Brats & Beer Oktoberfest in Kingman

Brats & Beer Oktoberfest in Kingman

img_3811This year was the ninth Brats & Beer Oktoberfest in Kingman. It started on a Friday afternoon, October 7 and I arrived around 3:30, about half an hour after official start time. Not much was going on yet as I entered the gate. There were about fifteen booths compactly arranged and forming a corridor leading to the large tents where the food was served. A slight clearing in front of the food tents made a small cornhole game possible.

 

I stopped at the Smiley and Bee Enterprises table first. We talked honey (since that is their ware), mead, blindness and guide dog. The guide dog is the titular Smiley. It was a nice chat, good way to start the festival. Other booths featured a local writer, some key holders in the shape of classic cars, exotic healing stuff, kettle corn and Italian food. I purchased some pasta and sauce from them. On Saturday, the wife and I bought some of the kettle corn and it was superb. My son went with me on Friday and as we approached the food tent the band Push was wrapping up their set. They had a great sound, very tight, worked well with the crowd. They should be kept for future use.

img_3813img_3810But I was there for a little food and some beer. Therefore I ordered a bratwurst. It was pleasant, tender, not too strong, slight fennel in the aftertaste. It was topped with sauerkraut and mustard, but they did not overpower the sausage. It was paired with a schwarzbier from Black Bridge Brewery.  B3 was the sole beer vendor which was a brilliant decision and certainly made me enjoy this Oktoberfest much more this year. It was a much better choice than just serving boring national beers. The scwharzbier was dressed in a beautiful brown hue that was complimented by the sunlight. It had a medium body and absolutely nothing offensive or controversial, either via hops or malt or yeast. It is my definition of a session beer, an easy drinker. I feared then that it might cost me more money than usual. There was also an altbier on tap. It was a cousin to the schwarzbier, lighter in color, heavier in body and still tasty. Also being served was B3’s Octoberfest. Just. Great. I really don’t know how else to expound upon that beer. It’s Evil Red without the bad temper. Rive Ale, their IPA, was sold out by Saturday night.

If you can scrounge up a handful of friends, the Brats & Beer festival is a tranquil diversion. It would consist mostly of eating, drinking, chatting and listening to the band. It was pleasant. Now, from a younger viewpoint, my son did think it was a little boring – not much variety in the vendors, not much to look at. Nothing to make you want to stay. Interestingly, he also noted that it might be better with more beer, like out of town craft beer.
But, really, no complaints – it seemed well organized and controlled, it was a good addition for down town activities. Keep it up.img_3898

A Conversion, A Party, A Business – Part One of an Interview With Black Bridge Brewery’s Owner

A Conversion, A Party, A Business – Part One of an Interview With Black Bridge Brewery’s Owner

Early in October, Tim Schritter consented to be interviewed. Many of you out there may already know much of the story and many of the facts he related to me regarding himself and Black Bridge Brewery. It was all new to me and I thank him for the time he spent answering my questions.

This is just one segment of the interview, there will be more to come. Part one is a brief origin story of Tim as a brewer and Black Bridge Brewery as a business. Further segments will go over his beers and brewing philosophy, some distribution, and most importantly what each of us in Kingman can do to make it a success. As if you don’t know that bit already …

***

When did you start brewing and why?

I’ve told this story a million times, it should be easy … so, I was dating a girl and it became pretty serious and the way things happened it ended up we were going to have a kid. And her dad – who didn’t really know me or probably like me since I was dating his daughter; he only had two daughters, this is his oldest daughter, so this is his baby girl – called me up and invited me over to meet him and brew a beer and I thought, “well I like beer, I drink Keystone Light like it’s going outta style.”

Keystone? (slightly incredulous and appalled)

I was ‘Keystoned’, that’s what they nicknamed me. –

So I go down there – it’s just downtown here – and he’s got a little seven gallon aluminum kettle pot, like a turkey fryer, on a burner and he’s got extract syrup and probably an ounce of hops and some dry yeast and a bucket. So we’re boiling water, adding the syrup and we’re just talking about beer, and my lack of knowledge about beer, and he’s like “hey do you wanna beer?” and I was like, yeah I want a beer. I’m thinking it’s going to be like a Coors or a Budweiser or something. He breaks open a bottle of Stone’s Arrogant Bastard. I never had that before in my life. That was the worst [stuff] I’ve ever tasted. Ever. Period. Ever. Ever. It’s now in my top five, I love Arrogant Bastard and it has become a huge inspiration for something like Evil Red, for instance, that big malt, hop forward type of style.

