Archive for January 2012
January 25th, 2012
Written by Albert Ciuksza Jr. | Short URL: http://pbeer.me/1O
Consumers have to taste it to fall in love...
I caught the Craft Beer Outlook for 2012 article from the Washington Times today and an interview with Cameron Saunders from Shangy’s Wholesaler & Retail sparked a thought about how small beer brands must be built a bottle at a time. Quote:
“Coming from a company that is both a wholesaler and a retailer, we very much welcome the impending changes in Pennsylvania laws. … The less brands people are trying, the more likely they will keep drinking the same old beers.”
For those who might not know, in Pennsylvania, beer is sold at beer distributors (known as beer retailers in most other parts of the country). These venues are only allowed to sell beer in cases. For individual bottles and six packs, consumers must go to specific outlets or bars.
This presents a challenge for small breweries. While in other areas, someone can purchase one bottle or a six pack of a craft brew to taste, a consumer in Pennsylvania has to invest in an entire case. Not wanting to risk $30-$50 on a beer they might not like, consumers tend to gravitate to safe old standbys.
As we’ve told beer brands in the past, the fastest way to a consumer’s heart is through their taste buds, and that means that the brewery has to be committed to getting people to taste its product. The second-fasted way is to get the folks who are tasting your beer to tell their friends. Keep on the lookout for beer tastings and beer festivals, and use Twitter, Facebook, QR codes and other tools to make it a social experience. Getting beer in people’s hands to taste, enjoy, and tell everyone is the most effective and inexpensive way to get more product out the door.
January 24th, 2012
Written by Albert Ciuksza Jr. | Short URL: http://pbeer.me/1M
Have a Facebook cover on your timeline? How about adding a beer Facebook cover to your profile page? Here are a few artful — and funny — covers for your enjoyment. If you like them, leave a comment and a link to your Facebook profile!
Barley & Hops
Dark Beer on a Bar
Beer Bottle Cap Opened
Full Beer Mugs
Tap Pouring on Profile Picture
January 18th, 2012
Written by Albert Ciuksza Jr. | Short URL: http://pbeer.me/1L
Barack Bock Label in Action
Naming a homebrew is one of the joys of making your own beer, but it really doesn’t matter if you can’t slap a label on it. As a still-learning homebrewer, it was one aspect of the process I was most anticipating.
My first attempts at custom labels were, in my mind, overly-expensive, up to $1/label. Customization is nice, but it’s not worth $50+ a batch.
After visiting an office supply store, I realized that the print-your-own labels (4″ wide by 3 1/3″ tall) were the perfect size for a bottle of beer. Coming six to a sheet, you can find 600 labels on Amazon.com for less than $10. That’s 80 cents for two cases of beer!
This discovery inspired all sorts of beer naming and label options. We brewed a beer for each 2008 presidential candidate to be consumed at a election party we were hosting, as well as a Christmas beer and a Dos Equis Amber-style beer. We created a custom “Surgeon General’s warning” for humor and added various elements that made our labels look professional. While there are plenty of other beer examples, these are my favorites (you can see the gallery below).
Here are two ways to do them yourself:
- Microsoft Word: Here is the template for Microsoft Word. This is a plain template so that you can maximize your creativity in making the design.
- Adobe Photoshop: This is the template that I use for the labels above (careful, it’s almost 28MB). It provides all sorts of space to add your own copy, graphics, etc. If you have any graphic design experience, this is a great start. Once you’re done with your design, you’ll have to incorporate them into an 8.5″ x 11″ page for printing, either in Photoshop or the Word template.
I highly recommend that you use a color laser printer for the labels. This might require a trip to an office supply store if you don’t have access to your own printer, but should only add 17 cents or less to the cost of each label.
You might see, in the picture of me “drinking” a Barack Bock, a neck label. While not a perfect solution, I was able to use these 1 2/3″ round labels to add an additional look of professionalism to the bottle.
Do you have any beer label tips to share? Have you ever made your own labels before? Feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions.
January 11th, 2012
Written by Albert Ciuksza Jr. | Short URL: http://pbeer.me/1J
Like us at www.facebook.com/PortaBeer for 15% off your order!
Starting today, all of our Facebook fans get 15% off at PortaBeer.com. How do you get it? Just like us at www.facebook.com/PortaBeer, then click the “15% Off for Fans!” tab.
Seriously, you’d be crazy not to get a Sentol opener for you (and a friend) at 15% off.
