In today’s episode, we’re joined by John Aitchinson from Tavern Service Company. In addition to owning the Tavern Service Company, John is also a BJCP beer judge and the VP of the Maltose Falcons (the longest-running homebrew club in the US). Our conversation explores the world of beer judging, brewers guilds, and homebrew clubs and we touch on how some of these ideas and organizations would be beneficial in the coffee world.
Highlights & Takeaways
John owns Tavern Service Co and has been a homebrewer for 45 years! He is also a BJCP judge and VP of the Maltose Falcons
BJCP – Beer Judge Certification Program
Brewers Guilds help promote breweries by putting on events
Homebrew clubs give homebrewers a chance to have their beers reviewed, critiqued and are just a great way to try lots of new beers 😉
Episode 62 Transcript
Brendan Hanson: You’re listening to the Drips and Draughts Podcast and we’ve got a good show for you today. I think it’s good because I got to try some good homebrews, but you’ll think it’s good because it’s loaded with information. I’m joined by John Aitchison from the Tavern Service company. We primarily talk about beer in this show, but if you’ve listened before, you know that we’re often drawing parallels between the brewing industry and the new and upcoming cold brew industry.
If you’re one of our regular coffee listeners and you’re listening to this show, as you listen, think about some of the ways that our conversation can parallel the coffee industry. I think coffee shop owners, roasters, cold brewers, I think everybody in the coffee industry can get a lot out of this information and could really come up with some good ideas on how to help expand their business locally and regionally. If you didn’t catch last week’s episode, we’re doing a short series on Australian Cold brew or cold brewing in Australia.
We’re going to have three or four different companies on and just talk about the cold brew landscape in Australia where it’s kind of new and up and coming. If you’re from an area where cold brew hasn’t really taken a foothold yet, this would probably be a good series to listen to. If you want to check out the first episode from that series, go to dripsanddraughts.com/61. If you’re looking for show notes from today’s episode, you can find those by going to dripsanddraughts.com/62. Let’s get into today’s episode with John Aitchison from the Tavern Service Company.
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Brendan: You’re listening to the Drips and Draughts Podcast. As always, I’m Brendan Hanson and today I’m joined by John Aitchison from Tavern Services Company. John, you’re practically a neighbor, you’re right over the hill.
John Aitchison: Yes, we’re just in North Ridge, maybe 10 miles away, 15 miles away.
Brendan: Pretty close. Our first time meeting. We’ve dealt in the same businesses for quite a while, I suppose, but it’s our first time meeting and I got to say I like you already, you brought beers.
Brendan: Before we get into your background, maybe tell us what we’re currently drinking.
John: What this is is a Belgian Tripel. I’m a pretty hardcore home brewer. This particular beer was actually fermented with yeast that was cultured from a Westvleteren 8 bottle. So it exhibits a lot of the same characteristics as Westvleteren 10 does.
Brendan: That’s a highly coveted beer, right?
John: It is, it’s impossible to get here.
Brendan: It’s a very good beer, I’m glad I’m trying this. It’s cool to say that I’ve tried a beer that was made from yeast from Westvleteren.
Brendan: Mind giving us a quick bio, a background on yourself?
John: Sure, I’ve been into beer virtually all my life. I first got my first kegerator 45 years ago. I’ve been working for Tavern Service 45 years. First I started at the bottom, worked my way up eventually. I am now the owner. We started out by getting into beer by selling kegs of beer. We never did bottles or cans, but people would bring back the empty kegs or partial kegs so I take them home and put them into a kegerator, Budweiser, Bud Light, stuff like that. Eventually, got into brewing my own and getting into micros.
From there– again, this is all hobbies, but we got into things such as cold brew coffee as soon as cold brew coffee got around. We instantly got the bug. I’m enjoying life and I’m living my dream. Pretty happy about that.
Brendan: Nice. So, one thing turned into another; beer rolled into coffee. We’re going to talk a bit about beer today, we’ll talk a bit about coffee as well. We were talking before the show, there’s quite a few similarities that can be drawn between the two. I think the more deep I get into coffee, the more similarities I start seeing between coffee and beer, especially when you’re talking cold brew and draft coffee.
John: I totally agree.
Brendan: What do you guys do at Tavern Service for people who might be listening who haven’t heard of you guys?
