Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Interview with a Brewer (To Be)

For today's post I've got a real treat for you guys. If you've looked around this site, you might have noticed that I've linked to other exceptional beer-related blogs. Well, the last couple of months I've been keeping up with the guys over at Monday Night Brewery as they chase their dream of opening up brewery.

Who/What is Monday Night Brewery?

In short, three young ambitious homebrewers in the Atlanta area attempting to start up a brewery by 2010. See their about page on their site for the longer version.

I managed to get in contact with MNB's Jonathan Baker and asked if he'd like to participate in a HolzBrew exclusive interview. He was down with it. Here goes:

Holz: You guys have been hard at work for a number of years trying to commercially start up Monday Night Brewery by 2010, what has been the most unexpected delay in the process thus far?

MNB: You know, it’s funny. From the outset we gave ourselves a 3-year time frame and we’ve actually stuck to it pretty well. We’re still on track to hit our original target date. Who knows what will happen between now and the end of the year, that could change, but thus far we haven’t encountered any huge delays.

Giving ourselves more time than necessary upfront was definitely a wise decision in hindsight. We wouldn’t have had the time to really develop and think through our brand otherwise. It’s also given us time to actually get pretty decent at brewing, which is obviously a critical piece in this whole picture. The real goal for us is to make sure that we have done everything possible to be successful before actually investing any serious capital into the enterprise.

Holz: By all accounts starting up a brewery is an expensive process. To date, has raising capital been tough?

MNB: It IS expensive. Which is one of the reasons why we’re going to start by contract brewing. Upfront we will only need a fraction of the capital we would need if we were building a brewery from scratch, which will allow us to own more of the company and build some of the demand we will need to sustain ourselves long term with less risk.

I think the 3-year time frame has actually been very helpful in this regard as well. 3 years has given us ample time to make connections and prove to potential investors that we are very serious. Thus far we haven’t had any trouble raising the money we need. We aren’t there yet, but we don’t foresee any huge hurdles in getting it done. We are also throwing in a good chunk of the money we need ourselves, which helps.

Holz: If you could look 5 years out past the initial start up of the brewery, how do you want to distribute your product? In other words, do you see yourself limiting distribution to just the state of Georgia, or perhaps limiting it to a specific region like the Southeast?

MNB: Great question. From the beginning I think we’ve always seen ourselves as a regional brewery. We want to focus on Atlanta and Georgia for the first couple years at least, but eventually we would like to distribute throughout the Southeast. Craft beer is still a local product, in our minds.

Holz: Determining the proper mix of year round offerings vs. seasonal or even limited releases is a delicate process for a professional brewer. What is your current plan for the number of regular year round selections and season/limited releases?

MNB: We are going to launch with 2 beers, a malty IPA (Eye Patch Ale) and a dark, smokey scotch ale (Drafty Kilt Scotch Ale). Eventually we’d like to have around 5 year-round beers, though that is probably a few years out. I think our homebrewing background has instilled in us a desire to experiment, so we would love to focus on limited edition seasonals to the extent that the market will allow it. It would be great if we could have 1-2 seasonals at any one time. We already want to work in our imperial pumpkin ale (Headless Horseman) and our barleywine (Laissez-Faire) whenever possible.

Holz: Could you guys use a good CPA sometime in the future (because I know one)?

MNB: Hmmm. Depends, does he work for beer?

Holz: Just to be clear, I do work for beer.

Seriously though, currently you three are full time professionals in fields outside of brewing, how do you plan to staff the brewery once it is in operation? Do the three of you intend to work at the brewery full time or will you share oversight responsibilities while still maintaining some professional schedule?

MNB: At the very beginning there will be some combination of 1 or 2 of us working part-time and then everyone working nights/weekends (especially Monday nights). We plan on jumping on full-time as the brewery needs it. Joel and I will be the first to make the leap, and then Jeff as we expand and can sustain the monstrous income that he plans to draw (joking). It could be a several year process, depending on how fast we are able to grow. The ultimate goal is that we will all be working full-time at the brewery.

Holz: You guys have been busy updating your brand image lately, how do you plan to differentiate yourself from all of the other great craft beer offerings in your area?

MNB: Part of the reason we updated our brand image was precisely to differentiate ourselves from some of the great craft beer here in Georgia. I think there is still a need for a slightly sophisticated, white-collar beer here. That’s where we fit in. We want to brew well-balanced, interesting beers that can be consumed on weeknights with or without food, with or without friends. Though we obviously recommend friends. We are shooting for a clean, clever look, and we want that same nuance to permeate our beers.