January 10th, 2012
Written by Albert Ciuksza Jr. | Short URL: http://pbeer.me/1I
My not-so-perfect presentation of the beer dinner
We had a PortaBeer team meeting last night and I decided that I would make good on my resolution to cook with beer more often. Feeding four people, I scoured the web for four recipes that had beer as a major ingredient: a main course, two side dishes, and a dessert. In addition, all four of these items would have to be prepared in an hour to 90 minutes. No small feat.
For the main course, I decided on a Savory Onion Chicken from TasteofHome.com. The sides would be a modified potato dish called Patatas Bravas and Green Beans in Beer Sauce. For dessert, I picked the Macerated Raspberries with Stout Foam and Shaved Dark Chocolate.
Overall, everything went together surprisingly well despite the mix of traditional, spicy and sweet flavors. The dessert was very good, but it felt like there was nothing there — I’d have chosen something different in hindsight. Finally, I ran out of time, only finishing the beans and the chicken. I needed reinforcements to finish the potatoes and the dessert, but that was my fault for trying to tackle four dishes I’ve never made before at once.
The Main Course – Savory Onion Chicken (Recipe Here)
Tender chicken with the perfect beer gravy
There were very few ingredients and the process of making this dish was very simple. I generally followed the recipe, but used chicken breast and drumsticks instead of fryer chicken. I also decided to use two bottles of beer instead of one (Penn Dark, a beer from Pittsburgh-based Penn Brewery, though any lager, pilsner or porter should work), which cooked down to a gravy that was excellent when drizzled on the surprisingly tender chicken. The beer flavor was noticeable but not overpowering. Everyone really enjoyed it and I will be making it again, perhaps with an IPA next time to give it a little more bite.
Side Dish #1 – Patatas Bravas (Recipe Here)
The Brave Potatoes
I love Spanish and Mexican food, so I was instantly intrigued by this recipe. I used red potatoes and made everything as directed. Keeping with the theme, I used Dos Equis Amber, adding a little bit to the boiling water as well as the dish.
There were no complaints here — it had a great mix of flavor and had the right amount of spice to keep a diverse set of taste buds happy. The beer was less noticeable than I had hoped, but you could still taste the echoes of the Most Interesting Man.
One tip: don’t be shy about adding salt and pepper to the final product after you’ve cooked the mixture dry, especially pepper. Both really helped to bring out the rest of the flavors. Next time, I’ll add a couple of tablespoons of lime juice as well, which I think will also help reinforce the Mexican theme to the dish.
Side Dish #2 – Green Beans in Beer Sauce (Recipe Here)
Sweet, Beery Green Beans
While there was some disagreement on the green beans, I loved them. After reading the ingredients, I decided on the Saranac Vanilla Porter, figuring that it would complement the sweetness and bacon very well. My only adjustments to the recipe were the amount of beer (I used a whole bottle) and the amount of time I simmered the butter/beer/bean mixture (15 minutes instead of 10).
The consensus was that it might have been a little too sweet — I didn’t think so but saw what others were saying. Next time I make it, I’ll probably back off the sugar, maybe by as much as a tablespoon each type. To offset that, I’d use red wine vinegar, which I think tends to be less punchy than white. I think I’ll add a little more onion next time, too. I’m excited to see how the next batch turns out.
Dessert – Macerated Raspberries with Stout Foam and Shaved Dark Chocolate (Recipe Here)
Looks great, tastes great, but not enough "there" there
I was really excited about this recipe and, well, it failed to meet expectations. Not that it didn’t taste great — the java porter was a great replacement for the suggested stout — but the consistency was entirely too light to make the foam the main attraction. Worse, it took forever to whip, even to get just enough for four small servings.
I did a little research to see what went wrong and found this recipe … the exact same name but a much more complicated process. I realized that I had found a dumbed-down version that was easier to make, but simply didn’t get the results I expected. Next time, I’ll try this Chocolate Stout Cake.
I think the beer food night was a success and have found a couple of things that I will definitely make again. The main dish was excellent as were the beans, but I’ll be interested to see how a couple of changes might make the potatoes a little more interesting. Most importantly, I’ll be looking at something else for the dessert — this list of beer floats is already making me look forward to another night of beer cooking experimentation.
Have any favorite beer recipes? Send them over or leave them in the comments section…
January 5th, 2012
Written by Albert Ciuksza Jr. | Short URL: http://pbeer.me/1H
This was stolen directly from the Bloomberg.com site. Illustration by Mikey Burton.
