Monday, February 4, 2008

Brooks Team Professional Revisited

I think my Brooks Team Pro is starting to conform to my butt, or at least my butt is starting to conform to it. I have the seat tipped a little bit farther down in the front then when I last posted about it. This has been much more comfortable. For a short time my post about my Brooks Team Pro was the sixth or seventh return on Google when you entered the search query "Brooks Team Pro." It would seem the post has fallen in the ranks. In reality I should have been referring to my seat as a Brooks Team Professional, but I got lazy and called it a Brooks Team Pro.
Having had my seat for a month now I can write a review based on actually using the product.
If you are considering getting one of these seats I highly recommend it. The team pro comes in a natural leather color called honey and in black. I chose the black because it look better on my bike and it does. In fact this saddle looks awesome, it has great curves and a very sleek appearance. The oversize copper or brass rivets stand out giving the saddle a hammered handmade look. I made sure to buy a seat cover for my team pro so the rain would not spoil its good looks.
Besides occasional upkeep (such as treating the leather with proofide) and the need to keep it out of the rain and wetness this saddle is no more work then any other saddle. Don't let someone tell you a leather saddle is to much work to keep up and so on and so forth. The Brooks Team Professional is comfy on your behind and doesn't put pressure on those sensitive spots that can leave you sore after a ride and not functioning after a ride. My Brooks Team Pro seems to get more comfortable every time I ride it. If I was to rate it from the most comfortable saddle I have ridden so far to the worst I would say it is the best saddle ever. When I get this saddle completely broke in I am planning on putting it on my road bike and getting a second Brooks Team Pro for my fixed gear.
If you buy this saddle I recommend purchasing it online from Lickbike in Illinois. They seem to have the best price for it around, and if you call in your order they are very nice and will often ship the same day. You should always check your local bike shops first to see if they have this saddle in stock. Maybe they can order it for you and you can get them to price match Lickbike. Maybe not, I tried to do this with Ken's Bike and Ski in Davis and it was a no go. If you do go ahead and buy a Brooks Team Professional make sure to buy a saddle cover and the Brooks Proofide at the same time. The proofide will soften and protect the leather while the saddle cover will keep your new investment nice and dry when you are forced to park your beloved bike out in the rain.

Bacteria will Win... If not Inactivated!

I am half way done with classes for today. I had my two food science lectures this morning and I have a discussion later this afternoon. The wind is blowing hard today out of the north west, making my ride to school and little easier and the ride back was cold and uphill, or at least that is how it felt. My lectures covered information about milk proteins and ice cream production while the other covered food safety issues. Both were very interesting.
Did you know the biggest threat to us as consumers is microbial contamination of our food and the factor with the lowest threat is food additives? Statistically the average person considers food additives and pesticide residue to be the most significant food based threats to their health when in fact they carry the least risk of causing health problems. Microbial contamination was the factor people thought to be the least threat to their health when in fact it is the greatest. The moral of the story is proper disinfecting techniques must be combined with adequate heat to kill off microbial contaminates in ones food and prevent cross contamination.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Its got to be True

I took my front wheel from my fixed gear into Apex Cycles and Service on Friday to get it trued. It was just a little bit off, and it was rubbing against the break shoe and was making a annoying noise every time the wheel went around and was bugging the hell out of me. I am going to pick up the wheel between classes on Monday.
In the mean time I just put the front wheel from my Trek onto my fixed gear this seems to work well enough. Although it is not the same as having the big 28c tire on the front that I usually have on there. The Continental Ultra Gator Skin tires are awesome! I really enjoy riding on these tires, in fact since I bought them in early November I have not had a single flat. The slime tubes I put in my tires at the same time might also have something to do with this utter lack of flats. I really think the tires are the main reason I haven't gotten any flats. Continental Ultra Gator Skin tires were on sale the other day so I bought a 25c set for my Trek which I am going to save until it is time to replace the tires on it. Sadly I only have about 500 miles on the Trek, so it might be a while before I replace the tires on it. I really should be putting more miles on my bike then that.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

How to Keg

If you can, keep an eye on the new web page my roommate and I are trying to put together. We're calling the site How to Keg there is a link to it in my links section of this blog.
Our goal is to first fill the site with information on dispensing draft beer. Including dispensing beer at parties and from a home bar or kegerator. Were also going to be including information about our favorite beers and some general beer culture information. Along with the written information we are going to start producing a weekly or biweekly video podcast on dispensing draft beer and beer in general.
Last night we tried to film the first video podcast but the audio didn't come out. I think there was something wrong with the external microphone on the camera. Maybe after we get done with homework we'll try again tomorrow

Keg Party

So you want to have a keg party? In prior two posts I have covered some of the basic information for getting a keg. In this post I am going to try and combine it into a more easily digested post.
Check this list for tips on buying a keg and dispensing the keg safely at your party.

    What size keg am I going to get?

