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I still need to try it one day. If only to get it off the list.

 

The west coast IPA is still one of my very favorite styles but, after far too long, the hazy NE IPAs have finally started to appear in brewery's in and around DFW and I'm hooked.  I know it's been the trendy style of the last 2 years or so but I can't get enough of them.

 

NE IPAs are really common in most parts of the country but, oddly, none of the more successful craft brewery's in DFW have even attempted making one. It's new start ups that are leading the way here. I guess that parallels what we are seeing nationwide as the larger craft brewery's have avoided the style. You don't see NE IPA attempts by New Belgium, Avery, Brooklyn, O'Dell, Stone, Sierra Nevada, Dogfish, Bells, etc. I'm guessing this is due to a combination of how quickly these beers break down (making for a short shelf life for a mass produced "craft" beer), not wanting to be seen as trendy, and fear of not being able to live up to the comparatively tiny brewery's making a name for themselves with highly respected hazy IPAs. 

 

I would like to see more availability in the style though. At least around Dallas.

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Took the plunge tonight into tasting these two simultaneously. It’s really very informative. As if I wasn’t already enough of a barrel aged snob, this just confirms my sense that wood aged beers are the fucking bees knees. 

 

The original G&T is light and tasty. It’s main draw is a fairly dry lime zest acid tang. It finishes even more dry, but the tang lingers. 

 

Switching to the BA version and you can immediately taste the bourbon, the tannins from the wood are rounded down into vanilla. Everything about the BA version is more balanced and has more depth. 

 

G&Ts.jpg

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Interesting article on NPR about the sour beer craze and how it's fueling microbiology research into yeasts and bacteria. They rightfully note that sour beer styles are actually very old, despite the recent increase in interest. Although saying the style 'started' in Belgium is not entirely accurate, as it's extremely likely that the yeast strains and bacteria that produce acidic, sour tastes have been naturally occurring in beers around the world for millennia before the Belgians built an industry around it. Nevertheless, it's safe to say that the Belgians have mastered the style and are the source of it's current resurgence.

 

 

 

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Just returned from another really special beer-oriented trip. Unlike the 1800mi. road trip to Oregon last year, this was just a two hour journey from where I live to Anderson Valley Brewing in Boonville, CA. Ostensibly, the visit was for the 22nd annual Boonville Beer Fest, but it turns out that was just a side-note.

 

I was invited to come up by a friend who works for AVBC, and he said that I could camp there at the brewery. He gave me and a friend free tickets to the event and no cost for the camping! They are situated on a beautiful 25 acre parcel surrounded by lovely green hills with a mix of deciduous and evergreen trees. I visited there about 20 years ago, so it was all kind of new to me again.

 

What I didn't realize is that the camping area was actually where the brewers stayed before and after the Festival on Saturday. Some brewers arrived on Thursday to camp. A friend and I went up on Friday arriving at about 3. After setting up camp, I wandered around the lovely campgrounds and I started to notice, sprinkled throughout the grounds, tables with coolers and taps. The taps generally were facing out, away from the campsite they were part of...which got me wondering if this was some kind of open-beer situation. I ran into another friend who is a brewer attending the fest and he confirmed that the whole camping thing was a way for the brewers to share their creations with other attending brewers!

 

To my further amazement, a few of the campsites were doing food. One had a portable pizza oven and all the ingredients to make your own. Another one was smoking a whole pig each night(!). He also smoked brisket and a huge salmon on Saturday night.

 

In total, I'd estimate there were probably 50-60 coolers with either 2 or 3 taps. And people were doing "the loop" as they say, sampling what was available. It was totally amazing...like some little slice of heaven. Friday night, despite pacing myself, I got quite hammered. I didn't sleep well that night, so Saturday I suffered a bit. I did go the fest and tasted some beers there. But I was there for maybe an hour before I'd had enough of the crowds, and headed back to the campsite (about .5 mi away). Sat afternoon I actually rested very well because the brewers were all pouring for the festival-goers. It was quiet at camp.

 

If there was any downside to the experience, it was the noise level. This was not the setup for a peaceful camping trip, which I didn't really expect anyway. That said, considering the sheer amount of alcohol (there were also some brewer-distillers sharing their hard alcohol) things were pretty reasonable. I ddin't see anyone lose their shit or get super messed up. I assume that's mainly because most in attendance were brewers or friends of brewers who know their limits.

 

I already told my friend from ABVC that I would love to come back next year. It was really fun, and I got to meet some of the faces behind local beers I've been enjoying for years. And I also was introduced to a lot of new breweries...in fact one of my favorite beers at the campsite was a cucumber gose from a small brewery in Santa Rosa, CA. It was delicious.

 

I cannot wait for next year!