John: Well, we’re primarily a CO2 and nitrogen company that sells throughout Los Angeles, Ventura and Orange Country to restaurants, coffee shops, roasters, fast food places. We probably have 3,000-4,000 customers that we visit on a regular basis. In addition, we have a little retail store and similar to what Brendan sells, we sell some draft equipment and we also have kegs that we sell to consumers that come in. We have the largest beer selection in the valley, for instance, and draft beer selection in the valley. Do party rentals like jockey boxes, and pretty much anything that consumer might want if you’re into draft beer.
Anything from your own equipment; if you want to pick up something right now you could pick it up, or if you want to get a keg of beer you could get that, or if you want your CO2 filled, we fill it on the spot, that sort of thing.
Brendan: I think we send a lot of people your way because we get calls like, “I need a keg of x,” or, “I need a CO2 tank filled,” and that’s not our area, we’re not doing that.
John: Thank you, and we do the same; if somebody wants coffee equipment we send them up here.
Brendan: Awesome, thank you. We’re going to talk a little bit about BJCP judging and how that process works in beer. Hopefully, we have the time to get into a discussion about how that process might be useful or beneficial in cold brew. Because I think cold brew, it lends itself well to so many different flavor profiles, smells, just different tastes. I think a similar kind of judging system would be great for cold brew. Would you mind telling us what a BJCP judge is and what one does?
John: Sure, a BJCP judge is somebody who has gone through the program, the BJCP program.
Brendan: What’s that stand for? I’m sorry.
John: That’s stands for Beer Judge Certification Program. It’s a non-profit organisation that’s worldwide now, they have chapters in places like Argentina and lots in Australia. They have a variety of standards that they have written and they have style guidelines. The goal is to have a standard policy, “This is what this beer should theoretically be like.” Say, whether it be a Pale ale or a German Pilsner or an IPA, this is considered what the ideal beer is. Judges who’ve been trained for that actually learn to recognize these particular styles and these particular attributes of, say, the perfect Bohemian Pilsner.
You would compare the aromas and the flavors and etc. and come up with your rating on it at the same time. You would go with the detail and explain to the brewer what exactly they could do to what you’ve noticed and what you think they could do to improve their beer.
Brendan: I’m looking at this score sheet and it’s got a ton of info on here; from aroma to appearance, flavor, mouth feel and then overall impression. The total score is out of 50 points. Just looking at this, flavor seems to be pretty heavily weighted; 20 points possible. Aroma highly weighted; 12 points. Overall impression, you can obviously take away a good impression as a judge or a negative one, I’m assuming that can play into the score pretty heavily as well. You mentioned there’s how many styles?
John: I don’t even have it memorized, there are so many, but there’s at least 30-35 beer styles. There’s another four mead styles and two or three different cider styles, and then there are sub-categories of each of those. In a way, it does put the beer or the beverage into a box, but it’s about the only way you could do it. There’s no other way to compare. If you’re judging one beer versus another, you have to be able to put it into some kind of category.
Brendan: Obviously, this is broken down pretty far with the main styles and then the sub-styles beyond that. What happens with safe flavored beers or beers where you’re adding vanilla or something that’s not necessarily a standard ingredient?
John: There’s a whole section of specialty beers. From there, you can get into the specialty historical beers and specialty fruit beers. There’s all sorts of thing. There’s Wild Ales. Just about anything you could think of, there’s different choices on them, sour beers, and you could do things to your beer. As long as you declare it, then it’s judged to that category.
Brendan: If I am entering a beer into a competition, I’m basically saying, “This is the category that I’m entering it into”?
John: That’s right.
Brendan: It’s not, “Leave it up to the judges.” [laughs]
John: Right. Then the judges judge upon that category.
John: Okay. That makes sense. You better know what kind of beer you’re brewing when you make it, yes?
Brendan: Why judge?
John: There’s lots of reasons that you may want to judge. I like to judge for I really enjoy. Those of us who are brewers, or coffee people, really like to talk about their beverage, especially those of us who are pretty hardcore. We’ll talk about the different attributes of our things, and we’ll talk to each other about it. When you’re writing, you’re really communicating. You might as well be talking. You’re talking to the brewer. You’re talking to somebody who really cares, because if you’re bothering to enter a beer into a competition, you really want the feedback from that judge. At the same time, you’re helping the brewer to improve his beer. That part is kind of fun.
Then there’s the social end of it. Judges from all over the area, and sometimes all over the states, sometimes all over the country, you get to know these judges from different parts that some people come from.
Brendan: Just see them at multiple events.
John: You see them far away. You only see them at these events, but they become your good friends and you talk afterwards. It really is a lot of fun, plus you get really good beers. The beers that are rendered in the contest, of the hundred best beers I’ve ever had in my life, I would say half of them would be in the contest.