    • Domestic US kegs come in three sizes

      • A 1/6 Barrel 5.23 gallon/19.80 liter provides 53 12oz servings 39 pints or 39 plus full red cups

      • A 1/4 Barrel 7.75 gallon/30 liter provides 82 12oz servings or 60 Pint servings ie. 60 full red cups

      • A 1/2 Barrel (American full size keg) 15.5 gallon/59.42 provides 165 12oz servings or 119 pints or 119 full red cups

    • While a smaller keg is cheaper then a larger keg, typically the smaller the keg the more expensive the beer is per drink (per unit of volume)

      • For example I was once quoted $60 for a 1/6 barrel of Sierra Nevada Summerfest and $97 for a 1/2 barrel of the same beer. Making the cost of the beer in the 1/6 keg $1.13 per 12 ounce serving while the cost of the same 12 ounce serving of beer from the 1/2 barrel keg was $0.58 making the beer in the 1/2 barrel keg 51% cheaper then the beer in the 1/6 barrel keg.

      • In Northern California Costco often sells bottled Sierra Nevada in cases of 24 for about $20. This makes the cost of each 12 ounce bottle roughly $0.83. Sometimes bottles are even cheaper then kegged beer.

    • The bottom line - the bigger the keg the cheaper the beer inside as compared to a smaller keg of the same beer.

    • But I am only going to have enough people to drink 2/3 of a full keg?

      • Often even if you think only a portion of a full keg is going to be consumed it is still cheaper to buy the 1/2 barrel keg then it is to get a smaller keg, even if you waste beer.

      • Buying the bigger keg also gives you more of a buffer so you don't run out of beer.

      • If your up to it, doing the math can save you money in the long run.

      • All you have to do is divide total cost of the keg you are planning on buying by the total number of drinks in that size keg to find the cost per drink.

    What kind of beer am I going to get?

    • How much money do you want to spend?

      • See my last post for a rough list of prices.

      • Budweiser and Bud Light are often surprisingly expensive I have known several people who have paid $100 and $120 dollars respectively for ½ baller kegs or Bud and Bud Light.

      • Pabst Blue Ribbon is often a steal at $60-70 per 1/2 barrel keg based on its quality and consistency.

      • Coors products tend to fall in the $70-100 range for a 1/2 barrel unless there is a sale.

      • Natural Ice, Keystone and Miller High Life will tend to run from $45 to $60 for a 1/2 barrel

      • Micro and craft brewed beer is going to start at around $100 per 1/2 barrel keg

      • Prices are going to vary based on your location in the country, your proximity to the brewery whose beer your going to buy, local taxes and fees and the supplier you get your keg from.

    • Buying for your parties demographic and season

      • Consider what kind of beer do the people who are coming to your party like to drink?

      • If your party goers are accustomed to Keystone Light and Coors Light and you provide them with a strong India Pale Ale from your local brewery they might not like it.

      • This goes the same for a group which is accustomed to drinking higher quality beer. They may not appreciate your keg of Natural Ice as much as you appreciated its price.

      • The exception for this is of course is beer for playing beer pong with, in which case most people don't tend care how crappy it is so long as it is not flat or sour (sour is bad).

      • Keep the season of your party in mind, buying a heavy stout or porter for a summer party might not go over as well as if you choose a lighter style beer like a blond or K├Âlsch.

    • Don't be afraid to ask for donations from party goers if you buy a high quality keg or any keg for that matter, just ask for more or less money depending on how much you spent. There is no such thing as free beer.

    Where am I going to buy the keg?

    • Think Local!

      • Once you have an idea of which brands of beer you might want to purchase for your party get out your phone book and call around to the various keg suppliers in your local area.

      • It has been my experience that BEVMO is not the cheapest place to get a keg under most circumstances. In fact it is often the most expensive.

      • When you call your local liquor store don't be afraid to ask the prices on several different kinds of beer.

      • If you can't understand what the clerk at the liquor store is saying, politely ask them to repeat themselves. Remember you never know who you are talking to, it could very well be the owner or a close relative of the owner.

      • If you treat the clerk with respect they will often be more willing to work with you or find you a hard to get keg (such as Magners,Chimey or Spaten). Sometimes they will make you a deal on a keg to, this is especially true if you know the prices of the same keg at their competitors store and you politely tell them that.

      • Keep in mind your local keg supplier won't have every brand or style of beer in stock. As a general rule. if the beer you are planing on getting in not on tap at most of the local bars town then the keg supplier probally will not have it in stock. A personal rule of mine is to always call at least a week ahead of time to order any keg. This ensures the supplier has enough time to get the keg from their distributer.

      • Also if your supplier knows you are coming in on Friday night for a keg of Coors Light, they will save you a keg. If they don't know your coming in for a keg, even if you are planning on purchasing a very common keg they might sell out of the beer you want. This is especially true on busy weekends and in college towns.

    • Be careful when you take the keg home.

      • Place the keg in your vehicle somewhere where it won't roll around and bang into things.

      • When you drive home stop slowly and accelerate gently.

      • Avoid sudden stops, don't be afraid to run over any kid who darts in front of you, you have to protect your beer (a joke!)

