Archive for the ‘Random Ideas’ Category

Caligula. Craziest bastard pictured in the post.

We’re a little bit insane. Who isn’t, right?

Maybe we’re a little bit madder than most. Moving right along.

As we work on branding and defining ourselves, our company, and our beer, we think about lots of stuff and go through many different exercises. Write down 25 words that define you. Look at 6-pack carriers. “Market research”.

Last night we met with Josh again, and he had a great idea: write down a list of people from history who were crazy. What made them crazy? Why do we remember them? Were they just nuts, or clinically nuts? (Note: “nuts” is not a clinical term.)

While were exploring the history books, I thought I’d ask you, dear follower. Who are some of the craziest bastards from history? What made them so crazy? Why do you remember them?

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Last night I launched a new project, Denver Off The Wagon.

I’ve realized that Denver has an amazing culture, specifically around alcohol, but there was no single place to focus on it, read about it, and be a part of it. I hope that this project can be that place.

From the first post:

We like booze.

Let’s just get that out there. This isn’t about getting drunk or blacking out. It’s about the means, not the end.

We like good booze.

No one writing for this site has ever technically been on the wagon. But, if we were to find ourselves atop a rolling platform pulled by horses or oxen, I imagine we’d all fall off. In splendid, dramatic fashion.

Read More

Go check it out. Let me know what you think,


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A lot has been in motion the past few weeks. A lot of it is sort of hush-hush right now, but here’s a brief overview to get you through the holiday season.

Business Plan

We’re working with two recent MBA grads. They are awesome. One is all up in the marketing side of things, and the other knows finances like I know.. Well, I think he knows finances better than I know anything. With their help, we hope to start presenting to investors in the next month or two. Pretty exciting stuff.

Unnamed Bar

A bar which I shall not name has recently approached us, inquiring if we’d like to open in what is essentially their back room. It’s a ridiculously good location, with great people, and a lot of possibilities. This is just in the talks, and might not ever move past that, but it’s really fun to think about. Right now, the plan is to ignore it as a possibility in the planning process, and if it comes through, so much the better. Don’t try to guess what bar it is. I won’t tell you. Sorry.


We’re going to meet with Josh Mishell in the first week or two of the new year to discuss branding for Mad Haven. Josh used to do branding for Flying Dog. He loves beer, knows his stuff, and we love hanging out with him. Great combination. I’m excited to see what we can come up with, channeling the crazy in my head through the awesome in Josh’s to make sweet sweet branding.


Mad Haven is being enjoyed by people more and more. Between office mates, bartenders, and that random guy on the corner (two truths and a lie, can you pick out the lie?), the Rye Dry Stout and Heartburn (the chili beer) are making their way across the lips of Denver. Check it out, we’re even on Untappd!


Right, brewing. That important little project. The past few batches haven’t gone so well, but I’m working on fixing all the things that went wrong. I think 4 years in a row of near-perfect results has caught up with me. Two batches in a row were infected – I’m pretty sure the latter was just infected by the former, and not a repeated process issue – and I had a stuck mash during a batch of Pam last week. It’s only a failure if you don’t learn from it, right? I plan to brew a lot more of the Rye Dry, and a few batches of the Scotch Ale, as we cannot keep enough in supply.


I might be starting a Denver-based publication soon. No details yet, but it’s something I think Denver needs, and will enjoy. You know, because I’m not busy enough yet.

The Real World

Beyond all this fun news, I have an actual full time job. If I haven’t mentioned it before, I’m a Front End Developer for MapMyFitness.com. It’s going great. I love the people I work with, the work itself is challenging and pretty forward-thinking, and it’s a very fast-moving environment.


That’s all for now. Please, keep reading, keep trying the beer, and keep giving your support, thoughts, opinions, and empty bottles. Have a great [insert your holiday of choice here] and an awesome New Year’s, and we’ll regroup in January.

And if you need a song to listen to, check out Your Humble Narrator by Two Cow Garage. It has nothing to do with this post at all, but it does have an awesome line: “The sun has a way of making us pay for our revelry-filled nights.”

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Well, we haven’t been completely on the brewing schedule, but, here’s what I plan to have for GABF:

  • Black something. I have no idea what style or ingredients or whatever are in it. Roulette beer! Bet on black!
  • Pam, the “natural” blonde
  • Bitch Creek ESB clone
  • Scotch Ale w/ oak chips
  • IPA
  • Rye Dry Stout w/ Carraway seeds
  • Maybe even more of the blonde. I’ve been drinking a lot of it..

Not too shabby.