Holz: Besides drinking the final product, what do you guys enjoy most about brewing?

MNB: You know, I find the actual brewing process very cathartic. It’s hard work, but it’s almost like therapy. That or the people – we meet so many great people and the craft beer industry is unlike any industry I’ve ever been a part of. It’s very close-knit and communal.

Holz: Which current craft brewers and breweries do you most admire and why?

MNB: The impossible question. There are obviously too many to name, since craft beer is all about trying new things. But we do look up to Dogfish Head for their brazenness and willingness to experiment (and great beers) and Terrapin for what they’ve done to elevate craft beer in Georgia.

Holz: Which beer style do you enjoy brewing/drinking the most? The least?

MNB: You’ll get a different answer from all of us. Jeff is a hophead, so he loves the Eye Patch Ale. I love darker beers, so my favorite is the Drafty Kilt Scotch Ale. And Joel has a soft spot in his heart for our Belgian wit. I do think we can agree on our least favorite beer styles. We’ve never been too keen on lagers. That’s not to say we don’t enjoy them, we just don’t enjoy them as much as some of the other styles. So even though we have the equipment to lager beer, we just haven’t pulled the trigger yet.

Big thanks to Jonathan for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer my questions! Head over to the MNB site to keep up with their progress and buy their beer in 2010.

Brew on Mondays,


Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Founders Day

Today's post will cover Founder's Day the day that originated from a proclamation by the United States Continental Congress on October 11, 1782 in response to Great Britain's expected military defeat in the American Revolutionary War. JUST KIDDING ...

If your into beer and you live in Virginia you've probably heard that in the last couple of weeks your favorite beer stores have been receiving shipments of Founders Brewing Company's delicious beers. Having in-laws who live in the Midwest I fortunately was already familiar with several of Founders excellent beverages. My sources tell me that local distributors are or will be carrying up to 8 different Founder's beers:

1. Centennial IPA
2. Dirty Bastard Scotch Ale
3. Curmudeon Old Ale
4. Pale Ale
5. Breakfast Stout
6. Double Trouble
7. Porter
8. Imperial Stout

Last week I picked up a sixer of Dirty B and a 4 pack of Double Trouble. Here goes my initial thoughts on these two new additions to the local market:

Dirty Bastard

Pours up a dark red/copper with average sized creamy tan head.

The smell is absolutely fantastic. Lots of malt, cocoa, toffee, and some pine from the hops.

The flavor is as the name implies: Straight Dirty, in a good way (like phat, which doesn't mean you need to lay off the donuts). Toasted malt, spiciness, piney hops, and a hint of chocolate all mashed together. A little alcohol flavor on the back end.

Somewhere between a medium and heavy mouthfeel.

Despite the relatively high ABV, this is dangerously drinkable.

Where most Scotch ales are usually a focus on malt with very little in the way of hops, this one really brings a nice hopiness to the table that makes this beer unique. A must try!

Overall Grade: A

Double Trouble

Pours up a thick golden color, and fairly clear. Good head retention with approximately one finger of white head.

The smell fills the nose with fruitiness. Most notable distinguishable smells are apricot and citrus. Not much in the way of malt smell here.

The taste is sweetness up front with a lot of honey and hints of caramel and biscuit-bready malts. As you would expect from double IPA, the hops kick into overdrive and you get the taste of pine and grapefruit all the way through this great brew.

Thick bodied, and as well-balanced as an IIPA can get.

Despite tipping the scales at 9.4% ABV the alcohol is pretty well hidden throughout.

I like Double IPAs as much as anyone and this is a really good double IPA, but not so much so that I plan to stock my shelves with it in case of distribution scarcity. If you're are down with double IPAs, pick this one up and enjoy it.

Overall Grade: B

Get Found,


Sunday, April 26, 2009


“The mouth of a perfectly happy man is filled with beer.” ~ Ancient Egyptian Proverb

The Egyptians didn’t create the art of brewing, but it was of great importance in their society. In previous posts (see posts with a common theme “History of Beer” on the right), I discussed brewing in the ancient civilizations of Sumer and Babylon, this post continues chronologically with the Egyptians.

Some 5,000 years ago, beer was the king of fermented beverages (Don’t confuse with the “King of Beers”). In comparison to the Sumerians and Babylonians, the Egyptians left us the best documentation of ancient brewing techniques. Most of what we have learned about Egyptian brewing has come from murals in vaults, pyramids, and sacrificial chambers. These images exhibit the importance the art of beer-making held in Egyptian society.

