Your 2015 Guide to Regional Brewfests this Summer

I love being a part of, and attending brew festivals. Lots of friends, sunshine, live music, culture and of course plenty of suds to keep your whistle wet.
But you know after thinking about it there is pretty limited resources on a compiled list of where to find these elusive Beer Festivals. So I did some research on brewfests in our home region here in Southern Oregon and put them all together here for you to refer to throughout the summer. Feel free to print this blog and hang on to it for the season.
A decent resource I found is www.brewburg.com/events.html
Brewburg is based out of Roseburg Oregon and the events for the entire year are available on their website.
Without further ado here is your list:
Saturday June 13th 12-8pm at Edenvale Winery = Brews, Burgers and Bluegrass
Saturday June 20th at Middleford Alley Downtown Medford = Southern Oregon Craft Brew Fest
Saturday June 26th&27th at Twin Creeks Park Central Point = Battle of the Bones
Saturday Aug 15th at Dunsmuir City Park = State of Jefferson Brewfest
Saturday Sep 12th at Curry County Fairgrounds = Gold Beach Brew and Art Festival
Saturday Sep 18th-20th at Jackson County Fairgrounds = Harvest and Brew Festival
Saturday October 10th at Douglas County Fairgrounds = Umpqua Brew Festival

That’s quite a bit of brew, especially in June. Have a good time, be safe, and most of all don’t drink and drive, get a designated driver.
Now who is going to form a brew festival sometime in July? Looks like we have some room for one. Until next time may your Pints be full and taps always flowing. Cheers.

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Kids in Brewpubs…….

Kids, our heart’s desire to raise, and teach, and love. Well for most of us anyway. Every once in a while someone will ask me the question, “Is a brewery really a place for a kid?” Are you kidding me? Why not? Because our final product has alcohol in it? I say give me a break! Just like the growler cover I bought at OMSI in Portland, beer is science. One of the fundamental things we want to do for our children is educate them. An understanding of enzymatic conversion, boiling, isomerization, and fermentation is fundamentally science. This in a nutshell is how beer is made, it is solid science and when a kid sees bubbling foaming vats of liquid, well that is just cool.
Not only that but how many other times in their childhood do they get to climb inside of these big pots and stock tanks? I took a picture of my son inside of my first ever commercial brewing system back in 2009.

Corbin Trying to stand tall in the Mash Lauter Tun

We celebrate our children. We provide them with elaborate birthday parties, we live as parents solely for them and their needs. So why wouldn’t we take our kids with us to these small American craft breweries? It is the responsibility and I say the obligation of these craft breweries to provide some entertainment and tasty food for our little ones.
At BricktownE Brewing Company in historic downtown Medford we provide children’s menus, etch a sketches at the table and their food is served on a frisbee that they get to take home with them. It’s a great way for us to make the parents feel good that they made a good choice bringing their kid to a brewery. So until someone tells us we can’t allow kids in breweries, we are going to welcome them with open arms and encourage them to keep coming back.

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Oregon Breweries to grow or seriously to grow?

As a brewery owner, I get the great privilege of traveling to different beer classes, tastings and educational activities as we like to call them in the industry. Last weekend, I was privileged to go to “Beervana” otherwise known by most as Portland, Oregon.
Our brewery is pondering the next great adventure in our growth and we have decided that we need to go BIG. We are considering an industrial off site brewery somewhere in Southern Oregon that would be designed solely for bottling/canning and full distribution. With this premise in mind we realize we have to be better yeast wranglers. Another words, we have to learn how to grow and keep our yeast in laboratory conditions. This class I went to touched on the basics of keeping your yeast, propagating it, and taking care of it for consistency and performance.
In this class, I got the great privilege of meeting many different brewers and owners from all walks of life in various different brewing settings and capacities. I spoke with several different folks. From the very small 2 barrel systems all the way up to a very large facility about to open in China. I realized through our conversations that there is one common theme amongst us all, especially in Oregon. We are ALL very busy and struggling to keep up with demand. It seems no matter how big you go, the volumes still manage to sell and you are constantly running to keep up with demand. So the question for these brave beverage based entrepreneurs is “How big is too big, and how big do you go”? I think the general consensus answer is “As big as you can possibly afford”
Well that starts to make me wonder, is there a ceiling in this market? Is there a beer bubble that will eventually pop leaving all of us with these huge tanks sitting empty, yeast drying up and not chewing on any more sugar. Grain going rotten along with stale hops. Sort of a beer apocalypse, the end of an era.
I guess at some point every market has a saturation point, but just where that is for craft breweries I don’t think anyone can predict. I do however have some opinions as to why I think the craft brewing revolution will continue to grow and evolve.
First of all lets look at the largest player in the BEER world. Anheuser Busch- Inbev (AB-Inbev) corporation has annual sales of approximately 36.4 billion dollars. The big brilliant minds in this large company have noticed a drop in sales due to a larger market share going to the craft side of beer brewing. As a result AB-Inbev is spending massive dollars on purchasing these smaller craft breweries to maintain and or grow their market share. So let me ask our readers this, if a company as large as AB-Inbev is willing to spend millions upon millions in the acquisition of these craft breweries why would they invest and just absolve them? The simple answer is THEY WOULDN’T! They bought these smaller companies because they realize some of their regular consumers have converted to drinking locally made small craft beers.