      • Go straight home, the longer you take to get home the warmer your keg is going to get.

      • The secret to keeping your keg from getting foamy is to keep it cold.

      • Don't let the keg get shaken up!

      • Once you are home take special care of the keg, by lifting it gently and not dropping it onto the ground. This is where a friend or two to help you carry the keg will help out a lot.

      • Often if you have to travel any distance from your car to where the keg will be dispensed a skate board makes for an excellent keg moving device.

    • Let the keg rest!

      • This means after you get the keg home and get the keg on ice let it sit for a while. At the shortest let it sit for an hour. If you can, let it set for three or four hours.

      • Personally I let kegs sit for four to twelve hours but I have tapped kegs right away without any foam. While at the same time I have tapped kegs right away and gotten lots of foam.

      • If you have the time, let your keg rest.

    How am I going to get the beer out of the keg?

    • You need a tap!

    • There are two basic kinds of tapping configurations for getting beer out of a keg and into your cup

    • The Common Hand Pump Party Tap

      • Basic Information

        • This device which has a tap unique to the keg it is meant to dispense. In the US this is most often a D style Sankey tap. There is a hand or foot pump built into or attached to this tap and some sort of hose or hoses to dispense the beer running out of the tap.

        • The most commonly seen form of this tap has a four to eight inch pump built into the top of the tap and a single hose with thumb valve at the end to dispense the beer running out the side of the tap.

        • Often one person will pump the tap while another pours beer into their cup.

        • Air is pumped into the keg by the pump will force the beer out into your cup.

        • Air exposes the beer to bacteria and oxygen, both which quickly (8 to 24 hours) spoil the beer and make it unfit for consumption (remember how sour beer is bad.)

        • A good party pump runs about $50 to $60 dollars to buy. If you are interested in buying one I suggest the purchasing the following party pump from Micromatic. If taken care of this party pump will last a long time and dispense many a keg of beer.

      • But I don't own a tap and I don't want to buy one

        • No problem, you can rent one at just about any keg supplier for around $10 to $25 dollars plus a $50-75 dollar deposit. Notice buying your own new tap doesn't take long to pay for its self.

    • A CO2 Powered Tapping System

      • Basic Information

        • This is the tapping system used in bars, pubs, kegerators and CO2 party dispensing systems.

        • No pumping is required as CO2 or a mix of CO2 and Nitrogen in the case of Guinness and other similar beers forces the beer out of the keg.

        • The quality of the beer is maintained because the beer is only exposed to a inert gas protecting it from oxygen and bacterial contamination.

        • Under proper refrigeration and pressure a keg dispensed using inert gas such as CO2 should last around 120 days.

        • These tapping setups are quite a bit more expensive then a common party pump.

        • A CO2 party dispensing system can use the same kind of faucet as at a bar to dispense beer. A faucet is the metal device the beer pours out of at a bar or on the front of a kegerator.

        • It has been my experience that the common party goer is unfamiliar with how to pour a beer using standard faucet on a CO2 party dispensing setup. In which case someone has to stand by the keg and pour beer for everyone or people will constantly pour a beer that is 70 to 80% foam.

        • The reason for this foamy tragic occurrence?

          • Party goers fail to fully open the tap causing the beer to sputter as it is dispensed.

          • Those who fully open the tap fail to let the beer run for a half of a second to a second to let the foam built up at the faucet to run out before placing their cup under the stream of beer.

          • Lastly people fail to hold their cup at anything close to the proper angle for tasty ratio of beer to head (foam.)

        • There are CO2 party dispensing setups which use the more familiar black hose to dispense the beer. This many be a more effective and universally understood method of beer dispensing.

        • A kegerator is going to cost anywhere from $300 to $1000 depending on what kind of fridge is used and the quality of the components. Generally though the components will run from $250 to $600 dollars depending on what beer is being dispensed, the quality of the components, the size of gas tanks, and the inclusion of a temperature regulator and gas filter (both of these increase the quality beer being dispensed.)

        • A CO2 party dispensing set up will run from about 120 in its simplest incarnation (including a 5 pound CO2 gas tank) to around 250 to 300 dollars for a setup with a bar style faucet, a duel gauge gas regulator and a ten pound gas tank.

        • A CO2 party dispensing set up for Guinness and other nitrogenized beers is going to coast about 330-400 dollars because of the special taps, faucets and gas tanks required.

        • There is also a device called a jokey box through which one runs often warmer beer through a coil in a cooler filled with ice water and then pours the beer out through a standard bar style faucet on the side of the cooler.

          • The problem with this set up is that the keg must be kept cold even though the beer is going to be chilled in the jokey box. This is because if the beer in the keg warms up the ratio of dissolved CO2 in the beer will change. In other words the beer will go flat and the taste will be compromised (in a bad way.)

    Where am I going to put the keg for the party?

    • You Need a Bucket!

      • Get a 55 gallon garbage can, these are the best because you can fully cover the keg with ice.