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With the continuing rise of local breweries (there are now about 5 breweries within 3-5 mi of my house), I find myself buying more and more beer in growlers and crowlers.  Crowlers are nice because they keep beer very fresh until you open, but most places charge a little more since there is a cost for the cans, and also there is more waste since they aren't reusable. So I've got a small collection or 32oz growlers I take with me often. I bought one 64oz growler at Russian River brewing, I got it partly for the keepsake, because I figured the beer would need to be finished quickly once it was opened. And indeed I ended up chugging the last half of the growler because it was going flat.

 

I've been looking at pressurized growlers to address this problem, and two weeks ago I got one from Drinktanks. The one I got looks like this:

drinktanks.jpg

 

The 64oz vacuum thermos is $75 and the "keg cap" is $45 which has a hose, tap, and CO2 injector valve. It comes with a separate tool that takes a threaded CO2 cartridge and has a spring-release valve which you press into the cap to pressurize the thermos. It's a little clunky, but I gave it a shot with a full fill from the amazing local brewery Fieldwork. The Drinktank has some drawbacks, which I was willing to live with at first. One is that you have to empty it of at least 12oz before adding pressure. So I poured a pint the first night, then when I went to pressurize it with a tap of the cartridge tool, it let out this annoying loud wailing sound from the pressure release valve...even though I gave it a short tap, I over did it, and it let me know. The next night I went to use the tap to pour a beer, and there was no pressure. So I gave it a tap of pressure, this time no wailing, and I got a foamy pour, which was fine. Next night, no pressure, and I gave it another good charge, another foamy pour.

 

After about a week of this, I started to realize why the main competitor product, the uKeg, is more expensive. First, it shows you via a gauge on the front the internal pressure level. You add pressure by simply turning a dial on the top. The uKeg also has a sightglass to show you the amount of beer remaining, and most of the uKeg parts, including the tap mechanism itself are metal. Also, because you don't have to empty any beer out to start pressurization, beer should last longer as there will be very little oxygen in the vessel as all the space is filled with CO2. On top of all that, the uKeg is really a way better looking product. So I decided last weekend to return the Drinktank and pony up the extra money for the copper plated uKeg ($169, the stainless version is $149).

 

It arrived today it's a thing of beauty.

ukeg.jpg

 

I'm planning to go back to Fieldwork tonight after work to get it filled and test it out this weekend. I have high hopes as, at least on paper, it addresses all of the shortcomings of the Drinktanks keg.

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I have a GrowlerWerks uKeg and, while it is a beautiful design, I can't say I'm in love with it.

 

I don't like standard (non-pressurized) growlers for anything other than beer you intend to drink the same day. A good standard growler will be OK for 24 hours but if you open the cap once, or if the original pour left too much air at the top, the beer is going to taste 'off'. Even if you don't open a growler it's still going to taste a bit off after 24 hours. I went through tons of well known quality growlers to learn they are best used for same day drinking.

 

I was excited about the uKeg because the CO2 promised the potential for longer beer storage. I could get a big fill and not be forced to rush through the entire growler. The good news is it did just that. Beer tasted fresh well after 2-3 days (I don't drink slow enough to extend that time further). The tap system is great to look at but also really smart as it draws from the bottom of the growler and ensures minimal (if any) outside air can touch the precious beer inside. The uKeg also gets a lot of "ooohs!" and "aaahhs" at growler fill stations. It's quite the conversation starter with other beer nerds.

 

That said, I haven't used my uKeg for about 6 months. There are 2 primary reasons:

First, it's just a pain in the ass to maintain. The design is clever but it would never be confused with the modern design philosophy of, "it just works."  It's very easy for an idiot like me to waste 2-3 CO2 cartridges before getting the cap secured. This can happen for a multitude of reasons: because I didn't screw it's plastic CO2 holder tight enough, or because I didn't have the air valve (on top of the cap) completely closed, or because I didn't properly clean it and one of the many seals are slightly out of alignment resulting in a leak. This is a device intended to be used by people enjoying alcoholic beverages yet the design wants my constant, sober, attention. I don't have time for that, give me another fresh beer.

 

Oh yeah, and taking it apart and cleaning the uKeg is silly. It's not difficult but it's nowhere near the, "remove this and place in dishwasher" that I'd expect for the price paid.

 

The second reason is the complete ease and sudden explosion (around me) of crowlers. Most crowler fills can be kept significantly longer than even pressurized growlers. I would never recommend cellaring beer in a crowler but a good pour (so full it overflows beer as the crowler top is sealed) can easily last a week. That said, a rookie crowler filler can introduce enough air to make the beer taste crappy almost right away. Still, crowlers are cheaper, generally keep beer fresher longer, and are much easier to transport. It's also a lot easier to fit 4 32oz crowlers in the refrigerator vs a 128oz growler.

 

My hope is that version 2.0 of the uKeg tweaks the design to be more robust and allows for a fire and forget degree of functionality.

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It’s funny you’d mention the CO2 cartridge because my first attempt went awry, but it seemed pretty clear, in my case, that I was just way too slow screwing it in. Time will tell if it is a persistent issue.