We see this trend every day in our brewery. Someone will come in and ask “what do you have close to BUD?” We give them our alternative to a lighter lager and 9 times out of 10, they exclaim how good it is, and they will take it. I think that the craft brewing industry is not only getting converts every day but they are also tapping into the younger market of beer drinkers that are realizing quality over quantity. Today’s consumer also likes to support local business and one of the greatest ways to do that is by purchasing your adult libations locally. So in looking at the beer bubble long term, I think it will be a long time before it POPS. I think there is simply a paradigm shift from MACRO to MICRO, so it appears there is a big bubble occuring, but it is just the market shifting.

So let’s have the next brave craft brewer come along and make a working man’s beer that is excellent and cheap and made locally. One that you can buy in 24 packs that is competitive with the big beer yet gives us the flavor of a craft brew. Don’t worry world it is definitely something we are working on. Here’s to growth. So until next time may your pints be full and your taps always flowing.

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Happy New Beer Year!

Getting older and older is, as you know, completely unavoidable. This year (GULP) I will be turning 40. Yeah Yeah I know a lot of people say, “40? You’re still a baby!” So I guess 40 is the new 30 eh? Well I don’t feel 30. I feel 40. I am considered obese, broke, and lacking proper nutrition. This of course is according to all the flat belly experts who live on kale and organic greens. How can that possibly be living? Sounds like living hell to me.
I made the bold decision this year to stop drinking alcohol until my Birthday which is March 14. I have not had any alcohol since last Saturday. As the curious bloke that I am, I googled “symptoms of alcohol detoxification” the results were frightening. The most severe symptom listed was DT Seizures associated with death. Oh crap are you kidding me? My fat is not killing me with seizures, if I quit drinking I could die? Well I guess I have to keep drinking, ahh bummer.
After a closer look, these symptoms are associated with those who TRULY have drinking dependency issues. I am a daily drinker, but I keep to three or less a day. The max is usually a six pack with friends or at parties. This is not considered to be a heavy drinker or an alcoholic, so I decided yep done til March 14th.
Today is January 7th and I am about four days in. A couple things I noticed:
1.) I had a headache. Not as bad as a caffeine headache, but just a mild annoying headache. This morning though, I slept great last night, and my headache is now gone.
2.) I seem to be, and feel, clearer. My sense of taste and hearing is enhanced. This could be manifested from the fact I just got over a cold.
3.) I am drinking non-alcoholic beer, a German brand and it is quite good. I am finding I don’t miss beer, just our house brewed beer.
4.) Craft beer is loaded with calories, NA beer is not. I have already lost weight in four days. So this is more of a mission to lose weight, and give my liver a break.

The premise behind it, is that my liver has been occupied taking care of the alcohol, caffeine, sugar and fat in my system instead of focusing on keeping me well balanced. The school of thought is, by eliminating your alcohol intake completely, you free up your liver to cleanse the other toxins within your cells and your foods. As a word of wisdom be certain you increase your water intake, this will help with the flushing process. Too much water is not a good thing, drink the recommended amount, most beer drinkers don’t anyway.
Water intake recommendations vary by person, activity level, etc. According to the Institute of Medicine, men are supposed to consume 3 liters (13cups), and women are supposed to consume 2.2 liters (9cups) daily.