      • Smaller buckets such as the ones coming in different colors in which a ½ barrel keg is about half way exposed are okay. Their fault is that you can't fully cover the keg in ice.

    • Icing the Keg

      • You will need about three to four 20 pound bags of ice to keep a ½ barrel keg cold all night in a 55 gallon garbage can.

      • Don't skimp on ice, if your beer gets warm it will get foamy!

      • If you only put ice on the top of the keg the beer is going to still get warm. This is because the beer is drawn out of the keg from the bottom, if the ice is on the top it will not help keep the beer cold.

      • Before you put your keg in the bucket pour a 20 pound bag of ice into the bottom of the bucket. Do this even if you have a smaller bucket. Keeping the bottom of the keg warm is very important.

      • Put the keg in the bucket on top of the ice, you will probably need a friend to help you lift the keg into the bucket. Be careful not to hurt yourself or give yourself a hernia.

      • Pour a couple of bags of ice between the wall of the bucket and the keg.

      • Pour your last bag of ice on top of the keg to form a blanket of ice covering the whole keg. This much ice should keep your keg cold enough for about ten to twelve hours in 65 to 70 degree weather. This time will vary depending on the ambient temperature of the area the keg is in. In other words if it is 100 degrees outside the keg is going to get warmer faster then if it is 50 degrees outside.

    • Kegs are messy!

      • Places not to put a keg at a party include

        • Anywhere carpeted where you value the appearance of clean carpet.

        • On Hardwood Floors, beer stains anyone?

        • In the Kitchen next to the wall

          • If a lot of beer spills it can run under the baseboard and get soaked up by the drywall. This is bad especially in a rental. A solution to avoid this is to put towels around the keg bucket.

        • Putting down a tarp on carpet or a hardwood floor may not fully protect the floor. People still drop cups on the floor (wasted beer=bad) and if the spilled beer from the keg runs off the tarp your in trouble!

        • I recommend putting the keg in the garage or in the back yard.

        • Keep your keg off the front porch and out of the front yard, these locations are just asking for trouble from law enforcement.

        • A rule of thumb is to keep your keg out of sight from anyone who is on the street and from the view of someone who is standing at your front door.

    Common sense tips for buying and dispensing a keg at a party without getting a fine.

    • In all states in the US the legal Drinking age is 21.

    • When you go to buy your keg, make sure anyone who goes with you to pick up the keg has reached the age of 21. Often keg suppliers will card anyone with the buyer of the keg and anyone who is in the car being used to transport the keg.

      • If someone in your group is not 21 and the supplier checks IDs they will likely not sell you the keg, and they might not sell it to you when you come back a little later.

        • This means even if your underage roommate is going to drive his truck to get the keg the supplier might not sell it to you.

        • Talk to people you know who often buy kegs in your area to find out how strict your local suppliers are.

    • While many of us drank when we were underage from kegs at parties I am not encouraging or condoning underage consumption of alcohol.

    • Weather you agree with US law on this topic is unfortunately irrelevant. As of January of this year (2008) in California if you are caught providing a minor with alcohol the fine is $500 for the first offense and $1000 dollars for each offense after that.

    • In California and in 21 other states a keg identification system is used by law enforcement to determine who purchased any given keg. This is achieved by affixing each keg with a small sticker with a number unique to the individual purchaser of the keg.

    • In California the possession of a keg without this sticker is a misdemeanor and will most likely earn you a fine.

    • If you buy the keg, your responsible for who drinks from it. Even if your not at the party or you went to bed early.

    • A good way to avoid a fine is to make sure everyone who is drinking is over 21, wristbands are a cheap and easy way to identify who is good to drink beer and who is going to be sticking to soda.

    • This won't make you a the most popular person in town but it will keep the police happy and your bank account full.

    • Another solution is make sure the cops don't come, this isn't to say it makes it okay for minor to drink, you just don't need wrist bands.

    • When you turn your music on for your party, go out onto the street, if you can hear your music nice a clearly it is probably to loud and the police will be able to hear it clearly to.

    • Do your best to keep your neighbors from calling the cops, this means go over to their houses before the party and let them know you plans. Give them your cell phone number and tell them to call if it gets out of hand.

    • Better they call you then the police.

    • Keep people out of the front yard and in the house or in the back yard.

    The Police are here now what?

    • If and when the cops come do not let them in the house no matter what!

    • Tell them you will talk to them out front and will be happy to work with them but that they can't come in the house.

    • Walk out on your front porch and talk to the cops, be polite and understanding. Make sure to have your ID. They are probably going to give you a talk and maybe a ticket for a noise violation depending on your local rules. Most likely they will tell you to kill the music and disperse.

    • Treat the cops with respect no matter how rude they are to you.

    • Don't put your hands in your pockets when talking to the cops, this freaks them out for some reason, trust me on this one.

    • I once crossed my arms in front of a cop at my front door and the cop thought I was offended and he told me I was disrespecting him and threatened to call judicial affairs at the university, the moral of the story, watch your body language when you are talking to the cops.

