Thursday, August 23, 2012

FIfty West Wins: Gold, Silver, and Bronze!

Blake, Bobby, and I had recently decided to enter a couple of our beers into the worlds largest kegged homebrew competition (which happens to take place just across the river, how convenient!). 

In the past we hadn't had a whole lot of interest in "competing" with our beers - we were genuinely focused on enjoying brewing with friends and family. After talking with one of Beer and Sweats organizers, Andy Melchers, we agreed to take part both from a competition and sponsorship standpoint. What a great experience this event turned out to be...

The Amber Ale was awarded Gold in style, and finished 2nd overall out of 268 entries! 

Monday, August 13, 2012

It's Official: Fifty West Brewing Company


Also, check out this link below for the interview about the name and story:

More details soon to follow...

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Brewery Progress - Turning the Corner!

Happy belated 4th of July! It's been a while since we last posted (Easter) - but here we are, knee deep in brewing awesomeness. Time to take a second, exhale, and let the world know what we have been up to. 

There are a few major things that have to happen before you can start a brewery, so I wanted to update you guys a little bit on how far we have come and what else we have left to complete. 

1) Plans/Drawings and general concept documented - [Complete]
2) Federal paperwork submitted and approved - [Complete]
3) Equipment installed, brewery piped/finished - [Complete, mostly]
4) State inspection/approval - [Hoping for approval this week]
5) Brew beer! - [very, very, soon]
6) Finish "front of the house" renovations - [we're in high gear on this as we speak]
7) Couple more inspections after renovation, then open! - [workin' on it!]

With the brewery side of the renovation finishing up this week, we are in high gear trying to get the taproom/fireside room/lounge/restrooms/biergarten renovated. It has been such a cool experience seeing the transformation of the historic Heritage building into the new brewery concept. We have tried to keep much of the historic feel to the building while giving it some necessary updates. 

The landscaping and renovation of the exterior of the building has also been quite the task. If you drive by the Heritage on a regular/semi-regular basis you may have noticed that the building is being brought back to life. A fresh coat of paint, some old trim/wood being ripped down, and some landscaping are just a handful of the things that we have accomplished - with a laundry list of about 20 more items to go.

With all of that being said I wanted to post a couple pictures of some of our equipment that's hooked up and in place at the brewery. I hope you guys enjoy, and I look forward to providing some pictures/updates just as soon as Blake and I get some beer into the new tanks! 

(3) of the 10 Barrel Fermenters in place at the new brewery

The brewhouse: Hot Liquor Tank, Brew Kettle, and Mash-Tun (left to right)


PS - We're planning on doing some live-updates from our inaugural brew on our Brewing with Friends Facebook page...more details to follow on the timing of the brew as this week progresses...stay tuned!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Happy Easter Brewery Update!

Happy April, Spring, and Easter!
Since our initial announcement back in February we have received a lot of interest and inquiries from friends, family, and even strangers alike regarding the brewery. Today we wanted to share an update that comprises a couple of different topics that gives you a better idea of what we have been up to lately.

First off, a couple weeks ago Rick Armon contacted us regarding an interview for the best source of Ohio brewing news (we encourage you to favorite his site for the most up to date news here in the Ohio brewing community). Naturally, we were very excited and obliged to take part in the interview. Rick did a great job with the interview and we had a blast talking to him about brewing here in Cincinnati. Links to the main page of The Ohio Beer Blog and our interview transcript are seen below: 

**Unfortunately Bobby couldn't make it to the interview this time, so next time we'll make sure to corner him and get him to spill some of his thoughts about the brewery here on Brewing with Friends**

Secondly, in February we posted some general teasers on the concept and what we were planning to do. In hindsight that may not have been the best idea...Bobby, Blake, and I have been bombarded with questions since the initial post went up! So today we decided to field five of the most  frequently asked questions....

Q#1: (and by far the most asked question of them all): What's the name of the brewery?
A: As much as everyone is going to hate this answer...we are still working on the name for the brewery. This is a work in progress and we will be sure to release just as soon as we possibly can!

Q#2: When is the brewery going to open?
A: The short answer is we don't know exactly when the brewery is going to open. The longer answer included boring details regarding permitting, equipment delivery, and federal licensing. Now, I realized, I used my 'get out of jail free' response on the first I will cave a bit on this one and share that our goal is to be open Mid-Summer 2012. 

Q#3: What types of beers are you going to be brewing?
A: Brewmaster Blake has put together our tentative brewing schedule for our first 7 brews. We are not going to be focusing on one particular style/genre of beer - our focus lies in brewing a variety of high quality beers that our customers enjoy. Among the first 7 brews we will have German, Belgian, and American style beers. I am hesitant to share exactly which beers we are planning to have on tap, but in the spirit of this Q&A blog, I will assure that a German Wheat, an IPA, and a Brown Ale are in the initial plans for our opening.

...upon further thought...maybe we should be brewing an eighth beer...the Joey Votto Red Ale? I'll have to run that one by the brewmaster, but something tells me it should be a customer favorite for the next 10 years or so??? GO REDS! 