Brendan: Wow. Okay. So it’s a pretty interactive process throughout?
John: Yes, it is.
Brendan: From just judging to before and even after the competition.
John: Sure. As you judge, each judge will write down everything more or less in silence, whether it be the aroma or the flavor. By the way, later on I can walk you through a beer. I can randomly judge a beer and then we could tell you what the judge looks for.
Brendan: That would be fun, considering I enjoy beers but I’ve never even tried to score a beer, especially with all these criteria. That would be fun to go through one. Well, nice. I noticed on the sheet certain criteria have more points and less. Is there any reason for that? Like flavor might have the highest rating versus appearance has the smallest.
John: Let’s judge this beer and then we could talk about– since this is out already, it might be a good one. I’ll explain, as impartially as I can, since it’s my own beer.
Brendan: It’s a 50.
John: Really. When you smell this beer, the first thing I get off of it, I get some pineapple. You may want to talk about, is it a strong or is it a light or is it a moderate pineapple? This is a Belgian Triple that comes from the esters that the yeast produces, and so you would say something about that. You might say moderate pineapple and citrus character. You might say something about the pale malt. A brandy malt character to it. If there’s any half aroma you get out of it, you would mention that. Maybe there’s a little bit of citrus hop in this as well.
If any peppery aromas that you might get or bubble gum. The Westvleteren yeast tends to throw off a little bit of a bubblegum phenolic character to it. Those are things that you look into. When you come to your appearance, obviously, you talk about the clarity. You talk about the color. You talk about the head and how well does the head cling, what kind of lace is it, how long does it persist, the color of the head, those are all things that you could talk about.
Brendan: Every style is going to have criteria for the aromas that you should be smelling.
John: That’s right. If you’re judging, say an IPA, you should get that big citrus or fruity hop aroma right up front. While if you’re judging say an American pale lager, there should be virtually no hop aroma. Instead, if you had a Hefeweiss, then it’d be banana and clove. The same thing with the flavor; you would get into all these different characteristics which are similar to the aroma. It’s considered more important. The flavor is a big part of how much you enjoy those beers. That’s why you get the full 20 points.
You get into things such as balance, besides all those same aroma characteristics where you talk about the malt, you talk about the hops. You talk about the fermentation character, what did you get off of that, then you might get into a little bit of detail on the balance and the finish. What’s the dominant flavor? Is there alcohol present? I’m getting a kind of a pretty strong balance here between the spices and the little bit of the sweetness from the alcohol. Also, again, you’re getting the fruit from the esters.
Brendan: You can say, “I get a lot of spice,” but again, I don’t really know what I’m looking for. I typically drink beers I like.
John: Then you get to the mouth feel. You talk everything from the carbonation level to what did you notice as far as, is there alcoholic warming, is it astringent, is it smooth, does it have a big body, is it full-bodied or is it light bodied. Then the overall, I find to be the– overall impression is the most interesting part because there’s where you get into some free form. You tell the brewer, what did you like about this beer? Whatever it might be. You always try to say a couple of nice things, even if it’s not a really a good beer. You always try to be nice.
Brendan: Use the sandwich method. I coached volleyball for a long time and I would always say something nice, give the critique, and then finish with something nice.
John: Right. You try to do the same thing. At the same time, you try to tell the brewer, “Or maybe you could have done this to make it better,” whatever it might have been. You could go into, “What if you’d fermented it a little bit cooler, it would have been cleaner.” Or, “Maybe you could have used a few more bittering hops to makes this IPA more in style.” Or, “Maybe you should have moved some of those hops from the bittering to the finish, it would have been more rounded.” Whatever it might be, you try to give the brewer some tips what you would think would make the beer more accurate to style.
Brendan: This question just popped into my head. Are all judges, do they all happen to be home brewers or professional brewers, or do you get people who are just brew aficionados who decide that they want to be a judge?
John: Most judges are home brewers. There are professional brewers who are judges as well. There’s some who really just love the beer and really don’t make all that much beer.
Brendan: It’s not a requirement to have brewing experience necessarily.
John: Yes, that’s right. There’s this one interesting thing about it, is you really do become a better brewer when you become a judge because you learn what’s good and what’s not.
Brendan: I bet. Just listening to you describe this beer. Listening to some of the terms that you’re using to describe the smell, the mouth feel and everything. How do you learn all these? Are you guys as judges, when you’re training, comparing beers next to one another? Saying, “This one has X. This one has y. This one has z.”