    • Make sure to have a piece of paper and a pen handy to write down the officers names and badge numbers. This way if you feel they treat you rudely when you are polite you can talk to someone at the police station. Also if they treat you nicely you can always write a letter explaining what a good experience you had in dealing with the local police.

    • If the cops ask you to shut down the party do as they say, they have the upper hand and it is not worth fighting with them. Keep the following in mind

      • If you can wait for the cops to leave before sending everyone out do so.

      • If you have a back door have everyone go out that way

      • If you have to send people out with the cops out front be careful!

        • Don't let anyone take a cup containing any alcohol out front by the cops. To be on the safe side don't let anyone take a cup or bottle of anything with them when they leave!

        • If someone is to drunk to walk straight, is vomiting or falling down keep them at your place. Don't let them leave by the cops, especially if you have failed to regulate who is drinking and you have really drunk minors in your house.

        • If someone is to drunk to leave with the cops there they are probably to drunk to leave in general, unless they have a coherent friend to keep an eye on them don't let them leave. You don't want to be responsible for them should something happen to them.

        • If a clearly drunk person leaves the cops will likely check them out, if they are a minor you will get cited for furnishing alcohol to a minor and they will get a minor in possession citation.

        • Keep an eye on anyone to drunk to leave to make sure they don't have alcohol poisoning! Check them often as the night progresses.

        • Check out the following site for the signs of alcohol poisoning

    Someone is blacked out from alcohol, oh shit!

    • If someone is blacked out and you can't get them to respond it is time to call EMS (911). In the mean time pay attention to their breathing (if they stop breathing you may need to start CPR) and make sure if they vomit that they don't choke. What ever you do don't leave them!

    • If they are a minor and you supplied the alcohol at the party, you may be in trouble, but remember a citation and fine are better then living with the knowledge that you could have saved someone's life.

    • Try to keep an eye on people at your party to make sure no one drinks to much.

    • If your party is to big to keep an eye on everyone then you probably needed to get more then one keg and you need some other people to help you keep an eye on things.

    • It is hard to drink so much beer you blackout but it is very easy to drink to much hard liquor. If you choose to offer hard liquor make sure to be extra careful

    • If you offer hard liquor watch out for minors, especially because they often don't know how to drink or what their own tolerances are.

    Most important of all Have Fun!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Common Questions About Getting a Keg

Now these prices are for full size kegs and vary depending on where one buys the keg, If I show a price range assume the lower price is the price in Chico and the high price is the price in Davis. Note these prices do not include tax or keg shell deposit and they are not completely accurate! Call Aggie Liquor in Davis 530-753-4441 or Star Liquor in Chico 530-891-4842 for up to date pricing.

45-55 Natural Ice/Keystone Light (Disgusting)

55-65 Miller Genuine Draft (Utter Crap)

60-70 Pabst Blue Ribbon (King of the Shitty Beers)

80-90 Coors and Coors Light (Standard Beer Pong Grade Beer)

90-120 Bud, Bud Light (Bud Blows Goats for Quarters)

80-120 Butte Creek Brewing Company's Beers (this is a small brewery in Chico, some of their beers are great some are complete crap, also they are inconsistent from batch to batch which can result in one getting a crappy keg.

99-130 Sierra Nevada (Really Good Beer) Styles (Pale Ale, Draught Style Pale Ale, Brown Ale, IPA, Stout, Porter, Early Spring Beer, Anniversary Ale, SummerFest, Celebration Ale, Wheat, Crystal Wheat, Pale Bock, and several more)

115-150 Sierra Nevada Harvest Ale and Big Foot (Both Hardcore Beers, Bigfoot more so)

150-200 Any of the Red Hook Brewing Company's Products, Any of the Pyramid Brewing Company Beers, Widmer Hefeweizen, Anchor Steam, Just about any US Microbrew, Guinness*, Heineken*, Spaten*, Bass Pale Ale*, Becks* Chimey* (I would suspect Chimey to be even more expensive then what I have listed)

Now would be a good time to talk about beer keg sizes, Kegs come in four sizes, which are referred to by two different names just to keep things simple. Firstly you have the pony kegs which refers to either a 5.23 gallon/19.80 liter keg or a 7.75 gallon/30 liter keg. Then there is the full size keg or half barrel keg as it is sometimes called. This is referring to a 15.5 Gallon (59.42 Liter) keg. *With the exception of full size European Kegs which are smaller then a full size US keg

Here is a break Down Of Keg Sizes
1/6 Barrel 5.23 gallon/19.80 liter which provides 53 12oz servings 39 pints or 39 plus full red cups
1/4 Barrel 7.75 gallon/30 liter which provides 82 12oz servings or 60 Pint servings ie. 60 full red cups
1/2 Barrel (American full size keg) 15.5 gallon/59.42 which provides 165 12oz servings or 119 pints or 119 full red cups
*European Full Size Keg 13.21 gallon/50 liter which provides 140 12oz servings or 100 pints or 100 full red cups

All the beers I marked with and star"*" come in a full size European Keg for the price displayed. Because this keg is smaller (by 2.3 gallons) then its full size American counterpart it makes the European beer more expensive per unit volume. Keep in mind some of the best beers in the world come in European kegs, such as Guinness Draught and Spaten. I have had both of these kegs (Spaten and Guinness Draught) before and I can promise they are worth the their cost if you are really looking for a good beer.
If you have any question message me or leave a comment for this post.

