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Posts Tagged ‘Brewing’

Last week I realized how soon GABF was upon us. And soon there would be even more beer lovers in Denver. And how soon I had to have a lot of beer ready for them all to drink.

Kell and I created a brewing schedule, and decided to brew so that when everyone is in town, we can hand out tons of beer to thirsty people. That meant getting the all grain system operational again.

A few months ago, I got lazy and left  some spent grains in the mash tun, closed, outside in the sun, for a few days. Bad. Bad bad bad things. It smelled like.. well… I won’t get into details, but I decided that any container that had held that smell would not hold my ingredients anymore.

Since then, I’ve just been brewing partial mashes. But this weekend I rebuilt the all grain system. It’s pretty close to the previous one, though it took a lot more work to get right. Thank you to Ben at Beer At Home for his help getting that going.

Taking a few months off brewing all grain is like taking a few months off riding a bike. Or some other analogy. Whatever. I was rusty. I brewed a Scotch Ale on Sunday.

Scotch Ale almost at boil

My efficiency was crap. I had to boil off a lot of water to hit my target gravity. While it was boiling, I wrote a little calculator to help figure out how much water to boil off. You can play with it at http://pjhoberman.com/tools/volume_adjustment.html. The formula is pretty easy. You figure out total gravity:

Total Gravity = Current Gravity x Current Volume
Desired "Pre-Boil" Volume = Total Gravity / Desired Gravity

So, I had 6 gallons at 1.053, and I wanted a pre-boil gravity of 1.071. I like to call something like 1.071 just 71:

Total Gravity = 53 * 6 = 318
Desired Volume =  318 / 71 = 4.48 (or 4.5)

So I had to boil it down to about 4.5 gallons. Oops.

I messed up earlier than that, but I didn’t realize it till too late. I had to cut a braided washer hose for the mash tun. I grabbed one from my brewery box – a random collection of tools and whatnot – and it was good to go.

Until right before the boil was over, when I realized there were two in the box, and the one I cut was the connection from under my sink to my wort chiller. So I had to run to Ace and get a new one. Oops.

But, I hit my target gravity pretty closely. I got 1.069 when it was all said and done, though only about 3.5 gallons or so. It should be damn tasty though.

We also bottled three batches last week: Black something (seriously, no idea what style it actually is), a Grand Teton Bitch Creek (ESB) clone, and the Blonde. They’ll all be ready this week. Here’s the rest of the schedule:

7/23 – Soak oak chips in scotch
7/24 – Brew Rye Dry Stout
7/26 – Move Scotch Ale to secondary, add oak chips
8/3 – Move Rye Dry to secondary
8/7 – Brew something – probably the IPA or a Pale
8/8 – Brew something else
8/18ish – Move previous two batches to secondary
9/6 – Bottle Scotch Ale, Rye Drye, and whatever else we feel like
9/16 – GABF starts

There will probably be more in there, but that’s the plan for now.

And that my friends is my update. Please let me know if you’re in town for GABF, we’d love to share some beer.

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I brewed a lot of beer this week. Or at least saw a lot of it being brewed. About 900 barrels worth.

Pam the Dirty Blonde. First batch of the week.

Sunday, I worked at Beer at Home, and afterward I brewed Pam, the dirty blonde.

Monday, I woke up at 5 am and arrived at Strange brewing at 6. Tim, one of the co-founders, agreed to let me watch him and help out. His partner was out of town, so I ended up getting to help quite a bit. The system at Strange is a Blichmann B3, with some big 50 gallon kettles. They have a few different sized fermenting tanks, the biggest of which is 3 barrels.

The first batch we brewed was a pale ale for a pro-am competition. The am side of it was there to help out as well. We also brewed the first of three batches for Strange’s Pale Ale. While things were heating, cooling, boiling, or mashing, we got some other tasks done as well. We cleaned some tanks, filled kegs, and generally cleaned things up. The day started at 6am, and I got home at 7pm.

I didn’t have anything lined up for Tuesday, so I went back to Strange, and brought Kell with me. As we were just brewing, the day started a little later, at 7. We brewed 2 batches of the Pale Ale, cleaned some kegs, and worked on the glycol system. The day ended around 5.

