Hob Knob Brewing Company

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Drinkin' A Lager, Eh? You're Welcome!

After pounding away on my keyboard for a few hours trying to get some semblance of a finalized business plan put together, I decided to take a short break, and pulled out some light reading material.  With a little Michael Buble' playing in the background (I lost my Kenny G & Celtic Woman albums), I thumbed through "Yeast" by Jamil Zain-impossible to spell last name.  Starting at the beginning the book dove into the history of the single-celled alcohol producing work plants. Upon reaching the section where they pay homage to the scientists who learned to propagate the "good beer" yeast strains, I came across a name. "Emil Christen Hansen." As I phonetically had to sound out his first name, lightning struck.

"Hansen? Hey wait a second. MY GRANDMA'S LAST NAME WAS HANSEN!" I read on.  I wondered if we were distant relations. It turns out this 'E-mil' guy was a pretty big deal. Consider him the second in command to Louis Pasteur! He isolated the first yeast strain and brought it to the brewing world. Saccharomyces Carlsbergensis - better known as lager yeast. So yeah, that lager you're drinkin', you're welcome. Who know's maybe Emil is my great great great grandfather. I mean, we do look a lot alike...just look at that hair line and giant noggin!

To add to the excitement, I found out he was from Denmark. You guessed it...my family lineage - Danish. There isn't a kringle safe when I'm around. I immediately went to ancestry.com to pour over their records.  Worthless. On to archives.com.  Again, equally worthless. As I was cancelling my free 7 day trials (which I'll still probably no doubt be billed for), I came across the site familysearch.org. Finally, I was making some headway.

I started with my grandmother, Norene Hansen and followed the lineage back through time.  My great grandfather - Paul Hansen - my Great Great Grandfather - Hans Peder Hansen, and all the way back to my Great Great Great Grandfather - Poul Hansen (no that's not misspelled, that's how they spell 'Paul' in Danish...mmmmmmMMMM...Danish...anyways). I'd traced my family genealogy all the way back to Poul's birth in 1838 - 4 years before Emil was born in 1842, and knew I was only one generation away from seeing if I was actually related to one of the most important men in brewing history.

...and then the trail just stopped. Agonizing hours went by. I wasn't able to see beyond Poul's lineage nor was I able to get any further than Emil's father, Joseph, who they had absolutely no information on.

So, I'll just have to pretend to be related to the father of the lager revolution, because the simple fact is that 'Hansen' is about as common in Denmark as 'Smith' is over here.  It wasn't a total loss.  I did find some very interesting ancestors on the Hansen side of the family.

Enter Knute Hansen (note to self...if I have another son someday...he shall be called "Knute"). Knute was a professional heavyweight prize fighter in the early 30s. It turns out he traveled the world, and was a considered the top contender for the heavyweight world title at one point! The man was a monster. Standing almost 6'5" tall with an 84" reach, he would go on to fight multiple times in madison square garden.

So while I can't confirm whether or not I'm related to Emil, I can say I'm directly related to my Great Great Uncle (I think he'd be an uncle?), Knute Hansen. You know...after looking at the pictures some more, I gotta say, I think I look more like Knute than Emil.  


So that wraps up our walk back through time, and tracing the Hansen family lineage.  As far as the brewery goes, hopefully we will get some good news on the brewery moving forward soon.  I'll keep you guys posted!



Sunday, February 9, 2014

Brew Smart - The NC Brewer's Guild

What a weekend!  First off, a huge thank you to Margo with the NC Brewer's Guild and Erik at Mystery Brewing for putting on a highly education, fun, and light-hearted event. Brew Smart was a great learning experience.  I have to say that just when you think you're starting to get a handle on how this industry works, you are able to meet the real experts, and they show you you've only uncovered the tip of the iceberg.  Everything from ABC licensing requirements to product quality was covered in depth.  It was a mixture of "Ah ha!", "OMG...am I really going to ask this question in front of 70 other people?", and "You know what...maybe I really can do this" moments.

To change wheels, one of the things that I have always found confusing (yet a huge blessing) about this industry is the way it turns traditional business models and ideas on your business's competition completely upside down.  For the last ten years, I've been in marketing and sales.  A fiercely competitive environment where companies and people routinely will do just about anything to get a sale.  It was a stressful field full of shell games and disingenuous people.  Where your vendors seemed to think you were only there to bother them, and the only time you heard from your customers was when they wanted to complain about something.  People were always willing to be your best friend - until the money exchanged hands.  It's the dark side of business and what it has become relegated to in many other industries outside the craft beer world.