Guinness is Good for You!

I was asked which is a better beer, Guinness or Heineken? Having drank a lot of both and having gone to both breweries and having bought a keg of each I can't say which is better. What I can say is what some of the factors are which separate Guinness from Heineken and most ever other beer for better or worse.
Consider Guinness Draught to be more complex and distinctive beer while at the same time not necessarily being the better beer. Take into consideration the unique dispensing style of Guinness Draught using a stout faucet vs the standard beer faucet. The way the creamy foam head forms as the nitrogen bubbles dissolve out of the beer and creating a cascading effect in which the bubbles appear to be falling within the glass. This is often referred to as the "surge" which you have to wait to complete before one can finish with the second part of the famous two part pour. This is the result of the beer being nitrogenized. Meaning the gas used to carbonate the beer is a combination of nitrogen and CO2. In fact the ratio is 75% nitrogen and 25% CO2. This combination is often referred to as Guinness Gas or Bev Gas in the industry. Guinness is also kept under a much high pressure then Hieneken (30-40 psi vs 10-14 psi). This is because the nitrogen gas has a lower affinity for the beer and must be a high pressure in order to dissolve into the Guinness. This is the same principal behind the bends which effect deep water divers. Were at high pressure and deeper depths the nitrogen dissolves into the blood. When the pressure is released as the diver approaches the surface nitrogen forms tiny bubbles in the blood which cause health problems. This is essentially the same thing that is happening in a can of Guinness Draught but you want this to happen in a can of Guinness Draught.
If you have can or bottle of Guinness Draught you may have noticed there is something in the can. You weren't going crazy there is something in the can and it is called a widget. This widget is a small plastic container with a tiny hole in it. During the bottling process just after the beer is added to the bottle or can a small amount of liquid nitrogen and CO2 is added. This mix of gases is sealed inside of the bottle or can. Where over a period of time (most likely a few days) the gases dissolve into the beer. Being that the bottle or can is under pressure, beer and dissolved nitrogen and CO2 is forced into the widget until the pressure inside the widget is in equilibrium with the pressure of the inside of the can. When you crack the can or open the bottle the pressure is release inside of the can or bottle. When this happens the beer still inside the widget is forced out of the tiny hole into the can or bottle. This accelerates the formation of nitrogen bubbles and helps to generate the head and produce the surge Guinness Draught is known the world around for. Without the widget the nitrogen would still bubble out of the beer, but at a much slower rate and a quality layer of head on the top of the pint would not be formed.
Interestingly enough the same principle is used when dispensing Guinness Draught from a keg. Inside of a stout faucet is a small metal plate with eight or so tiny holes through which the beer is forced as it is dispensed into the glass. These tiny holes force the nitrogen out of the beer just as with the widget to produce the cascading "surge" effect and proper amount of head. This is of course assuming you poured the pint correctly.
Pouring a pint of Guinness Draught is a two part operation and it can't be rushed. It should take about two minutes to pour a pint of Guinness. I recommend watching the following short video which effectively demonstrates how to pour a pint of Guinness,
Many consider Guinness to be a heavy beer. Guinness is generally considered to contain 210 calories per pint. Compare to a pint of orange juice (220 calories) or a pint of skim milk (260 calories.) The nitrogen may help contribute to the different mouth feel Guinness Draught along with other components of the beer whose contribution I don't fully understand as I am not a food sensory scientist.
These are just some of the reasons why I feel Guinness is such a great beer. Honestly I feel you can't compare Heineken to Guinness, consider their differences, Heineken is a lager style beer were Guinness Draught is considered an type of ale. This means both of these beer are fermented by two different kinds of yeast at different temperatures and for different periods of time. The fact both beers are brewed and dispensed completely differently makes them almost polar opposites of each other. These are beers which can't be compared side by side. One can say they prefer one over the other but there is no way one can say one is better then the other. How could one say an apple is better then an orange?