Only picture I took at Strange. mmmm

Strange was a great experience. In my post about size, I was considering the small 1/2 bbl system. We worked our asses off with Tim, mashing in, cleaning tanks and tuns, getting hops in on time, transferring beer, cooling things off, etc. It’s amazing what Tim and Strange Brewing are doing over there, and it helped me understand even more why I want Mad Haven to be at least 5-7 barrels, if not bigger.

The experience was great, and I plan to help out Strange whenever I can. If you haven’t been over there yet, go check it out. Their tasting room is open 3:30ish to 8ish, Wednesday – Saturday. And they have growlers! Check them out – 1330 Zuni, Unit M – strangebrewingco.com.

Wednesday I woke up at an ungodly hour. I’ve seen 3:59 am many times, but very rarely at the start of my day.

Missile Silo. Wait... those are New Belgium's tanks.

I drove to Fort Collins to visit New Belgium Brewing. You may have heard of them.

By this point, my feet were killing me. I’ve been working a desk job for a few years now, so standing on concrete for a few days straight… ya, excuses. Anyway, I was excited for New Belgium, but my feet were not.

Good thing their system is completely automated. 99% or so. It was quite the experience.

I met Bo outside at 6am, and he gave me the best tour of New Belgium ever. Over the next 8 hours, I saw just about every valve in the place. And there are a lot of them. Bo said they have about 8 miles of stainless steel pipes there.

Super Sack of grains. About a ton.

What an impressive place. The system itself was pretty much not applicable at all to my plans. I don’t know if Mad Haven will ever be in the same order of magnitude as New Belgium, at least in terms of scale. I don’t know if I want it to be. But it was cool to see. They have a computer system that manages every action in the brewing process. From blowing in the grain to cooling down the wort, there’s a screen and a button, and a brewer to push it. They were brewing about 900 barrels of Hoptober on Wednesday. I got there as the first batch was just about done, and left as the 8th batch was being blown in. Ridiculously efficient. 8 hours, and we touched 8 batches.

Their equipment helps with this. They have a Merlin kettle. It has an upside cone shape at the bottom of the kettle. Wort is pushed in at the top, and it slides all around the cone. It is flash boiled there, coming to boil on contact. Imagine boiling a quart of water vs. just the water on the bottom of the pot. It’s like that. But hotter. It’s so hot and such a violent boil, they don’t even have to boil for an hour. The hops release their oil faster at those temperatures.

I can’t get into everything I saw there. There was just so much going on. I got some great ideas for when we brew more than one batch in a row though. Like using leftover mash liquid to sparge the next batch. And some insight into hop utilization across batches. Very cool stuff.

Bo was great. He’s got an impressive resume, including brewing school in England, brewing at Arcadia, and brewing at New Belgium for 7 years. He gave me some great advice for Mad Haven. He’ll be sitting at the bar when we open.

One of the coolest parts of my day there didn’t exactly involve brewing. He might get in trouble for this, and if so, sorry Bo. But, we toured the entire place, and one stop was the barrel aging room. I may or may not have sipped some La Folie out of a massive barrel. Let’s go with “may not have” to protect the innocent.

Other cool stuff happened. I met some great people, and saw some amazing things. Definitely a great experience.

Thursday I went to Boulder to help out at Mountain Sun. Mountain Sun makes some of the best beer I’ve had, and their pub model is fantastic. I definitely spend too much cash (no credit cards accepted) at their pubs.

Mountain Sun's brew house

Jason met me at 7 am, and we got to work. We brewed some Redemption Red, which everyone there was super excited about. They’re trying some new malts out, and it’s possible that the one I helped brew will get submitted to GABF.

This was exactly the experience I was looking for this week. Mountain Sun brews on a 6 barrel “Frankenstein” of a system. It’s amazing. It’s barely changed in the past 20 years, because it works. Everything there just works.

Jason put me to work. I got to pour in the grains and mix them into the water. If you’ve never done this before, imagine paddling a canoe through oatmeal. Hot oatmeal. I also got to clean out the mash tun, which is warm work. It was great, and I’m not being sarcastic. It really was an awesome opportunity. I helped Jason with the rest of the process too, from weighing out hops to cleaning the floors, from measuring gravity to some quality control. PS quality control is a necessary, important, and awesome activity.