 

I admit it’s quite funny to talk about the extra cost of crowlers vs reusable growlers after spending so much in this growler,  but most breweries charge around $1 more for crowlers, and also the volume discount of 64oz fill vs 32oz. Those factors were pushing me into wanting a 64oz growler, which simply won’t work if you plan to slowly deplete it over time, which is how I roll with beer. 

 

Also, regarding crowlers, I rarely want to drink 32 oz of one beer at a time, even a beer I love. This is another reason why I’ve settled on 32 oz glass growlers for a while now, I can pour half and the other half will be decent a day later. 

 

So for my drinking style, this kind of pressurized, oxygen-deprived system is ideal. Whether THIS growler fulfill all those needs is an open question. 

 

Also, I’m planning to take this guy camping  (tent camping) and having a thermos style tank is preferable. 

 

How often do you do the full cleaning? I’ve watched the videos (thankfully, they made a bunch of thorough ones) about the disassembly maintenance. To me it looks kind of fun, but not if it needs to be done after every fill...maybe every 5-7?

 

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I found cleaning depends a bit on the beers you drink. I remember a big stout that was so thick that it just made me want to clean it before the next beer.  The small parts inside the tap get sticky and thick with beer residue faster than I expected. It really makes me respect good beer bars who clean their lines daily.

 

GrowlerWerks sells cleaning tablets but buy these on Amazon instead. Same thing but much cheaper. They work really well and I found soaking all the internal tap parts helped a lot.

 

Back to crowlers. I totally understand the issue of not wanting a full 32oz every  time. Luckily, I have a place near me that offers 16oz crowlers. I'd like to see more places offer that size.

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Not gonna lie, my uKeg is basically going to be a way to extend my enjoyment of the latest, best, fresh, hop-bomb IPA from Fieldwork. While they do pre-can some of their beers in 16oz size, it’s not always the ones I want and they are more per oz at that size (especially compared to 64 oz). They make 2 to 3 new IPAs a week of exceptional quality, and also bring back past hits, and they always sell out fast. Last week I got 3 different ones in 16oz and still had some of the previous week’s batch in the Drinktank. 

 

Yeah, when considering the cleaning side side of things, I was comparing this to the maintenance to actual kegs and taps, which is considerable. I’m willing to (at least I think I am) put in some work to maintain something that offers a quality experience. 

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Thanks for the tip on the cleaning tablets, I’ve heard you can use baking soda and hot water. Wondering how well that works in comparison, have you tried that?

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I have not but expect that would work quite well. But you won't get the cool blue color the steramine tablets give. BTW, I just noticed my link above didn't link to the product like I had intended. Here is the correct link on Amazon.

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Still in the honeymoon phase. But I’m loving this thing. It’s everything the Drinktank wasn’t, including obscenely good looking. 

 

ukeg-belbivdorado-774.JPG

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After watching the maintenance videos on Vimeo, I decided to get the maintenance kit for the uKeg. I like how just about every part of the device is user-serviceable. 

 

gw_kit.jpg

 

The main things I wanted was the multi-tool for accessing the different removable parts (although many household tools like pliers will work too), but more importantly, a complete set of O-rings plus a few spares.

 

The little bottlebrush is a bonus, it can fit into the smaller tubes, like the line inside the sightglass and the sightglass itself. 

 

The “keg-lube” (silicone) helps some of the O-rings stay sealed and extends their life. 

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Call me nuts, but I love it when you buy a product, and there's a million ways from Sunday on how to fix it.  May be it's a generational thing, but I feel like I've been around a lot of younger people who just don't like fixing things.  I was completely indifferent to this growler (it looks cool as hell) in terms of buying, but I'm sold now that I know I can take care of it for life.

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So after 2 months I'm loving the heck out of my uKeg. I've filled it about 6 times now, and it's performed like a champ, no issues at all. I do make sure to take the time to clean it thoroughly, but I haven't had to disassemble anything yet.

 

My cleaning routine is first to rinse with hot water a few times. When the beer has been fully depleted, I shut off the CO2 so I can use the remaining pressure to push the first rinse of hot water through. After the hot water rinse, I put in a tablespoon of baking soda and refill it with hot water and let it sit overnight. Then I rinse that out and set if upside down to dry.

 

After filling it, it lives in my fridge. I've gotten the hang of where to set the pressure dial to maintain a consistent level to keep the beer carbonated. I keep it at roughly 8 PSI, and it's remarkably consistent at holding that pressure as I empty it over about 7 to 10 days. I almost never have to adjust it after the first time. About the only complaint I have is that the very last pour of beer is often super foamy and flat, but that's pretty standard for a pressurized keg.

 

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2 hours ago, NickC said:

I'm not even sure what to say about this...

 

NSFW

http://orderyoni.com/

 

:what

 

"Using hi-tech of microbiology, we isolate, examine [emphasis added!] and prepare lactic acid bacteria from vagina of a unique woman."

 

Yeah, I bet you do. And aren't all women unique in their own way?

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