number of breweries I’ve been to with a 4-vessel brewhouse. To learn more about what a 4-vessel brewhouse is, and their difference from 2-vessel systems, I headed down to Rhinegeist to talk to Head Brewer Jim Matt.

Rhinegeist Brewery

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"Unbridled Brewing" to Open in Middletown, but not next month…

The Middletown Journal rushed publication on this article last night, and it contained incorrect information about “Unbridled Brewing.” I found out about the article this morning and reached out to one of the owners to help clear the air.

Unbridled Brewing Front

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A Brief Introduction To Taft's Ale House

Taft's Ale House

Taft’s Ale House invited my fellow Cincinnati Beer Bloggers and I for a preview on Saturday afternoon. As of today, Taft’s is the newest brewery and brewpub in the city. I’m not going to go on too long here and cover the same ground as others, they’ve already done fantastic jobs. I do want to say that I have been eagerly anticipating Taft’s for months now. I enjoyed the beers Kevin Moreland (Taft’s head brewer) was making at Listermann/Triple Digit and knew he’d make great beer at Taft’s, which he has. I did not know it was a gorgeous building full of delicious beer and food. I have a new favorite spot in OTR. For more info read the following folks posts:

BeerMumbo’s 3 reasons to visit Taft’s Ale House. Plus bonus before & after pics of the amazing transformation of the building.

BeerQuest ABV shares his thoughts on the beer, the building, and a lot of beautiful photos

WCPO’s Jesse Folk with background the beers and the brewhouse

Introducing Star City Brewing

The explosion of new craft brewers in Cincinnati during the fall of 2011 and beginning of 2012 is now being experienced just an hour north in Dayton. The past 2 years have seen Dayton Beer Company, Yellow Springs Brewery, Toxic, Lock 27, 5th Street Brewing Co-Op all open with Eudora and Warped Wing on the way (I think I’m missing one or two). Star City Brewing (Facebook/Twitter/Web page) will join the pack of Dayton-area breweries with their grand opening this Friday (11/15/13) at 4 p.m. They were kind enough to pass me an invite for the soft opening last weekend so I can give everyone the low down and let you know to head on up Friday.

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Call for blog post topics from MadTree!

I’ve somehow talked the guys at MadTree into writing a guest blog post. Here’s the thing though, we can’t really decide what’d be best for them to write about. Due to our indecision we’re turning it over to you, our dear readers, to voice your opinion on what you’d like to read from them.

Just keep it beer or brewery related and we’ll take the idea that’s most popular or that we like the most. Leave a comment below, on the Queen City Drinks Facebook page, or shoot us a tweet. Here are some ideas that I had as well as that we’ve heard from folks on Twitter already:

  • strategies for acquiring tap handles and shelf space at bars and liquor stores
  • how they market themselves for the casual drinker vs the committed followers.
  • new seasonals, and marketing.
  • Suppose I’d like in-depth “why.” Obviously they love beer, but why the need to make it or people? also enjoy talk about branding/marketing. What’s the brewery’s unique voice? Why? How does it fill a hole as local biz?
  • Decision to go with cans instead of bottles and the process for actually canning the beer

Hopefully this guest post works out well for everyone and I can talk more local breweries into it later. But that will come then, for the time being you need to tell us what you want to read from MadTree!

BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse Cincinnati

BJs-Restaurant-Logo

A few weeks ago while I was leading a microbrewery tour with Tonic Tours, I started talking with a guy named Dave Reed who was enjoying a pint at Rivertown’s taproom. Turns out he is the beer manager at BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse and he invited Charlie and I down to enjoy some beer, check out their food, and see what we thought of the place.

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Because I live near Tri-County Mall I have driven by BJ’s a number of times since they opened but something about the name and the location in the mall had caused me to write them off as a cheesy sports bar with too much testosterone and too many chicken wings so I’d never actually been inside. In the end, I may not have taken Dave up on his offer except that my cousin who usually has pretty good taste in beer recently told me that BJ’s has one of the best pumpkin ale’s he’d ever had. I was intrigued to see if I had judged BJ’s too harshly.

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BJ’s started as a deep-dish pizza restaurant in 1978 in Southern California. The chain took off in California and in 1996 they added a brewery to their line up and began brewing their own beer to serve in their restaurants. All of the beer served at the Cincinnati location is brewed in the Reno brewery. In addition to the Tri-County location they have recently opened a location in Florence, KY and a BJ’s will be opening in Dayton later this month.