Q#4: Are you going to have food at the brewery? And if so, what kind?
A: First off, yes, we will have food at the brewery. Do we have an exact menu, an exact plan, and an exact idea of how it's going to work out? No. I can tell you that we are set on serving BBQ at the brewery but exactly how it's going to be done is still up for debate. I have been pestering Bobby on and off over the last 2 months trying to convince him to take on the title of official BBQ-Pit-Master...but no luck as of yet. All jokes aside, we are working through our options and intend to have a concrete plan within the next month or so.

Q#5: Will you be bottling or canning?
A: Initially we will not be bottling or canning any beer for distribution/mass-production purposes. We are evaluating our options to do some limited release bottling, but at the moment we are far more concerned with making sure we are brewing a quality product for the brewpub and any key accounts we decide to begin distributing to. 

I hope everyone has enjoyed this post and found Rick's interview informative and interesting along with a quick recap of our 5 most frequently asked questions. We can assure that we are doing everything we can to keep this project moving along as efficiently as possible. We will continue to provide pertinent updates and information through the Brewing with Friends blog and also the Brewing with Friends Facebook group. If you are not currently a member of the group, shoot a request and we will get you added so you can keep up to date with any developments that are not posted here. 

Blake, Bobby, and I would like to wish all of you a safe and happy Easter with your family and friends!
- Assistant Brewmaster

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Official: New Brewpub Coming to Cincy!!

So after 2 years of talking, dreaming, brewing, and business planning Brewmaster Blake is going to be running the show at his very own brewery here in Cincinnati.

Blake and I have discussed several different concepts, strategies, locations, with a bunch of different great people here in town trying to find the best fit for our "vision" of the brewpub. We wanted a place that was for the beer and about the beer. A place with a local feel where people could come by to enjoy the handcrafted ales and lagers while learning a little bit about the delicious beers they are enjoying. We wanted to provide a forum for people who were looking to be exposed to new tastes, new styles, and most importantly a safe, quality-first, and innovative establishment of craft beer awesomeness!

As our search for the perfect fit continued in hopes of bringing our dream to life we had the awesome opportunity of getting to know Bobby Slattery. Shortly after a few conversations, Blake and I were quickly convinced that he "got" our passion for craft beer and the ongoing education alike. As discussions continued Blake and I quickly realized that we wanted Bobby to be a part of our dream. With his people-first personality, unique-skill set within the service industry, and most importantly his willingness to learn about craft beers - the synergies were undeniable.

Shortly thereafter we had the privilege of making the partnership official with Bobby. The Brewpub will be located on Wooster Pike, caddy corner from Hahana Beach, in the building that once housed the famous Heritage Restaurant.

The Heritage Restaurant in its prime

We are still in the initial planning stages of the brewery and concept, but here a few tasters that I can share with you:
1) We will have a bar housing between 4-8 of our very own fresh and local beers that have been developed while brewing with our friends. These beers will be able to be enjoyed on-premise within the taproom, pub, or outside in the biergarten
2) We will distribute our beer to local bars and restaurants
3) We will offer tours of the brewery along with periodic educational classes and events

As much as I would like to tell everyone about everything that we have in store for this awesome opportunity..I said this was just a taster! I must leave some to the imagination right??

I will continue to use the Brewing With Friends blog to update our progress to the masses, so make sure to check back every once in a while! I will continue to post updates to the Brewing With Friends 'group' on Facebook. It's a public group, so if you want to follow updates going forward please feel free to request an add so you are automatically brought up to speed on any news or blog updates.

Finally, I would like to say thank you to all of the people that have supported Blake and me in following our dream. Your encouragement and involvement in the Brewing With Friends project has been awesome, and we couldn't have gotten to where we are today without all of you.

Assistant Brewmaster

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

'Tis the Season! Oatmeal Christmas Cookie Ale and Graeters BRC Stout

Before getting into the beer talk Blake and I wanted to wish a very Merry Christmas and happy holiday season to anyone stumbling across our little blog. There are a lot of really great traditions that all of our families share with one another over these festive times; decorations, lights, presents, and family dinners are just a few that our family takes part in every year. For me, the excitement of all these things can be a distraction when thinking about the true meaning of the season - taking a step back to appreciate all of the opportunity and support we have been blessed with by our great family and friends. With that being said, Blake and I would like to thank everyone that has supported us through 2011 in not only our brewing happenings, but also life.

Brewing with Friends Roll Call:
Blake, Kristin, Bo, Tina, Joey, Whit

Beer Talk:
Winter just seems to be so much more conducive to brewing than the summer season - there's just something about standing around a boiling kettle in 30 degree weather with friends and family enjoying the outdoors! We had two brewing sessions back to back in December and the brewmaster and I agreed that we wanted to help get into the spirit of Winter and Christmas...and what better way to do it than brewing beers that are fit for the season??