Mountain Sun - all mashed in

Mountain Sun was definitely the most applicable day. Brewing with Tim at Strange was great, as he does everything from run the books to clean the floors. But Mountain Sun brews on a system that I envision brewing on. It was great to work side by side Jason and really feel what my days are going to entail. It was sort of like Goldilocks. Not too big. Not too small. Just right.

Overall, I learned a lot this week. From how to clamp a tri-clamp to how to stay safe, and many things in between. I made some friends and saw the extreme scales of brewing.

And my fire for Mad Haven is reignited. I can’t wait to get it going.

Adding hops at Mountain Sun

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Brewing Schedule

I have been getting a great response from brewers about shadowing this week. I even had to turn one down due to a scheduling conflict. It’s been amazing to see how supportive the local breweries are of a potential competitor!

Side note, I don’t have a computer while between jobs, so this post is from my phone.

Here’s my schedule so far:

Monday – Strange Brewed – Denver
Tuesday – open, maybe another day at Strange
Wednesday – New Belgium – Fort Collins
Thursday – Mountain Sun – Boulder
Friday – open

And the weekend is in the air.

I’ll report back on these awesome oportunities as the week goes on.

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Shadowing

It’s been a while. Some things are changing in my life, which has made things hectic, but has also created an opportunity. I’m back now though. Let’s talk about some beer!

I recently received and accepted a job offer with MapMyFitness.com as a web developer. I’m really excited about the opportunity. The company is great; they’re small, growing fast, they have an awesome product, and they’re downtown. I can ride my bike to work! They also happen to be 3 blocks from Falling Rock. Which might be an issue.

In accepting this offer, I asked that my start date be a week after my last day with Integer (where I work now). This will be the first time I’ve had time off between jobs in… a long time.

At first, I was trying to visit my friend in Germany. Turns out booking international travel at the last-minute is expensive.

My next thought was to fly to Seattle, rent a car, and drive to San Diego, seeing friends and breweries along the way. That, too, is expensive. I can afford it, but it would be tight. I decided that while it would be a super awesome road trip, I had to pass.

So now my plan is to stick around. And here is where the next opportunity comes in. I’m going to try to shadow some brewers. I’m going to try to get some real world commercial brewing experience. True, it won’t be the same as working at a brewery for a few years. But, it’s an opportunity to at least see the ropes, make some great contacts, and make some great beer.

I’m contacting breweries all along the Front Range, from Colorado Springs to Fort Collins, and a few in the mountains. Erik Boles of BeerTapTV.com fame offered to help connect me with brewers, and I am forever indebted to him for this. Once I have a schedule set up, I’ll let you know where I’ll be, but for now, I don’t want to mention any brewery names until they’re confirmed.

One brewery that has gotten back to me already is Strange Brewing. They’re a brand new brewery in Denver, and if it works out with the schedule, I’ll be able to lend them a hand.

Anyway, that’s all for now. Hopefully I’ll have an awesome update on this soon. I’ll do a full write-up on the experience, should it work out, afterward.

If you happen to be a brewer and want my semi-able hands to help you next week (6/28), let me know.

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While not directly related to this post, I did have some bacon steak at Oceanaire a while back...

So my first attempt at bacon bourbon (for a maple bacon bourbon stout) wasn’t so great. I left the bacon in the bourbon for over a week, filtered it, froze it, filtered it, and tried it.

And almost passed out from dehydration on the spot. It was so salty! Ever take a big gulp of water in the ocean? Add salt.

However, after the Dead Sea-esque salinity dissipated, I did feel great. I felt like I’d just had some bacon. So there’s that.

Here are some pictures from the first attempt:

The tin foil apparatus - keeps the bacon somewhat vertical, and the oil drips through holes in the foil

Baked the bacon at 350˚ until the oil starting foaming. That was the signal.

The bacon is almost oil free. And crispy! Hard not to eat it.

The bacon is in 16 oz of bourbon.