Monday, January 28, 2008

Refilling a Keg

I am often asked how to one goes about refilling a beer keg. This is an interesting question because the average person really is not interest in refilling a keg. They are interested rather in taking a empty keg or keg shell they have in their possession and converting it into a full keg of beer. There are a number of methods for turning an empty keg into a full one. The first being you can prey to the supreme being of your choice to turn the air inside the keg to beer. For this option I recommend praying to Ninkasi, the Sumerian goddess of beer. Alternitivly you could pray to Ronald Reagan or the Judeo-Christian god among others. Statistically this method is ineffective although I don't have the numbers to back up that statement.
The second option is by far the easiest and most effective, this involves taking one's empty keg shell to their local liquor store and exchanging it for a full keg of beer. Might I recommend any of the fine beers produced by Sierra Nevada as a excellent choice to exchange your empty shell for. A couple things to keep in mind about this option; if you are in California you generally need to have the keg identification sticker on the keg to exchange it. This hasn't tended to be an issue here in Davis, but in Chico you definitely needed the sticker. Also different brewers charge different amounts for keg shell deposits. For example Sierra Nevada charges just twenty five dollars where Widmer Brothers Brewing charges forty to forty five dollars and Pabst charges thirty five. The keg your exchanging your empty shell for might have a higher shell deposit then the shell you are exchanging and you will need to make up the difference.
The last option is by far the hardest and most time consuming option, this involves opening up the keg cleaning out the old stale beer, sterilizing and refilling with home brewed beer. I could spend a whole post talking about how to do this. Basically you will need to brew up about fifteen gallons of beer and then put it in your keg. I am leave a number of steps out. This is an enormous amount of work unless you know exactly what you are doing in which case it is still a lot of manual labor.
If you still want to open your keg shell up for some other reason take a look at the following web site on how to open a sankey type keg. Let me be the first to say this can be a very dangerous and is most often a messy job in which the residual beer sprays all over the place unless you cover the tap with a towel. Even then old warm crummy beer still gets all over.
Why would one want to open a keg up? My best guess is to us it for home brewing or to make the most bad ass batch of jungle juice ever, which I have done and will explain how to do it in a later post.
To summerize again how to refill an empty keg shell you can:
A. Pray to the supreme being of your choice (Ninkasi or Ronald Reagan.)
B. Exchange the empty keg shell for a new keg of beer at your local liquor store.
C. Open, clean, sterilize and fill the empty keg shell with your own home brew.
D. Make a awesome keg stool/seat out of your empty keg shell.
Let me emphasize choice B as it is the only choice for the majority of the population, choice C is just to much work. Even if you have made a batch of home brew before that was likely only five gallons or so this would be fifteen plus gallons. I am not trying to discourage any one, I only want to make you aware of the work involved and how much easier it is to just exchange the empty keg shell for a new full keg of beer. Best of luck to all on your kegging adventures.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Party Beer Dispensing

Have you ever found yourself at a party where the the fine flavor of the beer has been fouled by the keg party pump which used regular air to push the beer out of the keg instead of an inert gas such as CO2. Quite honestly if you are at the average college party the overpowering shit quality of the beer on hand never seems to merit anything more crude then a regular keg party pump. For example, kegs of Keystone Light, Natural Ice, and so on, basically on up to the king of the shitty beers, Pabst Blue Ribbon. For Pabst and all beers above said level of quality deserve to be dispensed in a less primitive manor. Yes for the record I am placing Paps Blue Ribbon above the likes of Bud, Bud Light, Miller, Miller Light, Coors and Coors Lite. I am not saying it is better then Yuengling which happens to be awesome beer and impossible to find on the west coast.
While the likely hood of one being able to notice a change in the flavor of a keg of beer tapped with a traditional keg party pump for a couple of hours after tapping would seem to be rather low, if I had to guess you would be able to notice a difference in the quality of the beer after four or five hours. At a crazy party a keg might not last that long, but at a smaller party this could become an issue. I don't know for a fact at what point the flavor of a keg of beer becomes tainted by a party pump, but I would guess someone who knows their beer and who is familiar with the said beer on hand could tell the difference.
There are a couple of solutions for this problem, the first being just uses cans or bottles. This option is cheaper when having a small gathering, for a large party it is more expensive. Also you have to pay for the CRV of the cans or bottles and people tend to make a mess with the bottles and cans by leaving them all of your house and yard. For a keg you only pay a reasonably small deposit on the keg shell which is easily recovered by returning the shell to the original distributor the keg was purchased from.
Personally I am fond of Star Liquors in Chico. The guys there will take care of you so long as you don't try to sneak a fake ID past them, in such case they will take it from you. Really they are great guys and can get you any keg you want for a fair price. They are a hell of a lot cheaper then Aggie Liquor here in Davis, or Tony's Liquor in Chico and a lot nicer. The number at Star Liquors is 530-891-4842. One might wonder why I buy my kegs in Chico when I live in Davis. Well frankly I go through about one keg a month and I like to go home to Chico once a month so I pick up a fresh keg from Star on my way home from Chico when I travel there.
The other option for dispensing draft beer at a party is a CO2 powered dispensing system. Which consists of a CO2 tank, in my case a five pound tank because of its portability, a regulator (mine has two CO2 outputs so ideally I could be set up to dispense two kegs at once if I had a second set of taping equipment,) a tap (in this case a D Sankey,) a beer riser and a faucet (the tap, riser and faucet are all completely food grade stainless steel.) As you can see from the picture the system sits right on top of a keg and the riser brings the faucet up to a perfect pouring hight. I used this set up to dispense a Keg of Spaten Premium in November. The setup worked great.
I should mention I get the majority of my beer dispensing equipment from a company called Micromatic. If you have any interest in dispensing draft beer take a look at their web site. They have lots of information, tips a forum and all the parts and pieces you might ever need to get your beer to flow.
Currently I am drinking a pint of Hefeweizen and listening to The Pogues which is a great way to spend an afternoon. If it wasn't about to get dark outside I would go for a bike ride, but I really don't want to go riding in the dark. Maybe I will post some pictures of my Trek road bike in the future. It is really fast and a pleasure to ride, it is amazing how much of a difference clip in peddles makes. I find myself going a lot faster when I use them then when I just use plain old pedals with foot straps. I plan to put the clip in pedals on my fixed gear when I ride the sorter version of the wildflower this spring.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