I’ve been meeting a bunch of awesome beer geeks, future beer geeks, other awesome people, and it’s been wonderful. I love having beer on hand to share. Makes the world go round.

In other news, I just wrote a big article on my other blog about other things around town during GABF. For those coming to town, or contemplating it, I hope it’s a good resource. I’m copying and pasting it. Enjoy!

When in Rome, err, Denver

According to the GABF countdown clock at Falling Rock, there’s about 22 days until the start of the Great American Beer Festival. Could be a little more or a little less. Counting is hard.

The festival is sold out, but there are always tickets for sale on Craigslist and other such sites. But whether you got tickets or not, Denver has a lot of beer to offer outside the hallowed – scratch that – beer-drenched hall that is the Festival. Why, just within a few miles of the Convention Center, there are more than a dozen beer-centric establishments.

Before I get into what those are, I want to impress upon you that Denver does in fact have more to offer than just great beer. We have whiskey too!

This town is wonderful, and I implore you to explore it, should you find the time and the sobriety. Our local Yelpers are fantastic, so trust that site if you need a quick lookup. Grab a reindeer  or wild boar hot dog, see a show or a show or a showgrab a book, or maybe even take a hike. And if you like dive bars – and I love dive bars – we have a few of those too.

But, in the end, you’re here for the beer. So let’s get to that.

I made a map on Google maps of about 15 beer places within 2-3 miles of the Convention Center. There are hundreds, if not thousands of them within 100 miles of downtown, so I decided to stick to walk-able and bike-ride-able from downtown. If you want a more complete map of the region, check outbeermapping.com. Oh, and speaking of bicycles, we have an awesome bike rental program too.

In no particular order, here are the establishments I’ve pinned on the map. If you know of another I should add, please let me know. Click on the map for addresses, directions, etc.

Falling Rock
75 taps, 120 bottles, events every day, this is generally a good place to be. Full writeup.

Great Divide
It’s no secret I love this place. I think I mention them in every single article I write. Do yourself a favor and go there.

Euclid Hall
Brand new spot in town, tons of awesome beer and food. My friend Ryan is pimping out their tap list.

Mellow Mushroom
New location right downtown. 36 beers on tap, from the cold yellow fizzy to the crazy Belgians nom noms.

Strange Brewing
They just got started a few months ago and are rocking out. Go try their brews and support new micros.

Star Bar
Old dive turned into new dive with craft beer and liquors. You didn’t have a good time if you didn’t stop here.

Breckenridge Brewpub
One of the biggest production breweries around here, and right next to Coors Field to boot!

Cheeky Monk
Tons of Belgian awesomeness on tap and in bottles, plus great food. Try the mussels! Full writeup.

Vine Street Pub
Part of the Mountain Sun family, this place is one of the coolest spots in Denver. Great beer and guest taps too.

Thin Man
Funky little bar with a coffee shop attached. Right next to Vine Street.

Rackhouse Pub
I go here a bit too often. Amazing beer, liquor, food, and people. Full writeup.

Colt & Gray
I told the bartender I liked scotch, whiskey, and new things, and he made me a pre-prohibition style Old Fashioned. Amazing.

Started by our current mayor in 1988 and still rocking right downtown.

Uptown Brothers Brewing
Yet another new beer place in Denver. Tons of good stuff now, brewing their own soon.

Pints Pub
Largest single malt scotch collection in.. America? At least this side of the Mississippi. They brew there as well. Full writeup.

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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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Stuff. Things.

I’m in the mood to ramble on about what’s in my head. So, if you’re not ready to peek into my brain…

You’ve been forewarned. Also, it’s Monday, and I had a bachelor party in Vail this weekend, plus the Super Bowl last night, so I don’t think I’m operating at 100%. Or even a passing grade.

Advised music for this post: Garden State Soundtrack.

Anyway, how’s it going?

Things are great here. Kell and I are moving this month. We’re leaving the house and moving to a condo closer to downtown. This is going to alter the brewing process considerably. It’s a smaller place, there’s no backyard (it’s a 3rd floor condo. There is an alley though…), and rent is about double what I’m paying now.

On the upside there, we have to learn to brew a lot more efficiently. Which is good. But ya, I have no idea where we’re going to store all the equipment just yet. It should be interesting.

Right now there’s one batch fermenting in the basement. I hope to bottle it before the move. I feel that moving boxes of beer is easier than moving carboys of beer. We bottled the stout recently, added coffee. Tasted good at the time. We shall see.

I’m not sure what’s going to happen with Breakfast and Brewing yet. I really enjoyed the first one we did, so I’ll figure it out. But for those excited about the prospect of bacon, eggs, and brewing, it’s not happening in February. Hopefully March.