Perhaps some of the best preserved relics came from the tomb of Meketre. Meketre was chancellor and chief steward during the reign of Mentuhotep II and Mentuhotep III. His tomb contained several wooden replicas, representing the daily activities and life in Ancient Egypt. Because the inner chamber of Meketre's tomb was untouched by grave robbers when it was discovered by Herbert E. Winlock in 1920, the wooden models give us an intimate three-dimensional view of how Egyptians lived. These wooden models represented Egyptians at work. There was a carpentry shop, an abattoir, a granary, a kitchen, river boats, and ... a brewery!

The brewery model from Meketre’s tomb dates from around 2009 to 1998 B.C. A card at the exhibition in the Metropolitan Museum of Art (where this model is preserved) explains what is going on in the brewery: "The overseer with a baton sits inside the door. In the brewery two women grind flour, which another man works into dough. After a second man treads the dough into mash in a tall vat, it is put into tall crocks to ferment. After fermentation, it is poured off into round jugs with black clay stoppers."

Ties to the Gods

Beer was a regular part of life for every Egyptian both the pharaohs and the working class alike. Beer was the currency of power and social structure, connected to the gods and the state. In Egyptian culture, all power derived from the sun (as you can imagine in an area of the world where the sun seems so utterly pervasive). The god of the sun, Re, was regarded as the source of all life and nourishment. Accordingly, he was considered the creator of beer. Re and his wife Nut, the goddess of the stars, were considered the creators of the Egyptian pharaohs and of all lesser gods. Their favorite daughter was Hathor, a pretty and alluring thing (Re kind of had a love jones for Hathor, which is kind of sick, by our modern attitudes toward incest). When Hathor drank beer, she turned into the goddess of love, lust, joy, singing, dancing, and laughter.

Hathor’s sacred tree was the sycamore, under which lovers would meet to share a crock of beer. Her brew was an aphrodisiac, often flavored with mandrake, a plant whose bark contains an alkaloid that has a narcotic effect.

The god of the dead, Osiris, was hailed as the guardian of beer. Egyptian beer was brewed from both emmer and barley and it was believed these grains had sprung spontaneously from Osiris' mummy, as a gift to mankind and as a symbol of life after death.

Ties to the State

The god-like pharaohs turned brewing into a state run monopoly and strictly licensed brewing rights to entrepreneurs and priests. Many temples opened their own breweries and pubs, all in the service of the gods. The port of Pelusium became a large brewing center, and trading in beer became big business.

Egyptians used beer as a currency to pay slaves, tradesmen, priests, and public officials alike. Every Egyptian was entitled to a particular amount of daily beer. This beer ration was strictly regulated, even amongst the royalty. A queen was entitled to 10 loaves of bread and two crocks of beer a day. This allotment was usually guaranteed to her by her husband, the pharaoh, as part of the marriage contract. A princess was due 10 loaves a day, but she was only entitled to one crock of free beer a day. An officer of the guard fared better, as he was due 20 loaves and two crocks. Even the daily ration of the slaves who provided the muscle for building the pyramids, were entitled two to three loaves of bred and two crocks of brew. The nectar of the gods was even a slave's entitlement.

Beer and Medicine

In addition to offering sustenance to the laborers and pharaohs alike, beer was also used for medicinal purposes. Ancient Egyptian medical documents (dated approximately 1,600 BC) list roughly 700 prescriptions regularly prescribed by doctors, of which about 100 involved beer. The Egyptians used beer as a gum-disease treatment, a dressing for wounds, and even an anal fumigant—a vapor borne pesticide to treat diseases of the anus (nasty, I realize).

Egyptian brewers unfortunately exited history for good due to the fall of the ancient Egypt (The fall of Egypt is a history lesson beyond my expertise), but it is believed that the Greeks learned the art of brewing from the Egyptians, perhaps a future post?

Drink like an Egyptian,


Note: If you are interested in learning more about the Egyptians and beer read Horst Dornbusch's article titled, "Egyptian Beer for the Living, the Dead ... and the Gods." I pulled info from all over to write this post, but I "borrowed" heavily from Mr. Dornbusch's superb article.

Monday, April 20, 2009

How to "Subscribe" to HolzBrew

Recently a few people have asked if it was possible to be notified when a new post was on HolzBrew. I'm not great with web programming, but I think I have found a solution. I've signed up with Feedburner (I love the name, it just sounds fast). If you click on "subscribe to: posts (atom)" at the bottom of the page you can embed HolzBrew on your homepage of choice (iGoogle, myYahoo, etc.).

Do it!