Bacon Drip - filtered through a coffee filter

My next attempt will be different. This was fun, and made the condo smell awesome, but the result wasn’t great. I asked my buddy James, who’s getting his PhD in Chemistry, how to dilute the salt flavor. He said lots of water (probably more than the 5 gallons of wort) or to use dialysis. Not gonna do that.

I then came across a video (sorry – forget who sent this to me) about a bartender who makes a bacon-infused old-fashioned. I like this method, and might try it.

Whatever method I try next, I’m thinking uncured bacon is the way to go.

I’m also thinking about where the bacon flavor we all love comes from. Is it from the meat itself, or from the grease? I might, rather than soaking bacon in bourbon, just dump grease in, and fat wash it after a few hours. Meaning, freeze it, skim off the grease, filter, repeat as necessary.

As has been the trend for the past year or so, Brew Your Own and Zymurgy magazines come out with issues directly related to what I’m working on. Seriously, this happens every issue. When I’m thinking about reusing yeast, they come out with articles about it. Building my own equipment? Article. Bacon beer, and breakfast in beer in general? Article.

I’m relatively sure they’re bugging my condo, and I’m totally cool with that. It does feel good to know that Kell and I are thinking of things that the industry is interested in, before it is written in the publications.

That’s it for now. I still have a pint of the bourbon if you want to try it…

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The first ever Breakfast & Brewing is planned for this Sunday (12/20).

baconAround 11am, we’ll have omelets, bacon, coffee, and more, and maybe even some Fraggle Rock or Pinky and the Brain.

Around 12 or so, we’ll kick off the brew. I’m not sure what style we’re going to make yet, but it will be a partial-mash of deliciousness.

If you really want to see a certain style, leave a comment or ping me on Twitter. And make sure you sign up for the newsletter to get these notices ASAP.

Whether you want to be a part of every step of the process, or just hang out with like-minded beer people, this should be a fun day.

If you want to join, reply to this email. I need a head count for bacon purchasing, and I’ll give you directions and whatnot.

See you Sunday!

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Let’s brew

Too many cooks in the kitchen

Too many cooks in the kitchen? Psh. Found this image at Ruthie Cherry Fine Art. Check them out, it's good stuff.

I have an idea.

Ok, I have a lot of ideas. How cool would it be if you could blink and be somewhere else in the world? See? Ideas.

Anyway, I have some ideas based in reality as well.

After some pretty intense discussions with my roommate Jim this weekend, I have an idea that I’m going to do right now. Do you have any idea how awesome it is to have good friends who push back on your ideas? Over good beer? It’s a great thing to have in life.

Right. My idea.

I’m going to make beer.

And you’re invited.

Starting in December, at least one Sunday a month, I’m going to do Breakfast and Brewing. Fancy title, I know.

Here’s the plan. Come over around 11am on a Sunday. We (we being the collective housemates of.. our house) will make breakfast. Bacon, eggs, coffee. There may or may not be awesome cartoon watching – narf! – and there may or may not be bloody mary components available.

Then around noon or 1, we’ll make beer. No matter your level of brewing experience, you can help. I, or someone else with some brewing knowledge will explain things in as little or much detail as you want. If you help, you get to take some beer home with you (a month later).

There are many more details, but that’s the gist of it.

What do you think? Want to come over and help me make some beer?

[edit] If you want to be alerted to these awesome Breakfast and Brew days, or to new posts in general, sign up for the mailing list.

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Slowing Down A Little

Yet again, I’ve been bad about keeping up with posts. My apologies to the 67 of you who check this site every day for enthralling information about Mad Haven.

I’ve done a lot of research, and met some very helpful people along the way. A lot of what I’ve learned has shown me that I have a lot to learn. Right now, I’m focussing on learning more about the beer industry and business in general, and more about every aspect of brewing. So the business planning has slowed down as I learn what I need to know to make this work. Hence the lack of posts.