My new beer of the new year is Clausthaler Non Alcoholic and I like it. It’s not as good as a nice IPA or a Stout or a Pale Ale, but it will do for now. It’s only temporary. There are other NA options out there but this one seemed to have the most flavor and truly tastes like beer. It makes it difficult for me to stop drinking beer completely being the owner of a brewery. Plus there are business reasons to keep a close tab on how the beer is tasting. The taste of the beer has everything to do with why we are here and why the business makes money. For these two months I rely on my brewer and staff to do the very tough job of quality control. I do still get to smell the beer, and 80% of what a beer contains is inherent in the nose. I surely continue to take the opportunity to smell them. Today we are brewing our Strong Scotch Ale and the brewery smells amazing and really gives me a strong temptation to have a beer. I remain steady and strong in my commitment to lose weight, reset my liver, and have a general overall well being. I look forward to March where I can get the opportunity to drink this great smelling Strong Scotch Ale.

I hope that your New Beer Year is filled with great tasting beer enjoyed in moderation of course, and that this new year can bring you an enlightenment and an appreciation for craft beer and it’s health benefits when consumed moderately. Cheers friends I lift my glass of Clausthaler to you,  until next time may your Pints remain full and your taps always flowing.

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Merry Christmas 10 Barrel! (Big Brewery vs Small Independent Brewer)

As most of my readers already know, 10 Barrel Brewing Company based out of Bend Oregon was acquired by Inbev Corporation. If you didn’t know that, you’ve been living under a rock, or a bridge, one of the two. Or perhaps both?
I heard a figure the other day as to what the agreed upon transaction was for, and it was some astronomical figure in the millions of green back. I don’t know the exact figure and I have a feeling the number I heard is just here-say, but you can imagine it was a lot as 10 Barrel has a pretty big standing in the craft beer world.
So that raises the question to be answered and debated. What defines craft beer? Is it the size? Does size really matter? Is it defined by how it’s crafted? By hand or by machine? When we brew by hand do we still not use machines?
I want my readers to chime in on these questions. For the record I will answer these questions staying true to my personal opinion. Keep in mind these are strictly my opinions and do not reflect the opinions of the Mail Tribune, BricktownE, or anyone else for that matter.
What defines craft beer? Well according to the Brewers Association for which I am a member, “it defines American craft brewers as “small, independent and traditional”: “small” is defined as an “annual production of 6 million barrels of beer or less”; “independent” is defined as at least 75% owned or controlled by a craft brewer; and “traditional” is defined as brewing in which at least 50% of the beer’s volume consists of “traditional or innovative” ingredients. This definition includes older microbreweries, which traditionally produce small quantities of beer, as well as other breweries of various sizes and specialties.” Direct quote courtesy of the Brewer’s Association.
I don’t necessarily agree, and I will tell you why. If we look back at the history of beer going back to ancient beer makings in Sumaria, it becomes obvious that beer was brewed from grain, and it was consumed as a social aspect pertaining to life. The Sumerians were depicted as using reed straws to consume the beer out of communal vessels holding the fermented grain beverage. This becomes the first evidence of commercially brewed beer to be enjoyed by all the masses. By the definition provided from the Brewers Association this means the very first ever made beer was indeed craft. At what point in time did we suddenly draw the line and say, nope that beer is not crafted, it just appears suddenly in a bottle or a can, how, spontaneous beer ruption? No I think not, it is still made from grain and yeast and water and hops. I think that ALL beer, yes I said ALL beer is crafted. It does not just spontaneously appear! After all it takes crafters and builders and humans of all walks of life to create that beer that resides in your bottle, or can, or keg. Ultimately the alcohol is created by nature through the act of yeast, no matter the size of your vessel or brewing system.
Does quality play into whether or not we can call it craft? Isn’t quality subjective? If your looking at the category of a great American Lager, isn’t a Coors Banquet Beer perfectly to style for a great American Lager? So is this our definition of quality? Or do we define quality by our own personal preference?
So many questions and so many subjective answers. I do want to hear from our readers so please leave us a comment.
I am of the opinion that craft beer should be defined by the intent of the original crafter of that beer. If the beer is crafted by a small team of people that passionately believe in what they are brewing and how they are brewing it, and their primary focus and intent is on a high quality delicious product and the income takes a second to quality, then by God and country they are truly crafters of a product and can be called a craft brewery.
On the other hand if their primary interests are taking care of their stock holders and generating revenue to continue growing their empire, and their passion is for financial gain, then they are primarily a financial institution and a craft brewery second. This is strictly my opinion.
Given the circumstances surrounding 10 Barrel Brewing Company I give them cheers, and my hat is off to them. They recognized their shortcomings and their needs. They put those first in preservation of the great name and product they produce. As a final result they have salvaged a great company by joining forces with an empire that can keep them on track growing and succeeding. My sincere hope is that they as a team can retain that passion and desire to create craft beer of the utmost quality and continue to put their craft first and foremost.
So until next time may your glasses always be full and your taps never empty.