John: Yes. There’s a few ways that you could learn. The BJCP puts out a study guide. You have to go through a series of test in order to become a judge. First, you have to take an entrance exam which is an online exam, and then there’s actually a tasting exam which you get to taste six beers and you score six beers in a certain number of time. Then those beers are sent to somebody else, graders in another part of the country, who actually score your score sheet.
Then they will look at your score sheets and they will look at the proctor’s score sheets, who are considered like master level judges or national level judges or the proctors. From there then you go on to — if you really want to get to the top two levels, which are national or master or grandmaster even. You can even become a Grandmaster, you have to take a written exam. There’s a series of things.
Usually, when there is a tasting exam, and those are hard to get because there is a shortage of graders and because of that they can only offer so many exams, there’s usually somebody leading a tasting class. That would be an experienced judge. He will sometimes get guest speakers and they will talk about styles.
Brendan: They’ll walk you through what you’re tasting or what you’re smelling.
John: That’s right, and they’ll teach you how to judge. They’ll teach you how to evaluate in critical thinking and that sort of thing. Of course, there’s lots of beer that should be flowing.
John: Of course.
Brendan: How could there not be? Well, yes, that’s very interesting. As we’ve been sharing emails over the past couple of weeks, my wheels have been turning. You mentioned this would be great to have something similar for cold brewing coffee. We’ve got a few more things to discuss here, but I’d love to get into how something like this might apply to coffee.
Brendan: Moving on along from judging a little bit, unless there’s anything I missed here, anything else you want to mention?
John: Well, let’s see. We talked about judging and we talked about how are these competitions, things like home brewers, national professional competitions. We’ve all heard of the Great American Beer Festival and how they pick out the best beers and the best brewers of the country. Tens of thousands of people come to that. There are judges who come to that and they judge on a slightly different scale than what we have here, but it’s very similar. They will pick it, do the same thing. You talk– how does one go about entering a contest?
They’re all over the internet. Just do a search for beer contest, home brew clubs typically organize them. There’s a LA County Fair, there’s a Ventura County Fair home brew contest, all the county fairs will have those things. Sometimes you can win really nice prizes, or you can win a chance to brew at a commercial brewery, your recipe, and take home a keg of it, should you get best of show. Sometimes they’ll even give you a lot of good loot. At one time I won a few first places of the national contest, the National AJ contest, American Home Brewers Association Contest. I got all kinds of loot for that.
Brendan: Awesome, and since you brought it up, you actually brought a beer that you brewed– that was brewed, your recipe, at a local brewery, correct?
John: Yes it is, yes this– sure, you want to pop it?
Brendan: Yes, why not? I haven’t hung this bottle opener back on the wall, it’s just a good thing. I didn’t know I have another one here.
John: All right, so this particular beer is a really rare style. It’s a style called a Dortmunder Adambier. It’s a style that was really popular in the 16th and 15th century and in 17th century in Dortmund in Germany, and it gradually fell out of style. It just wasn’t the pale lager that everybody may–
Brendan: Drinks nowadays. [laughs]
John: Yes, drinks nowadays. Even in Dortmund they switch to the Dortmunder Export. But it’s a wonderful beer. It’s a big rich malty beer. It’s almost think of it as a cross between a Doppelbock and a Barley Wine. It’s an ale.
Brendan: It’s a strong beer, yes?
John: It’s a strong beer. Oh, yes, it’s a real strong beer. It just– how an IPA just really expresses hops, this beer maybe more than any other beer expresses malt. It’s really all about the malt, and it really produces a lot of malt character. Well, it almost went out of style. One brewery, national brewery, kept it alive, which was here at the dock in Portland. They managed to keep it alive and now there’s a few more, quite a few more doing it.
In the home brewing side, it fell out of favor too, but I really loved it. I help keep it around as well. Figueroa Mountain, which is one of our local breweries, it sits in Thousand Oaks or Westlake Village, Nick who was the brewer there at the time said, “Hey, you want–” he wanted to brew beer with the Falcons. The Falcons decided, “Let’s brew an Adambier.” They turned to me and said, “You come up with the recipe.” That’s pretty nice when you get to–
Brendan: Have your recipe brewed in a commercial system and a commercial setting.
John: Yes, 15 barrels of it.
Brendan: [laughs] Wow, awesome.
John: This is the beer, it’s still very young. This beers actually reaches its peak in about 2 or 3 years.
Brendan: Wow, look at that.
John: For those of you who live in the LA area, I believe it’s still available at Figueroa Mountain.
Brendan: Just down here or will it be up in Buellton and Santa Barbara as well?