So, we brew this beer, I drink the nastiest [stuff] I’d ever had. I went home later that night and I’m drinking a Keystone Light, sitting on the couch, and I’m like, I’m not tasting anything. And I’m really starting to not enjoy this and not know why. I don’t know if it’s a bad batch, the cans are bad, what? So I crack open another 12 pack and I open one and I just don’t like it anymore. Like, that immediately something switched. So two weeks later I go back to his house and bottle this off and I take half the bottles home and I let ‘em sit in my closet then I put them in my fridge – it was just an American wheat – and I cracked that first one open and, oh, it was so good. I was hooked. I can do this. I can brew. There is nothing to this. And there is a lot to this, but overnight I developed a knack and a severe passion for wanting to have great beer. I didn’t know what great beer was but I knew the [sub-par liquid] I was drinking was not it. All it was doing was making me pee a lot, there was no satisfaction out if it, it was wasting money, it sucked.

I took my skills of fabricating and I built me a little stand and I got me a little stainless kettle and a bucket and a fridge and some temp control and just a little bit at a time. I brewed two batches, extract, and I bottled both batches – and I immediately became tired of the hobby because I didn’t want to bottle anymore. I said, if I’m gonna do this I’m gonna keg and that’s when I met Jason Fuller. He gave me a Williams Brewing magazine and a Northern Brewer magazine and I started buying a couple of kegs and a draft system I built and I had two or three beers on tap and built me a bigger brew system, gravity fed, three tier. I went all grain after my second batch, well third batch technically, but the second I had done on my own, I went all grain. And I’m on system number five now. After ten years of brewing.

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What made you want to start a brewery, do it professionally?

It was a combination of things.

I had people come to my house, because in my garage I eventually set up this bar; I had my draft system, I had my ferment fridges, I had three TVs in my garage, it was insulated, it was climate controlled, it was like a bar.

My garage was a bar.

I never once parked my vehicle in the garage. I had people over all the time and they would just drink a beer and we’d watch sports; I had a grill and I’d cook food for people. It just became this thing, like, why don’t you do this, why don’t you start a brewery? I was always told, like, there’s no way you can do it. You’re never gonna make money. Turns out, they were actually very accurate. So, it was just a culmination of that.

And then, with the economy turning south my other business, that I still operate, it’s a demolition landfill, with a lack of construction comes a lack of demolition – which translates into a lack of funds for myself. I lost my house, both vehicles, I ended up living with my kids in my dad’s house, which is very humbling when you’re 28 years old. The only thing I really kept was my brew system and my stuff. And he’s got a big detached garage and so I started brewing there because I couldn’t find a job, I needed to do something. My other business was still operating enough to give me money. So I started brewing again and I put an open sign up out on the highway, it was on Hualapai Mountain Road, and people would just (say), “what’s this?” and they would pull in and it’s, oh, yeah, I make beer, try it out, it’s free, and they would leave tips. And it became this big following and every weekend it was this huge party at the Garage Days, which is what we called it, and I began to see a huge desire for craft beer in Kingman and there was no place to get it other than the few gas stations. There was no place for people to go sit down and have a variety of craft beer. So that’s when I said, you know, if the bank will give me a few dollars, I’m gonna do this. So I went and talked to the bank and I got a few dollars and I did it.

Who else is involved down here, is it just you?

I am the sole owner. Of course, my dad is around and he helps, and I’ve got Karry, and I’ve got a great crew. We all operate as one; no one here is above anyone else. There’s no boss. I mean, we joke; I call Lee “Mr Boss Man” and do the same thing to Karry. But as far as anything goes, we’re all the same. I guess, ultimately, the responsibility comes down on me.


So tell me this story: the Black Bridge name. I know it’s for a local landmark, but why is it signifies for you?

It’s a railroad bridge. If you go down 4th street,here, the second one (bridge) – there’s three – is THE Black Bridge.

In high school we had a few party spots; Black Bridge was the best because it was completely hidden, it was off the beaten path and yet you could get to it in a Honda Civic. You didn’t have to have a truck, like the other three places. So it was the most accessible for everyone to go party and have a good time at and it was completely hidden from the highway to where the the cops couldn’t see the bonfires and all the vehicles and everything. I didn’t know this at the time, but, for generations high school students have been going to Black Bridge. That bridge has been there since, I think, the ’10s or the ‘20s. It was there, you know, when the railroad came through and that’s what created Kingman. That bridge was there.