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Getting Cold, is it time for some Dark Beer??

Big off white, creamy and tan foam stand on top of my Russian Imperial Stout, brewed by a local brewery that stacks in at a whopping 11%. First sip, it’s thick and rich, finishes with esters of dark fruits and a mild alcohol warming sensation down my esophagus and into my stomach. Yes sir, it is indeed time for the dark beers and winter warmers. Served in a cute little chalice sipping glass, and oh so sippable.

Winter warmers can also fall into this dark beer chasm. But don’t let the darkness fool you. Some dark beers like a dry stout can come in at a measley 4% ABV, hardly a warming sensation to be had with that. Darkness doesn’t always translate into a big rich beer like most people think.

Why is it though that we associate dark beer with bigger and bolder? Is it because it reminds us of coffee? Is it because almost nobody drinks their coffee black, so why would I drink my beer black? Why? Because it’s absolutely delicious when it is done right.
What gives dark beer it’s dark color? Well hold on tight I am about to explain it to you, and no it is not ink.

Beer in it’s simplest form is made up of four ingredients, MALTED GRAIN (barley), WATER, HOPS, and YEAST. You say none of these are dark? Yes you are correct. The MALTED GRAIN after the malting process is kiln dried, sometimes lightly toasted and some times roasted like coffee. The roasted grain is used in the brewing process in a small amount to impart color (the dark part) and roasted coffee or chocolate like flavor into the finished product (beer). In essence if the brewer wants a more roasted flavor he uses more of the dark roasted grain in his recipe, if he wants less roasty flavor and color he simply uses less roasted grain. It’s a simple concept yet holds a multitude of options and combinations.

As an example at BricktownE Brewing Company we use about 18% of overall roasted grain in our Wheat Stout recipe. This makes it quite roasty like a coffee stout and imparts a darkness that is like the middle of the night. One would think that 18% is not that much, but it holds with it a big impact. As another example our red recipe is only about 5% roasted malt.

Another interesting tidbit about dark beer and winter warmers is that they actually benefit from being served at a little bit warmer temperature. A warmer temperature will bring out more flavors with a larger flavor profile. Roasts will become bolder, dark fruity esters like raisin and plum will come out better, and in my opinion the overall enjoyability will be enhanced.

This fall seems to be colder than previous ones, so if you have the privilege of being near a fireplace and a dark beer, pour it into a small snifter, sit by the fire and slowly sip your beer and take note how it changes as it warms. You will be pleasantly surprised. Until next time may your glasses always be full and your taps never empty. Cheers!