Some things that have been happening:

  • The wedding beer service went splendidly. We went through 3 5-gallon kegs of my beer, plus a 5-gallon of Great Divide’s Samurai, in about 90 minutes. Even though the beer was unfiltered (the IPA had some nice hop and yeast floaties going on), and generally a little too foamy, people loved it. I had to go buy another 5-gallon keg, this time Great Divide’s Titan IPA, because we were out of beer. It was super super neat hearing total strangers talk about my beer, not realizing the bearded gentleman at the keg (me…) crafted their beverage by hand. It also helped that the wedding was for two Colorado College alums. My alma matter as well. People there know how to enjoy a good beer.
  • At the wedding, I made some great contacts. One person approached me about getting Mad Haven into CC alum events. That would be awesome.
  • On the other side of all this, I’m going to start writing a weekly blog post for RateBeer.com. More on this as I learn more.
  • I’m also going to start writing more on here about things I learn about brewing, as I learn them. I’d really like to learn more about yeast, and I’ll try to explain my findings. I’ve got a few new books and whatnot to help me on that journey.
  • And of course, I’m still brewing often. If you’re in Denver and want to join in a batch, please let me know.

Lastly, as always, if you have any questions about the beer industry at all, or want me to look into something specifically, leave me a note. If I can’t answer it, I’m sure I know someone who can.

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My very first tap handle

My very first tap handle

I’m serving beer tonight at a college friend’s wedding rehearsal dinner. It’s sort of huge. I’m a wee bit nervous. Considering it’s the first “contract”, and the first time Mad Haven will be on the label, it’s a pretty momentous occasion.

So first, thanks, and Congratulations to Elizabeth and Raffaello.

The Beer

Kegging the Blonde

Kegging the Blonde

I’m bringing three cornelius kegs with me tonight. I’ve got a batch of the blonde (Pam, for those who know her), a batch of the IPA, and a batch of a ginger saison. A little about each.

The blonde is tasty, as usual. I wanted to make a few batches and blend them, but I ran out of equipment and time. She’s good though. I think she weighs in around 6% today. Clean, crisp, slightly malty, a little on the darker side. Pam is ready to show her stuff.

The IPA is really fun this round. It didn’t quite finish fermenting. Again, time issue. It got down to about 1.022, from 1.086. I believe that’s an 8.6% beer. If I had time, it would have weighed in at a super hot 10%. It was also dry hopping until last night. So we have a super fresh, refreshingly malty, delicious double IPA. I think I’m going to call this one Ice Tray IPA. When I hop it 8 times during the boil, I separate the hops out in an ice tray. Simple story for a good beer.

Lastly is the ginger saison. It’s a recipe out of that Extreme Brewing book (My Library). It’s slightly sour, which wasn’t exactly intentional, but it tastes pretty good. It’s a backup beer. Not my own recipe, and made with extract. Gotta love the quick brews!

The Kegs

My Wrench is too big

Typical problem this week

Typical problem this week

I have never had so much trouble with kegs as I did this week. Makes sense. I’m all nervous and rushing, and things get stuck. It started early in the week. I bought a new ball-lock cornelius keg, and couldn’t get the fittings off. You could smell the soda from the o-rings inside the posts. My wrench was just too big. Nothing was working. So I went to Ace and bought some tools. The fittings fell off on their own when I walked in with the big 7/8″ closed wrench.

Of course, in this process, I mixed up the posts. Last night, I put the gas disconnect on the liquid post, and the liquid disconnect on the gas post. Needless to say, that’s not how they’re supposed to work. Things got jammed, I sprayed myself with various chemicals, and started to freak out. Then I remembered my nice big 7/8″ closed wrench. Leverage is a super cool phenomenon. Popped those disconnects right off with some properly applied pressure.

Finally everything was in the right spot, and the liquids and gasses were flowing properly. I force carbonated the kegs, cleaned up, and went to bed. Added some more CO2 this morning, just to be safe. We’ll see what happens!

The Equipment

Serving cold beer at a park comes with a few challenges. I can’t bring my kegerator. I’d rather not rely on buckets of ice. The best option is the one breweries use at festivals: The Jockey Box (aka the Draft Box). I asked a few pros if I could borrow theirs, not expecting much. They’re expensive, and this is festival season. I found some great plans for building one, but with only a few days before the event, certain supplies would be hard to come by. My local homebrew shop came through on this one. I went in to gather supplies to build my own, and they offered theirs. Collateral? The promise that I bring it back. I love local.