According to the Brewers Association, there are more than 1,900 breweries operating across the country, with nearly 900 in various stages of planning. These breweries account for 100,000 American jobs and about $3 billion in wages and benefits. With the country hovering at nearly 9% unemployment, nearly any growth is good growth.
Perhaps lawmakers see the opportunity, too.
According to an op-ed by Christian DeBenedetti in Bloomberg, “various high-ranking senators and representatives have been working on a pair of bills that not only would make craft brewing more competitive, but may also make a small contribution to helping relieve the nation’s grinding unemployment.” The name of the bill? Small BREW.
Currently boasting 147 co-sponsors, the bill would update the 1976 tax codes by reducing excise taxes up to 50% for small breweries. What would this bring? According to a Harvard University study, $865 million of economic activity over the next five years, creating 4,400 jobs in the first year and 300 thereafter.
It’s exciting to see small breweries get the attention of federal lawmakers. Even if this legislation doesn’t pass, my hope is that the attention trickles down to state governments across the country, helping them to see opportunities to update outdated laws that are preventing small breweries from entering their local markets (and creating jobs).
Better access to more varieties of beer? Cheers to that.
January 3rd, 2012
Written by Albert Ciuksza Jr. | Short URL: http://pbeer.me/1G
If this is what your list looks like, change your list.
After recovering from the previous night’s revelry, I usually join the millions of people who develop an ambitious list of New Year’s resolutions. Like most of those well-intentioned folks, I fall off the wagon by March.
In 2012, I decided to do better. Instead of setting ambiguous goals that involve pain and sacrifice, I came up with five beer-related things that I will enjoy doing within the next 12 months. Not only will my New Year’s resolutions be a lot of fun, but I’ll also have a sense of accomplishment at the end of the year. It’s a win-win. Here they are…
1. Keep a beer diary
With so many beers available, it’s really hard to keep track of the ones I’d like to have again — or avoid at all costs. With Beerby, a mobile app (Android, iPhone), I can track which beers I’ve had, what I thought about them, and where they’re on tap around town. Download it yourself and keep me honest by following my progress at Beerby.com/PortaBeer.
2. Use beer as an ingredient
Soaking bratwurst in beer is for rookies. While I’ve used wine and liquor in recipes (margarita chicken fajitas anyone?), I’ve rarely used beer when I cook. Something tells me that a sweet Belgian reduction sauce over a grilled T-Bone steak would be excellent. Maybe I’ll start with this steak marinade. Or maybe this salad dressing.
If you’re buying beer in growlers, it probably means that it’s local and fresh. With so many excellent microbreweries to explore, I’ve decided to buy more of my beer in 1/2 gallon jugs. Not only will I be supporting local small businesses, but I’ll get to enjoy great-tasting, fresh beer that can’t be found anywhere else. In Pittsburgh, my personal favorite is East End Brewing.
4. Become a Cicerone (and learn how to say it properly)
Everyone needs a guide and beer is no different. With, the Cicerone certification program — the beer equivalent of a wine sommelier — I will learn what beers to pair with what foods and how best to serve each variety. I want to complete the first level of certification.
5. Keep it simple
The best thing about beer is that it’s accessible to anyone who wants to enjoy it. So, despite my lofty beer-related goals, it’s important to remember that having a few cans of macrobrew around the fire in the backyard is still a great time. No one should ever take beer, or themselves, too seriously.
Do you have any beer-related resolutions? Share them on our opinion board!
January 1st, 2012
Written by Albert Ciuksza Jr. | Short URL: http://pbeer.me/1F
It has been a crazy year for PortaBeer in 2011. Here’s a brief list of what we’ve done over the last year…
- Submitted a patent for the PortaKeg product
- Added several new products
- Made advances on two products currently in development
- Named one of five finalists in the Business Bout competition in Pittsburgh
- Developed a video for the ‘America’s Favorite Small Business’ competition
- Celebrated the PortaBeer.com One Year Anniversary!
We’re announcing the launch of our new blog, with many site updates coming for the main site, in anticipation of tremendous growth in the coming year. We’ll be focusing more on you, friends, as well as advancing the culture of beer. We can’t wait to keep the conversation going with beer drinkers around the world.
More importantly, we’re not comfortable simply selling products that we love, so we’re focusing our energy on product development. We’re excited to be launching two products this year that are game-changers in beer dispensing. We can’t wait to introduce these innovations to all of the beer lovers out there.
Thanks again for sticking by us through 2011 and we wish everyone a happy, healthy and plentiful new year in 2012.