And then, coming up with a name for this place … “oh, that’s a great name,” I’d Google it – taken! I’d come up with another name, Google it, taken! I went months, looking for a name that wasn’t taken. Then something came up, “hey remember back in the days when we used to go down to Black Bridge.” So I Googled Black Bridge Brewery. There was Draw Bridge Brewery, but no Black Bridge Brewery, so I said that’s it and we got that name. And it made sense because it’s a local party spot, so now I feel like, in essence, I’m bringing a party to downtown in a legitimate business that generations of Kingmanites will recognize the name by and say, “okay, that’s what this is.”

I’ve thought about looking into that, about names and breweries, because I think some of the best ones are tied to something specific in a community.

There’s two trains of thought about that. If you want to start a brewery and someday have a goal of distributing nationally, well, you don’t want a local reference because no one across the state is going to understand that or know what it is. Think of Stone [Brewing]. Well, a stone is a rock and everywhere you go there’s a rock or a stone. So that doesn’t have a significance to one area, which is Escondido. If it was Escondido Brewing it wouldn’t make sense to sell it in Quahog, you know, Maryland. So Black Bridge is – and I’m not saying that my goals aren’t someday to be huge and be everywhere – but it’s very much a local landmark type thing. But I could always just rebrand to something else.

Black Bridge would work; even if went beyond local. It’s got a good cadence to it. Think about Russian River, that’s somewhat localized but people know it.

Russian River is also very, um, well known river as well.

Yeah, but it’s tied to a locale.

That also goes to show if you have lots and lots of money to develop a lot of products and have amazing labeling and marketing you can do anything, anywhere. I mean, there is literally a company that sells (poop) and you buy it and they’ll send it to someone you don’t like and they don’t know who it came from. It’s called poopsenders.com. I kid you not.

***

End of Part One

Next we’ll talk favorite beers and the singular quality of B3 beers.

Australian Beer Survey

Unfortunately, all I know about Australian beer is Fosters. I had a few cans of it in my early days of beer exploration and have since forgotten about it. I’ve not explored any other offerings from the land Down Under. But craft beer is exploding there as it is around the world.

Check out the infographic below, provided by Richard Kelsey of Australia’s Beer Cartel.  It covers some highlights of their recent craft beer survey, which revealed to me the identity of several breweries in that country and seems like a starting place to research more about Australian beer.  It’s refreshing to see that IPA is not the #1 beer consumed in the country (though it is #2).  My joy at that statistic may simply be personal preference, but, still, good show mates.   Sours only show up at the #12 spot on the consumption list, with 37% of the survey loving them.  A little education and the beer drinkers might come around.  (Fine, the IPA was #1 on the list which showed beer drinkers favorite beer style.  Sounds like peer pressure to me.)

Some other factoids in the survey results that are not reflected in the graphic:

  •  Australians are convinced they make the best beer in the world – is anyone really surprised at that? – and they think the USA is next best.
  • 33% of craft beer drinkers are homebrewers – fantastic, let that number grow!
  • 42% of them belong to some kind of beer appreciation club (beer of the month, etc.)

And for fellow bloggers, here are the top five Australian beer blogs, as voted on by the craft beer drinkers there:

  1. The Beer Pilgrim
  2. 250 Beers
  3. Radio Brews News
  4. Ale of A Time
  5. Girl + Beer

Check out the Beer Cartel website for more cool Aussie beer news.

2016-australian-craft-beer-survey-infographic

The ill feelings caused by Hodgon’s business practices drove Indian merchants to the Burton breweries for their more ethical business practices and more consistent beer supply. 

IPA: Brewing Techniques, Recipes and the Evolution of India Pale Ale by Mitch Steele
A bittersweet sentence, I say. Both a warning about bad business ethics, which the beer world continues to have, and a harbinger of the need for consistency 

From a comparison of the processes employed to obtain these two results, it will be found that the brewer’s art has attained a higher degree of perfection than that of the distiller

THE ART OF MAKING WHISKEY, SO AS TO OBTAIN A BETTER, PURER, CHEAPER AND GREATER QUANTITY OF SPIRIT, FROM A GIVEN QUANTITY OF GRAIN. ALSO, THE ART OF CONVERTING IT INTO GIN. AFTER THE PROCESS OF THE HOLLAND DISTILLERS, WITHOUT ANY AUGMENTATION OF PRICE. By ANTHONY BOUCHERIE

Beer is perfection … yeah, I can roll with that. 

The Role of Beer Books In Contributing to Beer Culture

The Role of Beer Books In Contributing to Beer Culture

“If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.” ― Haruki Murakami

I don’t really know who that author is; I found that quote on Goodreads. It seems a good fit for The Session this month. The beer blogging Friday host Joan Birraire posited this for a subject:

“The discussion at hand is “The Role of Beer Books”. Participants can talk about that first book that caught their attention, which brought them to get interested in beer; or maybe about books that helped developing their local beer scene. … I believe that their importance for the beer culture makes books worthy for another Session.”