The Kegerator

Not a long post today, just some pictures of the current state of the kegerator. I just repainted the door of the kegerator a couple of days ago. Keep in mind that the amount of beer kept on hand is not the same as the amount of consumed over a given period of time (ie were not a bunch of boozers.) Especially when it comes to Coors and Coors Light. Those are both reserved for beer pong games exclusively. For those of you out there who aren't fans of drinking games, such as beer pong, keep in mind we always keep plenty of good beer in the kegerator for the most important drinking game of all - drinking!left""

Inside View!
The keg tap and eggs! You can see that this is a Keg of Widmer Hefeweizen

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Keg Seats

Over the last few years I have collected, or rather acquired a number of keg shells. Mainly off of craigslist, which is a good place to look for all sorts of brewing equipment. A keg shell is simply the metal part of a beer keg. When I refer to a keg shell I mean a empty keg of beer which has often had the tap coupler removed. This allow different solutions to be placed inside the keg. For instance after cleaning out the keg. Which is done by adding water and bleach and a foot long food grade stainless steal chain.
A batch of beer could now be fermented inside of the keg. A full size keg holds three times the volume of the average home brew fermenter and the metal conducts heat better then plastic. If one had access to a swimming pool during the right times of the year. For instance winter, a keg filled with lager to be fermented could be placed on the steps on the pool so as only the top fifteen or so cm was exposed and then cap the top off with a rubber bung and a air lock. The pool water would keep the yeast the proper temperature for a strong healthy fermentation. An open keg shell could also be used as a boiling vessel for a fractional distillation apparatus to used to produce essential oils, vinegar or possible ethanol for uses as fuel (this would of course only be done once the proper permits were obtained from the ATF and the ethanol was only used for fuel.) I will post later on methods for producing fuel ethanol.
Needless to say there are a lot of uses for a keg shell besides just holding draft beer. As I mentioned before I have a few keg shells not including the full keg of Widmer Hefeweizen I currently have in my kegerator, it is such a great beer. When you can get it on tap at your local bar, restaurant or pub, it's awesome.
Currently in my garage I have three empty keg shells. All on them happen to be Sierra Nevada keg shells also. I have had then in my garage for about two or three months. What I figured out was that if you flip the shell over you can sit in a mildly comfortable fashion on the bottom of the keg. Although one's butt and legs get rather sore quickly, so maybe not so comfortable. In our garage we currently have a shortage of seating. We have two lawn chairs and the four chairs from inside at the dinner table. When we have a party there is not enough room for people to sit. Our garage is not big enough for us to seat everyone, but a few more seats would help. I flipped over all the keg shells and people didn't really sit on them, they just got in the way.
Early last month I had this idea, do you see where I am going with this. I tend to take a long time to get to the point. The kegs needed a soft seat to go on top of them. My idea was to take a piece of plywood and cut it in a circle the diameter of the keg. Then take a two by four and cut a hole which would fit over the opening on a keg shell. See the pictures for an example of what the opening on a keg shell looks like. The two by four would be fixed to one side of the round plywood and then a few centimeters of foam would be placed on the other side of the plywood to be held in place by a piece of fabric.
While up at my grandparents home outside of Reno, Nevada I had access to my grandfather's shop, which contains the tools needed to produce the seat. I took a keg shell to their house for this very purpose. Once he understood what I was trying to build we managed to knock the wooden portion of a seat out in under an hour. Then next two only took forty minutes to make both.
The next aspect of the seat construction required I travel to Carson City, Nevada which is not to far from their home, to pick up the necessary foam and fabric. We got the supplies at this hole in the wall fabric store. We settled on firm two inch foam and black marine upholstery leather (or rather fake leather that is.) Stretching the leather over the foam and stapling it to the back side of the wood seats went really fast. We managed to finish all three of the seats in under an hour.
The only changes from my original design in my head is we used three two by fours to hold the seat in place on top of the keg. as opposed to the single two by four with a hole in it. I don't feel that it makes any difference either way. All the wood used for the seats was scrap wood to cutting down on cost. My final cost for each seat was ten dollars, basically for foam and fabric. Take a look at the pictures, I think the seats turned out really nice and are very comfortable. I'm really looking forward to our next party/gathering to get some feed back on these seats which essentially turn a keg shell into a comfy stool!