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Barrel Aged and Sour Beers

We are coming up on the cool time of the year when fireplaces, warm meals and family start to take center stage in our lives. As a great accord to the holidays I think it’s wonderful to have a great tasting high alcohol barrel aged beer by my side to warm me from the inside out, but then again that’s just me. According to Anchor Brewing Company in San Francisco California it was historically the great oak barrel that was the vessel of choice for beer, as that truly was the only technology employed for beer storage. This in turn led to many discoveries of how to properly use oak in the storage of beer.
For one, it was found that if the barrel was fresh, the character of the oak would come through prominently in the finished beer product. If the barrel had been used many times, the oak character would start to cease, but the character of the beer would begin to turn sour from secondary fermentation by bacteria. In some beer cultures this was deemed an undesirable trait and as a result the barrel was taken out of use and the beer was disposed of.
However some of the cultures were especially fond of sour beer and it became a new style to perfect just the right souring with the right combination of grain and even fruit.
More modern barrel aging techniques have led to the use of Whiskey, Rum and at times wine barrels for aging beer. Due to the high alcohol content of the previously stored liquid the barrel is considered to be relatively sterile. This approach to barrel aging beer can lead to some very unique and very tasty results. Hints of bourbon, vanilla and chocolate in a bourbon barrel aged stout for instance. This would be my choice in a snifter glass sitting by the fire with a good book.
For right now though let’s explore the world of sour beers. Some sour beer gets it’s unique sour flavor from a special yeast called Brettanomyces Bruxellensis. The picture below depicts it on a cellular level with an electron microscope compliments of vittiro.com

Still some beers obtain their souring properties from bacteria like Lactobacillus or Pediococcus. As a general rule these are undesirable bacteria in your beer and lead to eventual demise of the finished product.

The oldest known intentionally souring brewery is in Belgium and it is the Rodenbach Brewery of Roesalare.

Sour beers tend to be tart and highly carbonated. I don’t generally shy away from sour beers but they are definitely not my favorite. The beers tend to have low hopping rates, and tend to be crisper, dryer, and can take on champagne like character with it’s effervescent carbonation levels. One of my favorites is a Kriek beer that uses the naturally occurring yeast and bacteria inherent on the skins of cherries. (The base beer is a lambic, which is already sour)  They are generally best after at least two years aged in the cellar. I have had the wonderful experience of having one that was made here locally by a talented home brewer and aged quite nicely in his cellar.

One of my other favorites that is produced commercially and is generally quite nice is Framboise. This style of sour uses raspberries as it’s primary flavor and when done appropriately is very refreshing and quite tasty.

All of these beers stem from the base beer called Lambics. Lambics are sour beers fermented by open fermentation to allow wild yeast and bacteria to alter the flavors of the beer into sour. There are other sour beers to consider that come from the base of lambics like Geuze, Mars, and Faro. I would suggest to you the reader, to do some research on these other beers and learn exactly what they entail. (If sour beer interests you)  The world of sours is quite large and it is also growing with some of the new offerings from young American craft breweries. While I was in GABF in Denver Colorado I tried as many sour beers as I could just to get an idea what our fellow American Brewers are doing with sour brews. I was pleasantly surprised. I tried a sour barrel aged beer by Nebraska Brewing company that had been aged in chardonnay oak barrels, it was an outstanding beer, and for me, was my favorite the entire time I was in Denver. Even with such great American sour beer offerings, I think for generations to come we will find it quite difficult to compete with Belgian Sours, as they were the first and will probably be the last when it comes to sour brew.

Next week we are going to focus on some dark beer. I consider them to be quite appropriate as we are entering the cooler time of year and the holiday gatherings. So until then may your pints be full and your taps always flowing.

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Southern Oregon Micro and Nano Brewing Scene Fall 2014

It can’t be denied that there is definitely a small craft brewing movement going on in every state in the union. It is also recognizable that any town with a measurable amount of populace or growth is also part of the boom. Medford, Grants Pass and Ashland can’t be denied of that growth.
Just this year alone I know of two new breweries coming to Grants Pass, one new one to Medford, and at the end of last year Swingtree Brewing opened in Ashland.
Lets look at some demographics in regards to population and Breweries. According to beermebend.com there are 19 total breweries in Bend, Oregon. With a total population of 76,639 people within Bend city limits this is 4033 people per brewery. Using this as a base number it becomes apparent that Medford could have more breweries and potentially sustain them. With a population of 74,907, and 7 total breweries in Medford city limits this year, this yields 10,701 people per brewery.
Of course there is always the everlasting rumor of the next opening and impending brewery, however I think a lot of times it is usually just bantor and here say, and even perhaps day dreaming. The cost of taking on such an endeavor is generally cost prohibitive and the returns are usually quite dismal for at-least the first two to five years.