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BJ’s has 12 of their own beers on tap, with selections ranging from their standard American-style light beer to a stout and a double IPA coming out later this month. When we sat down with Dave at BJ’s he brought us a flight of their four most popular beers: the LightSwitch Lager, BrewHouse Blonde, Piranha Pale Ale, and Jeremiah Red. All of the beers were solid, approachable, and fairly safe which makes sense given that these are the best selling beers in a fairly mainstream restaurant. There was actually a barely detectable hint of hops in their light beer and I particularly enjoyed the Jeremiah Red. It has a fairly complex malt profile although it may be a bit sweet for most people’s taste in an Irish Red Ale. I wish that we had gotten a chance to try some of the darker varieties of beer as well to see how they compared, but overall I would rate the beer good but not great. In addition to their own beer’s BJ’s also has 12 more beers on tap with everything from Blue Moon to Rivertown’s Hopbomber.

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I have to say that the food impressed me a little more than the beer. The deep dish pizza was delicious, a nice amount of toppings that didn’t get overwhelmed by the crust. The seared ahi tuna salad I ordered was amazing, with the tuna cooked to perfection and nicely balanced by the rice-wine vinaigrette and generous portion of avocado. I was actually most impressed by the wide selection items on their menu that fit different diets. They had a surprisingly large number of gluten-free dishes that they apparently even use separate utensils and trays for to avoid cross-contamination. Their low calorie dishes, including the salad I got, were great even if they insist on calling them “Enlightened Entrees.”

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Over all the biggest disappointment was that this pumpkin ale I’d heard about from my cousin was not available yet. I guess I will just have to head back in October when the finally tap it and try a few more of their beers before I make a final decision. Over all I would to head to BJ’s for the food first and enjoy the beer as an accompaniment to the meal rather than the main attraction. With easy parking, little to no wait, and plenty of big screen TV’s there are worse choices for a night out with solid food and beer you can’t try anywhere else. If you want to check out BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse a good opportunity is coming up at the end of the month. They are doing a beer and cider dinner September 30th; for $30 per person you get five courses of food with a beer or cider paired with each one. Call the restaurant to reserve a seat at (513) 671-1805. And be sure to check out Episode 30 of Bottoms Up to hear Charlie and I try the beer and get a rundown of each one.

BJ's Restaurant and Brew House on Urbanspoon

Know your local brewery: Listermann’s/Triple Digit

Continuing my goal to help folks get to know the brewers and breweries behind their favorite local beers I stopped by Listermann Brewing Company in Evanston (next to Norwood) for a talk with owner Dan Listermann, head brewer Kevin Moreland, and social media director Jason Brewer. To provide some background info before we get rolling Listermann’s was first a home brew store, supplying the area with everything they needed to make their own beer. They then evolved into a small brewery under the same name and after a few more years decided to add Triple Digit as a separate brand, though it’s still brewed in the same place and on the same equipment as the Listermann’s beers.

Due to interviewing 3 people at slightly seperate times over 2 hours I have paraphrased most of the following unless otherwise noted.

About the brewer:

  • How’d you get into “good” beer?
    • Dan Listermann first brewed in 1973 (before home brewing was legal in the US) when he was at Miami University, he gave it up after a few terrible tasting brews.

    “I walked into a drug store in Oxford and it was a package with a pound of malt and an ounce of hops and I was supposed to boil that all up with 5 pounds of sugar and put that in a clean garbage can with a packet of fleischmann’s [bread yeast]. I had a special hydrometer with a big B on it and you were supposed to bottle it when it got to the B. So I bottled it then and most of them foamed all over the place and some of them blew up and it all smelled bad. You couldn’t get proper yeast.” – Dan Listermann

    • Around 1987 Dan’s old roommate gave him a call, convinced him to hang out and brew again, and they made some really good brews. Dan started making beers again, joined the bloatarians, and wasn’t happy with some of the equipment available. Being an engineer by trade Dan set about making his own equipment. By 1993 his business was being held back by his job and his job was being held back by his business. Dan could get another job in engineering easy enough but to found another business would be very difficult.
  • What has the local brewing community been like?
    • Dan: Oh wonderful. I go to events and all the beer geeks are there and I know them all.Most of the guys who have breweries now started out here one way or the other. It’s a real tight community, we don’t look at each other as competition, we are mining the rich vein of Bud Light drinkers. The more they drink of craft beer the more likely they’ll drink our craft beer as well. The big conversion isn’t going form one craft beer to the next, it’s going from Bud Light to real beer.