Craft beer is different, and it's great!  I just spent the last two days with many people who, for all intents and purposes, would be considered my direct competition.  The truth is, many of these 'competitors' treated me with more respect and consideration than actual 'vendors' who I would deal with on a routine basis in my past professional life.  They were actually willing to discuss and put more time into helping me develop my business than people I would pay in the past for such services.  Granted, there are some subjects that remain somewhat 'tongue in cheek' at functions such as these. Things like recipe formulation and traditional items like financials are areas where you would tend to tread lightly.  Still, you routinely see breweries (competitors) coming together to collaborate on projects - working together to formulate some of the best brews in the world.  It was as if every area of their businesses was an open book.  All you had to do was ask.  It was such a refreshing and delightful environment to be apart of, I frequently found myself offering my own $.02 (well, I guess it could really have been considered more like a half cent than two cents) on how people could improve their own operations.

In conclusion, it was a great experience.  The costs were reasonable.  A great networking tool.The time wasn't overwhelming.  The food and beer were great.  The people were friendly and knowledgeable, and a pleasure to be around.  Cheers to the NC Brewer's Guild, and all it's members for bringing together such an incredible group of outstanding individuals.  It's made a believer out of me! :)


Hob Knob Brewing Co.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Great Grain Experiment

The great grain experiment has officially BEGUN!  Donning my mad scientist gear, I've begun a long and arduous journey to discover the ideal brewing recipes.  It all begins with the grain.  We've got 19 different specialty grains - everything from aromatic to victory, and we plan on testing every single one of them.  The first round of experimentation will create a 'tea' of sorts from each brew.  After crushing the grains, I soaked them in 165 degree water for about 10 minutes.  Then filtered out the grain particles and husks.  Each 12oz bottle was then filled with my brewT to allow to cool.  Today's round of testing included victory, special roast, crystal-10, crystal-20, crystal-40, crystal-60, crystal-80, and crystal-120, producing a brewery rainbow of sorts that would make a munchkin thirsty!

The next step will be to finish out our teas by doing the same thing to our cara vienna, honey, caramalt, caramunich, caramel pils, biscuit, brown, chocloate, roasted barley, and black patent malts.  From there, we'll be producing 1.5L mini brew batches to see how these grains will flavor our brews.

To keep things simple, and to really get an idea of the flavors, mouthfeel, and aromas imparted by the grains, we'll be doing dozens of the micro batches.  Some will have just the grains, some will be hopped - each batch will have a single yeast strain, and single hop variety (otherwise called a SMaSH brew) to keep the experiment as controlled as possible.  Should be interesting, so let the great grain experiment begin!

Here's a great shot looking down the top of our erlenmeyer flask.  Billions of little happy yeasties are smiling back...you just can't see them.  This first starter contains a california ale yeast from wyeast labs.

With regards to our location, we continue to look.  We found the perfect location right around downtown concord, but the owners didn't agree with our intended use...even though we offered them their full lease rate.  Go figure.  The search in concord, the south end of charlotte, huntersville, davidson, cornelius, and mooresville will continue until we find our spot.  We are in this for the long haul, as I recently just quit my full time job to pursue our dream of getting a craft brewery off the ground!



-----Update 1/23/14-----

The experiment is progressing nicely, with one shortfall.  Hoser decided to raid my grain stores.  A storm of 'beer farts' ensued, as she no doubt found a specialty grain that was high in dextrins!

I was really surprised to see how well the grainT profiles turned out.  While you couldn't tell a huge difference, say between the crystal-10 and crystal-20 malts, you could taste a huge difference between the other varieties.  Some, like the cara malts would impart a clean, sweetness to the teas, while others would just have maltiness all up in your face.

Once the 19 malt teas were done, it was time to try something a bit different, so we did 9 mini brews!  The recipes were simple.  I used DME to get the bottled water's OG up to 1.040, and then added 10% of the grainT's to each sample.  From there, each batch was boiled for 30 minutes, and had 2g of amarillo hops added.  The airlocks were easy enough to make.  I melted the end of the hose, and mashed it into a plate - it's edges would flatten out, almost like a flange.  I then added a ring of food safe silicon to seal the hose, and pulled the hose through the cap which I had drilled out.  After 8 hours, many are happily bubbling away, though it looks like 2 of the 8 bottles may have leaks.  In 3 weeks, I'll bottle these bad boys and sugar prime them.  Then, we'll get some more flavoring notes, and complete the experiment.



-----Update 1/25/14-----

The fermentations are all happily bubbling away.  I'm happy to say that it looks like the seals all held except for one bottle containing the c-60 grain.  Whether or not it ends up getting infected, only time can tell.  As for the fermentations themselves...just look at that krausen :)

In about 3 weeks, we should have some ready to bottle brews!