I am certain that the “culture” referenced above is not of the sort found in the pages of this book: Yeast: The Practical Guide to Beer Fermentation.   It would refer more to this kind of culture: “the ideas, customs, and intellectual and artistic conditions of a society or group.” – This definition contributed by Vocabulary.com. The following are the books that have influenced me and that I feel added to the ideas, customs and intellectual conditions of beer and brewing.

Do you remember the Star Trek episode, “A Piece of the Action?”  Yes, the one where Kirk and Spock get to act like caricatures of gangsters from the 1920s (it also introduced the geniotic card game, fizbin, but that doesnt play into this story, so never mind that part). The entire species on the planet the Enterprise crew was visiting had been influenced by a single book that a previous starship had left, Chicago Mobs of the Twenties.  So, Joy of Homebrewing is that book for home brewers. It has influenced, maybe not the planet, but a huge percentage of the home brewing population. Just a few days ago I was commanded to follow the Papazian Mantra – relax, don’t worry, have a homebrew – and that’s, what, about thirty years post-publication! Good show, Mr Papazian. The book is full of great advice and technique, to be sure, and it has a little history, and certainly it contains the home brew philosophy that many of us live by, especially on Brew Day. As far as importance to culture, I put it at numero uno.  

  • A side note: the Trek episode reminded me of this treasure from Retroactive*.  (Wink-wink, nudge-nudge, Black Bridge – Def Leppard Friday’s should be a Thing!)

As far as quick reference goes, Miller’s book, Brewing the World’s Great Beers is fantastic, in my opinion. It is categorized in sections for extract, partial mash and all grain, quickly lays out the basic grist bill and instructions for all the basic beer styles. It’s often where I start in recipe formulating. I like the sparse nature of the book, too. No fluff, just beer stuff; knowledge at your fingertips. Like the JoH above, this book has served me well for years of successful home brewing and has survived two children, several dogs, and lots of Brew Days. 

I am enthralled by Belgian beers so it was a lot of fun to read Brew Like A Monk. There are recipe breakdowns throughout, but also brief histories of breweries and the philosophy of the brewers. I am more beholden to beer styles than I realized, though I like to consider myself more creative than to be restricted by rules since they are, like time and reality, just societal constructs and from what I got out of this book the monk brewers are not interested in styles. They make a beer over and over and know it and treat it like a living thing that must be cared for. As far as culture of beer goes, it seems to me that these monks possessed a proto-Papazian RDWHAH thinking.

Randy Mosher enjoys uncovering the arcane secrets and tastes of beer, firing the desires of other brewers. I’ve only read Tasting Beer, but it was enlightening. It again provided some history and discussed the derivations of various beer types. I’ve also been able to hear some of his talks from the home brewers convention. He seems to be always searching for beer knowledge and wants to correct inaccuracies in technique or folk knowledge or wherever so that all can enjoy true beer. 

History flavors culture. At least, it gives us context which is vital for insight into character, decisions, goals. It is the first step to subtext. You can navigate life without being aware of context, but it just makes you appear egotistical, foolish or a bully. No finesse. So books like Ogle’s help provide context to the beer world. Ambitious Brew was a fun read about brewing history in the United States. It provides a glimpse of the goals of those we refer to now as Big Brewers. What stood out to me was their need to expand. Expand. Expand. Take over. Etc. Now, a century later they still expand, by buying independently owned breweries. Stop helping them do that! I think books like this can serve as caution tape for craft brewers who are huge. While it’s nice to have good beers available nationally when do you draw the line between beer passion and building empire? I remember a time when it was the thing to mock Bud for being the SAME product from one end of the country to another. No character, as it were. Now I can pick up a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale anywhere and it’s gonna taste the same – granted its still a better taste than Bud. Before all the proverbial hackles are raised, this is not any kind of indictment, I am not qualified to make a judgement like that about brewery business and goals. What I’m really saying is history books can add to beer culture because it can make us discuss beer ethics. Ethics are the reason I choose to avoid big beer whenever possible. It’s not the taste, it’s the … context. It’s also why I prefer to drink at a local brewery whenever that’s an option. Speaking of local:  this will be out soon, Brewing Local.

To all the beer book authors out there: Thank You. Your work is being appreciated. You are affecting people’s thinking about beer. Cheers. 
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*A cover, I know. Sweet.