About the brewery:

  • How and when did Listermann’s get going? How bout Triple Digit?
    • Dan Listermann started manufacturing homebrewing equipment back in 1991 out of his house. The store officially started in 1995 and kept manufacturing equipment until about 7 years ago. They found it wasn’t really worth the effort and in 2008 got a brewing license. It was really a side thing that didn’t take off very well at the time. In the winter of 2011/2012 Kevin Moreland was hired as head brewer and that’s when things really started taking off big time.
    • Triple Digit was Dan’s idea from a long time ago. He wanted something to differentiate the Listermann beers from the “honking huge ones” that is big, high alcohol beers in 22 oz bombers.
  • What’s it like managing two brands under the same roof?
    • The upside is they are able to differentiate between two different kinds of beer and distribute differently. The downsides are having to double brand awareness efforts. They frequently have to explain to people that both Listermann’s and Triple Digit are actually the same brewery.
  • Is there a story behind the names?
    • Listermann’s Brewering Company (the store and brewery) are named after owner Dan Listermann
    • Triple Digit is named for all their beers having a starting gravity of over 100. Starting gravity is a measurement of the amount of sugars in a beer; the more fermentable sugar the higher the starting gravity. The  difference between starting and finishing gravity can be used to calculate the alcohol by volume.
  • What is your brewing process, from brain storm to bottle shelf?
    • Kevin: The first thing I do is listen to Jason nag about things about what we don’t have and what we should be doing. I always look at what the market is doing here locally, then I’ll look at our flavor profile, and something I want to drink during this season. Once we come up with a concept we have to figure out if it’s feasible to do at the brewery, how we’re gonna brew it, bottle it, label it. It kills you to do some small batch runs because the amount of labor involved and labels and everything. One of the big key things is if it’s gonna be unique enough for us to produce, we want to make sure it’s a home run and not something that’s just for 100 people in the room.
    • Jason: Long story short it either takes 2 hours or 6 months. Like the Peanut Butter Porter I bugged Kevin for 6 months, every time he asked me what he should brew and I’d say the Peanut Butter Porter. One time though he asked me and I said brew me a double IPA, he went to his computer and 30 minutes later was brewing it.
    • Kevin: At any time there’s 50 different beers in my head that I want to brew but it’s the space and time. That’s what I like about being in the small brewery and that’s why I chose to come here. I get an idea and next week you may have it on draft here. We’re not here to do 8,000 barrels a year, we’re here to do unique beers and making sure everyone gets paid.
  • What can we expect to see from L/TD going forward?
    • Slide Job – This is a collaboration brew with Cellar Dweller. It will be an oatmeal sweet stout aged in port barrels with cherries added.
    • Cranium – Imperial oatmeal stout with vanilla and coffee, from Coffee Emporium, added.
    • Julia with blackberries – Julia is a Belgian-style sour blonde brewed with Riesling and Muscat grape juices and aged in oak barrels
    • The Cincinnati river boat series – Kevin: This will be 3 sour historical style beers, 2 of which are too far off in the future to talk about, but the first one will be called Colonel Plug its a Kentucky Common. This is a historical style brewed with a lot of corn, black malt, and 6-row malt. We did a 20 hour sour mash and used 40% corn, 6-row, and a little bit of honey malt. Which added some sweetness and gave it all a nice color that looks like Bourbon. We took the sour mash and got it to a certain PH that I felt was the right sourness for the beer. Ran it off and boiled it then aged it in American White Oak like how the beer would’ve been done back then. We’ve bottled it and are waiting on label approval. This was a collaboration with Ray Spangler, creator of the Bloatarian brewing league and home brewer of the year for 1987.
  • Details on the new bottling line
    • Jason: Currently 2 guys work together to hand fill the bottles much like a [slightly advanced] home brew system. We had someone the Ohio’s Bureau of Worker Compensation in at an event who mentioned that they had a grant available that you can write and get money towards a bottling machine. We looked into it and didn’t think anything of it, I wrote the grant, they came out and watched us. I had to write out all the steps for hand bottling and how much time and money we could save with a bottling machine. They approved the grant and we should have the machine here by the end of August. Then we just have to do case studies on the number of steps that are saved to prevent workers compensation claims, not that we’ve had any, but with the expansion that we’re doing there will be a whole lot more room for that to happen. We’ll start doing 4 packs of 12 oz for Triple Digit bottles.
  • Where can folks go to get Listermann’s or Triple Digit?
    • Listermann’s – Always on tap at Arnold’s and JAPs, often at Gordo’s, Rhinehaus in OTR, Firehouse Grill in Blue Ash has Jungle Honey, Parker’s in Blue Ash [and the Listermann’s tap room!]
    • Triple Digit – Is available in bottles at  better beer stores around town
  • Anything else that you want folks to know?
    • Kevin: Come down and have a beer with us! Cincinnati is booming with craft breweries coming on board and all the fans, and the bloggers, talking about all the collaborations and brands is great. I encourage everyone to go around and check them all out and for the local bars to carry the local beers.