Draft Box

Draft Box

It needed some cleaning. It needed some lovin. But it’s amazing. It has two lines, and uses a two-line plate chiller for the cooling element. I ran PBW through both lines for about 20 minutes, and then ran sani through as well. Worked beautifully. I didn’t have time to run beer through it, so fingers crossed!

The Tool Box

Sadly, I don’t have a picture of it. But I put together an “oh shit everything broke” tool box. It’s got various sizes and types of wrenches, pliers, and screwdrivers. It’s got gas and liquid disconnects for ball- and pin-lock kegs. It’s got random fittings, an extra tap handle, direct taps, and a CO2 canister, just in case. It’s pretty sweet. There’s an extra CO2 tank there too. I hope I don’t have to touch any of it.

That’s it. I’m showing up tonight around 5:45. Hopefully everything goes well, the beer is perfect, and someone signs a blank check to open the brewery. Congrats again to Elizabeth and Raffaello, and thank you so much for giving me this opportunity!

(in other news, have you seen http://steakhouseorgaybar.com?)

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Do I need to brew an amber? I am a fan of New Belgium – 1554 is a crazy good beer, Biere de Mars is awesome, and La Folie is a different experience altogether – but do I need to have a Mad Haven version of Fat Tire to please the masses?

Beer for the masses (aka a picture of a lot of people drinking beer at Oktoberfest)

Beer for the masses (aka a picture of a lot of people drinking beer at Oktoberfest)

There are a lot of beer styles. A lot. My last post was a quick rundown of BeerAdvocate’s styles, and how many beers are listed in each one. It wasn’t very scientific. There are a lot in there that aren’t made anymore. There might even be some that are in the wrong style. And honestly, we could probably narrow it down to 10 categories rather than 90.

I did narrow it down a little. I went into this thinking that ambers would be toward the top of the popularity list. I have no reason for this hypothesis, and I was apparently wrong. Here’s a quick breakdown. Be nice, I know my categories aren’t perfect.

Pale Ale 9064
Lager 6514
Other 4552
Wheat 3841
Stout 3033
Strong 2439
Amber 2140
Porter 1806
Pilsner 1712
Brown 1566
Bock 1457
Light 1418
Scottish 1010
Barleywine 632

It’s no surprise that Pale Ale is number one. For this count, Pale Ale includes all varieties of Pale Ales and IPAs, both American and English, Imperial and regular, double, etc. IPAs are all the rage these days, so obviously there are a lot of varieties. For Lagers, I just grouped all the lagers together. I don’t know much about lagers, so I’m ok with this grouping. Other includes things like sours (which I love!), Oktoberfests, Chile beers, Fruit / Veggie, Pumpkin, and the rest of things that fit in a category named “other”. And so on down the list. If you group Light with Amber, which one might be inclined to do,  the hybrid groupology pushes it to #5.

When I originally set out to grab these numbers, I had an unfounded hypothesis that ambers would be higher. So the premise of this post being somewhat shot, let’s move on.

My blonde is heavyset and a little dirty.

My blonde is heavyset and a little dirty.

I don’t tend to get too crazy with my recipes, at least not yet. They’re generally a little off to the side of their supposed style (the judges agree on that one too, at least), but I haven’t yet delved into the “extreme” side of things. My stout has caraway seeds. My blonde is more.. dirty blonde. My IPA is heavily hopped with hints of ambrosia (the food of the gods, not the weird fruit salad stuff).

I guess my long, drawn out question is this: Do I need to make beer for the masses? Or is the craft brewing world big enough now to support whatever style I make, assuming it’s amazingly delicious. I’m not getting into this industry to sell beer to every person who walks in off the street (though that would help sales quite a bit). I’m making beer because I love to make beer, and I love to share it. So what are your thoughts? Do I need to have the “entry-level” beer? Or can I stick with the bigger, stronger, hoppier, maltier, crazier, sourer, whateverer brews?

P.S. I realize this is was a complete ramble. Congrats on your persistence in getting this far into the post / my brain.

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