The next few batches are all probably going to be dark beers. I honestly can’t find the desire to brew something light. Granted, it’s snowing today, so maybe that’s having an effect. But I just have this overwhelming desire to brew really dark, overpowered beers that rock your face off before you even pop the cap.

A solution to my lack of space and mind-blowing desire to brew dark beers is to open the brewery. So, I’m actually writing the business plan finally. Like, I have words. Written. And Excel files!

I’m also working on two other ideas. I don’t want to get into them too much on here just yet. They’re not revolutionary ideas, but they are good ideas, and I don’t want someone with money and no heart coming along and opening one of them in Denver, just because. Paranoia? Sure. Whatever. My ideas.

Unrelated. But I would totally make beer in this.

Anyway, one idea involves making beer. But it’s not the brewery. The other idea involves selling beer. But it’s not the brewery. Either one, or both, would hopefully be a faster startup with more immediate returns than the brewery, and would become supplementary income to float Mad Haven until it can hold itself up. You know, like the food part of a brew pub. But not food.

If you want to know more on that, buy me a beer. I’ll talk your ear off for many hours. I just don’t feel like posting the plan here, at least not today.

Oh, I think I’m going to try to make cheese soon.

What else.. Life is good right now. Really good. It’s stout month at Mountain Sun / Vine Street, so I’ll be there a bunch this month, hopefully. Moving is never fun, but I’m excited for the new place. I’m looking for freelance work right now, since my rent is doubling. So, if you know anyone looking for an awesome guy to write awesome code, let me know. (I write PHP / JavaScript / MySQL / etc. pjhoberman.com is my site. It’s not awesome. Yet.)

That’s about it.

And beer. Well, I still love it.

End ramble.

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Domain Name Ideas?

I’m thinking of moving this blog from being hosted by WordPress.com to it’s own domain. StartingABrewery.com is taken.. Thoughts on a name?

Some ideas:

  • BeerAndWebsites.com
  • MakerOfBeer.com
  • PJMakesBeer.com

etc. Let me know your thoughts!

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My friend Taylor (@tbeseda) and I started a new site called BrewAdvice.com.
BrewAdvice is a knowledge sharing experiment. The focus is definitely on brewing, but questions of all beer-related nature are welcome. For example, I asked about pairing beer with mussels.

Check out the site. Ask questions. Answer questions. Participate.

You can follow the site on Twitter at @brewadvice, where questions are posted every two hours.

Here are some example questions, and the selected answer. Each question can have many answers.

Alternatives for priming sugar

Q: If you happen to be out of priming sugar, but really want to bottle your beer, what are the alternatives? Let’s assume a 5 gallon batch that’s fully fermented – call it 1.010-1.014.


  • Corn syrup
  • Regular olde sucrose
  • Malt extract
  • Brown sugar if you’re desperate

See A Primer on Priming and How to Brew.

Pairing with mussels

Q: What’s a good style or specific beer that would pair with mussels?


First off, mussels steamed in beer is FREAKING amazing.

Second off, the perfect pairing for mussels depends on the sauce in which they are prepared.

Mussels in white wine or wit beer sauce — Flavor of mussels is light and delicate and need not be overpowered with extreme beer. This style goes best with a Wit Bier, Hefeweizen or a Saison.

Mussel marinara — Tomato sauce is highly acidic and needs a beer with a higher hop content. I would go with a Pale Ale. If the marinara is spicy, I would go with an IPA.

Mussels in curry sauce — Usually prepared with a cream (coconut) base. The heaviness of the cream and the spice of the curry makes this an excellent pairing with lighter styles — such as a Czech Pilsners — as well as maltier styles — such as a Belgian Dubbel or Dobbelbach.

When in doubt, the saison style is my favorite pair with mussels.

How do you choose a yeast?

Q: What characteristics do you look for in a yeast to pair with your recipe? Is there a common reference?


For me some styles showcase yeast like Belgians, Hefes, some English styles, etc. Others showcase malts or hops and yeast shouldn’t play much of a role. For me I generally stick with some clean ale yeast like 1056 or Pacman for IPA’s, Blondes, etc. And then obviously for something like a hefe I choose 3068.

As I reference, if you car about style guidelines, look at the BJCP style guidelines for whatever your making. They will usually mention what role yeast character should or should not play.

Why are you still here? Go to BrewAdvice.com and play!

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One of my best friends, TheBeerWench (Ashley in her former life), is doing a series on beer bloggers, and I was her first victim. Take a look!


The Wench and I

The Wench and I

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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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