Oatmeal Christmas Cookie Ale -
When the brewmaster and I started discussing the two beers for this brew-sesh we immediately agreed that our experimental beer needed to fit the winter season (generally we brew one of our "staple" or "mainstay" beers along with an experimental recipe). We haven't had much experience brewing beers with special ingredients such as pumpkin, spices, fruit, etc - but with this sesh we fully intended on plunging into this head first...we agreed on a recipe that would mimic a delicious Oatmeal Christmas Cookie! The brewmaster authored the malt bill heavy on the oats for a creamy and smooth mouthfeel similar to the experience you would have whilst sinking your teeth into a freshly baked oatmeal Christmas cookie. We used some crystal malts to give it some color and also a bit of sweet carmel finish. After the malt bill was authored Blake put together a very inoffensive hop schedule keeping the IBU's (international bitterness unit) very low as to accentuate the complex and sweet malt bill. I don't know about you, but the last thing I would think about when eating a christmas cookie is bitterness, right? No thanks on the bitterness! So after that we started putting together our strategy for the fun additions to the beer and agreed on three separate ingredients to try and mimic the taste of the cookie. We used vanilla extract, cinnamon, and a healthy serving of brown sugar.


Blake calculated the proportions of each of the three special ingredients and we went to work! Shortly after finishing our mash/lauter we moved the beer to the kettle for the boil. The first 40 minutes of the boil were like every other boil, but those last 20 minutes were a doozy adding our special ingredients. The brown sugar and vanilla additions went over without any trouble at all...but that cinnamon sure through a wrench in the equation! The second we added the cinnamon it smelled like someone had dropped a cinnamon bomb on 801 Miami Avenue. Words cannot express how pungent the cinnamon was...I was immediately convinced the beer was ruined and that we had successfully created the largest boiling cauldron of cinnamon wort in brewing history! Despite my visible anguish and profane audible concern that the beer had been ruined right in front of my eyes, the brewmaster was as cool as the other side of the pillow. He calmly placed his hand on my shoulder and said 'relax brah, it will be fine'. The brewmaster rarely drops the word 'brah' in his everyday rhetoric, so as soon as those words were uttered I knew he meant business and we were in good shape. Shwuuu, close one.

It sure doesn't look like much...but boy it packed a cinnamony punch! 

When everything was said and done we moved the beer the primary fermentation vessel and shortly thereafter to the conditioning vessel. It has now been roughly three weeks since it was brewed and let me tell you - this beer turned out great for a first time brew! The beer is still pretty young, but the tastes are melding together nicely and the cinnamon/vanilla characteristics are both very subtle yet noticeable. The beer is still cloudy - so time will tell whether or not this beer will clear up or not, but the aroma, taste, mouthfeel, and carbonation are all turning out well. We will be offering a bit of this to some close friends keep your fingers crossed that they will like it! And as always....feel free to stop by the house if you want to give the ole' Oatmeal Christmas Cookie Ale a try (that is, if, Bojangles doesn't drink it all first). 

Graeters Black Raspberry Chip Stout:
So, the brewmaster and I were sitting in the thinking room putting the finishing touches on our journal validating our design and concept for renewable energy that was to be submitted to M.I.T. for review prior to being sent to the Nobel Peace Prize committee. Just as we were about to hit send and basically solve all the worlds energy problems...Blake took a bite of Graeters BRC just as I took a sip of some amazing Left Hand Milk Stout and there was an immaculate epiphany! Mixing probably the worlds two best things...Graeters BRC and beer. At that point we realized we had stumbled on, scrapped our renewable energy concept and started sculpting our recipe for the one and only Graeters Black Raspberry Chip Stout. A big beer - lots of roasted malts, lactose sugar, dark chocolate, and of course raspberries. Following in the footsteps of our last beer (Oatmeal Christmas Cookie Ale) that used special ingredients this beer alike had several fun ingredients that we used in an effort to cross-breed two of our favorite things.

Blake, Bo, and Joseph preparing the mash for the Graeters BRC Stout!

Shortly after the mash was completed we moved the stout to the kettle to begin the boil. During the boil we added lactose sugar, dark chocolate, and OF COURSE a scoop of the famous and delicious Black Raspberry Chip Ice Cream.

After the boil finished we moved it to the primary fermentation vessel where we ran into some issues. We aren't exactly sure why the yeast didn't take off on an eating frenzy with all of the fermentable sugars, but it didn't. So we had to improvise - we re-pitched a yeast that was generally used for baking bread. We didn't have a lot of options at this point and rather than scrapping the whole batch we opted for plan B which was the bread yeast. Sure enough, within a couple of hours the yeast took off and was eating the sugars like crazy. Shortly after the fermentation was complete we made the raspberry additions!

We used red raspberries! 

Raspberries successfully added immediately after primary fermentation

We then let the raspberries condition in the beer for a week and moved to the final conditioning vessel where we added more dark chocolate! The beer is not ready yet - but we are anxious to get this moved into a keg so we can give it a taste test. There were a lot of variables that went into this beer - the biggest one obviously being the bread yeast we had to pitch with so it would ferment out. We hope that this will serve as a good first brew to understand the impact of both the chocolate and raspberry additions for future beers.

We are looking forward to our next brewing with friends on January 7th. Put it on the calendar if you have any interest in coming by...we are open to suggestions on brewing special beers and we will brew just about anything. We will probably start mid-afternoon 'ish and will finish up around 8-9PM. We are looking forward to it and hope you are too!

-Assistant Brewmaster