Friday, April 17, 2009


I got the opportunity to check out Anat Baron's documentary last night on the Beer industry titled, "Beer Wars." If you hadn't already heard about it, it was a one night only screening across America, that was followed up with a live panel discussion of the movie. Some of the panelists included Sam Caglione (Owner of Dogfish Head), Greg Koch (Owner of Stone), and Charlie Papazian (Homebrewer extraordinaire). The panel was also moderated by Ben Stein.

Anat did a great job of covering Big and Small beer, but it definitely was slanted in favor of the micro/craft brewer. All in all it was a craft beer lovefest, which was definitely cool. They discussed the dominance of A-B, as well as the three tier system in place in the US (Brewer, Distributor, and Retail) and how AB makes crappy beer, but convinces you to purchase it through slick marketing as well as some questionable business practices (lobbying, dominance of distribution, etc.).

The documentary focused on two main story lines. The first was the Dogfish or Sam Caglione story. Describing DFH's early roots and their rise in popularity. I thought Ben Stein did a great job of quizzing Sam on whether or not his goals are exactly the same as AB. I think Sam came off well, in that he tried to express that he was somewhat indifferent to the rate at which DFH grows, and that he is more interested in continuing to push the status quo of what beer is and of course focus on the beer being brewed rather than fanciful marketing campaigns. It was clear that while successfully growing micros need to be quite business savvy in order to stay in business, they don't necessarily intend to become backhanded sly business men either. It was cool to see the on screen camaraderie that Greg and Sam genuinely share. In contrast, I can't imagine the CEO's of AB, Coors, and Miller being good friends. But it all comes down to purpose. I mean DFH or Stone are small brewers who truly seem to have a passion for making great beer and running a business is second. The CEO's of AB, Coors, and Miller are supposed to be savvy business men first, and if they weren't then the would get ousted by their Board of Directors or shareholders. In summary that's just capitalism, baby.

The second story line involved Rhonda Kallman. She was original business partners with Jim Koch (founder of Boston Brewing Co.) and I suppose at some point she decided to leave in order to start doing her own thing. First, it was hard to imagine why someone who had so much success at an influential craft brewer like BBC would want to leave. But to each their own. She currently is promoting a new beer that she has developed herself (she is not a brewer, but more into beer advertising) called Moonshot. Moonshot is a light lager that includes caffeine. While I have to imagine from a marketing perspective it would seem that there would be a market for such a product, the beer itself didn't smack of quality, but rather, a marketing gimmick. During the panel discussion, Todd Alstrom from BeerAdvocate plainly stated that he thought that Moonshot was a crappy marketing gimmick and was in general bad for beer, which was awesomely awkward considering that he was seated very close to her during the live panel discussion.

When this thing hits the DVD market, you should pick it up or Netflix it. I was completely worth the two hours.


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Samichlaus 2006

Meg and I were given a 4 four pack of Samichlaus as a wedding gift in 2007 (the beer was actually bottled in 2006). If you are not familiar with Samichlaus here is the description from their website:

“Samichlaus” beer is brewed once a year, in each case on December 6th, and stored and matured afterwards for over 10 months before it is bottled. "Samichlaus” beer can mature for many years in the bottle; older vintages obtain a complexity and receive their creamy warm aftertaste. This beer can be served with heavy meals and desserts, particularly with chocolate - or as digestive and meditations drink. According to the Guinness Book of Records, it is the strongest lager beer in the world with 14 % alcohol and 32° original extract content. It is brewed exclusively of natural raw ingredients after the purity requirement of 1516.

Meg and I have enjoyed one of these fine brews each year since we were married in 2007. We have one left for 2010.

I'll have to say that this beer has changed quite a bit since we first tried it in 2007. During our first tasting in 2007, Meg and I were both overwhelmed with the over the top alcohol hotness of it. It also had a lot of bourbon overtones.

As expected this beer has really mellowed out and is much easier to appreciate the complexities. Here goes:

An aggressive pour yields almost no head whatsoever (that's what she said), but it has a nice deep orange color. It has a nice bready, and caramel aroma. As you might expect, this beer is quite sweet and malty. Raisins, figs, brown sugar and maple syrup come out with a little yeast flavor on the back end. Very little in the way of hop flavor. The mouthfeel is smooth and syrupy. This is definitely a dessert beer to split with a friend. If you drank more than one of these, it would put you down big time (or take you down to Chinatown!).

If I must place a rating on this one, I'd give it a straight B. This one is kind of hard to rate it, because there really isn't anything that comes to mind to compare it against, so it definitely gets a uniqueness street cred bump. But its not the kind of beer that you are going to run out and buy whole bunch of. Definitely a very cool wedding gift for fellow beer geeks.