The brewing boom continues beyond the borders of Southern Oregon. The most significant growth at the current moment is more than likely occuring in the state of Texas. Of course I don’t have any concrete evidence of that, this is strictly my observation. The professional publications I receive seem to giving a lot of play to the breweries in Texas.

It is my observation that Oregon is slowing down in regards to brewery growth. This can be attributed to a couple of different things:

1.) Brewery saturation per the population of Oregon.

2.) Due to Oregon’s long standing tradition of having great breweries and beer, the trend and excitement has worn off. It now becomes an expectation to the consumer that Oregon should and always will have the great beer we have come to know and love. The great challenge now for breweries is to come up with new and innovative beers that tantalize and excite the craft beer drinker to pry that hard earned money out of their pocket. As a result of this challenge breweries are becoming novel in their approach to beer aging. They are using whiskey and wine barrels, and some are even mixing different strains of yeast to create an acquired sour flavor. (However in ancient times this was traditionally the way the beer was stored. This is nothing new to beer, it’s just new to the typical beer consumer in America.)  We as hard working beer loving and beer drinking America are not quite yet used to the sour flavor in our beer.

Next week we are going to dive into the new trend of barrel aged and sour beers, as a general rule it goes hand in hand depending on the type of barrel they use. So until next time may your pints always be full and your taps always flowing.

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Kicking it off, a game, a season, or a pint (How about all the above?)

The mornings are cooler, those big yellow pill boxes with flashing lights making me stop are running all around, and every Friday night is an exciting community event called a high school football game. Amongst all of that what really gets me going is the great beer, and beer festivals that always come up in the fall.
Recently I had the great privilege of attending the GABF in Denver Colorado. For those who don’t know, the GABF stands for Great American Beer Festival and it is arguably the largest beer festival in the world. It was my first time attending and to be honest, it was overwhelming. It made me feel like a very small, newly hatched pollywog in a large lake with a gaggle of large fish trying to eat me. But I felt much better knowing that I had about 5500 different beers to choose from, kind of brought a tear to my eye. Every beer I tried which was probably about 300 total (sorry to all the others to leave you out, only so much time in a day) was fantastic, no perceivable off flavors to my palette. I have had plenty of beer that have undesirable characteristics. Sometimes it’s a packaging or brewing error, but most of the time it is off flavors from the yeast, and being a registered beer judge for competitions I can say I have had my fair share of beer that has either gone bad, or was made incorrectly.
Fall also punts us into the great seasonal brews of the autumn offerings like Octoberfest, German Bocks, and of course the ever increasing in popularity Pumpkin Ales. I personally don’t care for a pumpkin ale, but there are a lot of fans out there loving the pumpkin brews. I like to have my pumpkin and cinnamon and nutmeg in my pumpkin pie, not in my brew.
Why doesn’t some sharp and wise brewer come up with a cranberry turkey ale? I mean heck Dogfish Head Brewing in Delaware brewed a chocolate lobster ale. I tried it at GABF and it was kind of strange, not bad, just strange. Sam Calagione founded Dogfish Head and he personally told me they use 1.5 pounds of Maine Lobster in every barrel of that beer. Then they put the lobster into their mac and cheese dishes, at the restaurant in Rehoboth, Delaware. Anyone for chocolate flavored lobster mac and cheese? Might be pretty good?
A roasted pecan pie ale might be kind of good. Getting enough pecan and caramel that it remains detectable in an ale with hops might be kind of difficult though. I did try a peanut butter porter, and it was good. I didn’t get a chance to talk with the brewer though, so I don’t have any clue on how much peanut to use.
GABF was a wonderful experience, I learned a lot and talked with some beer industry leaders providing me insight into this big world of beer that we now live in. It’s a great time to be a craft beer lover, and as time goes on I think it’s only going to get better.
It’s almost kickoff and it’s definitely 0 Pint:30 as mine is gone. Until next time, may your pints always be full and your taps always flowing.

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  • About the Authors

    Craig McPheeters

    Craig J. McPheeters is a freelance writer, founding brewer of Bricktowne Brewing Co. and a registered Beer Judge Certification Program beer-competition judge. He is actively authoring two publications set to be published by 2018. When he isn't ... Full Profile
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