John: I don’t know, probably will be. I’m almost sure it will be, because he got 15 barrels which translates to– they put them into five gallon keg, so that’s 95 gallon kegs. There’s a lot of them out there.
Brendan: Listening to you describe it, I was thinking it was going to be a deeper brown, it’s like a darkish redish and getting toward brown I would say.
John: Yes, it’s about 80% Munich malt. It’s going to have a little bit of malt to it.
Brendan: Wow, that’s unlike anything I’ve ever had.
John: Yes, it’s pretty rich, isn’t it?
Brendan: It is rich, it’s — and you can tell it’s strong.
John: It’s a pretty deceptive 10%.
Brendan: 10%, so mostly Munich malt, what are the dark malts in there?
John: There is Munich, there’s a little bit of special B, there’s a Barke Pilsner malt, which is a malt that I really like. It’s a top trim on to that, it’s a German malt made by Weyermann. It’s a heirloom malt that they have right now. Then there is a — that’s pretty much it, that covers almost all of it. There’s a little bit of smoky if you catch that smoke, there’s a little bit of Bamberg, the beech wood smoke, maybe 2, 3% of that. It’s just in the background and you can barely sense it. Then you — even though it doesn’t taste like it, it’s got a boatload of hops, it’s probably about 50 IBUs.
Brendan: That was going to be my next question is, it’s definitely a multi beer, and now that you’ve said it’s 10%, I have to imagine there’s quite a bit of hops in there.
John: Yes, there’s a few.
Brendan: Yes, you don’t know — you really– or at least I don’t notice it a lot.
John: Yes, they’re well hidden, the malt — the hops are really in the background to the malt in this beer.
Brendan: Dortmunder Adambier, yes?
Brendan: Dortmunder is the area or region it was from, Adambier is the style?
John: That’s right. There’s an old story, and it’s one of those things that we’re never going to know for sure if it’s true, but there was one of the kings of Prussia, when Prussia first– when Germany first became a state, but before there was an emperor, before Prussia became an emperor. His name was Frederick Wilhelm IV. He was grandson of Frederick the Great. He goes and visit– big guy baby, 300 palace he visits Dortmund. He could out drink anybody in the realm, and he was proud of it.
John: The people at Dortmund roll over this cask of Adambier, and they put it up on the table. The King said, “I can drink it.” It was one after another after another. About two hours later he slid under the table and all of the subjects were afraid to wake him up.
Brendan: Everybody just left him?
John: Yes right, left him. But he was there like all night long.
Brendan: Yes, that was back in the day when they had giant steins, and they were just slamming down, right?
John: No doubt.
Brendan: Cool, I haven’t brewed any old style beers, but it’s cool when you try one and you hear the story behind it and where they’re from. That’s definitely a fun part about brewing.
John: It is. It is.
Brendan: The history of beer because it’s been around forever.
John: Oh. Yes.
Brendan: Awesome. We talked about competitions, and now you got me thinking, it might be fun to enter a beer. How would I go about doing that? Is it X number of– I’m assuming you bottle it like here.
John: Right. You’d bottle it, and typically, they ask for two bottles. There’s usually an entry fee which covers the expenses of the contest. It’s seven, eight bucks. It’s–
Brendan: Nothing major.
John: Yes. It’s nothing major. You will get in a few weeks after you enter, wherever the contest is held, they mail you back the score sheets. If you won an award, they’ll mail you the award, whether it be ribbons or metals or–
John: Yes. Prices. Some contests give you prizes and some of them will give you, like I said, really good stuff.
Brendan: Okay. Awesome. That’s fun. That’s got me thinking. It’s something as a home brewer. I’ve been home brewing, gosh, probably close to ten years now. I’ve never even considered entering– I want all my beer.
Brendan: I think that would be fun to do; turn some beers in and get some feedback on them. I think that would be a– Other than family and close friends who are the ones who typically drink my beer, I think that would be cool.
John: Yes. In a way, you’re also getting a totally impartial view. People that you know, we’re going to generally say nice things about you. But if you’re getting somebody and somebody who actually is qualified and been trained to pick out the flavors, the off-flavors, should there be any off flavors in them.
Brendan: Yes. Find out what you’re doing right or wrong or both.
John: Maybe they– People who enter contests can usually bring their beers to a little bit better level. You might as well.
Brendan: Yes. That might be fun. Well, cool. Moving down our list a little bit, we’ve got a note about brewers guilds here. In the background of my mind while I was going through this, I was always thinking like, “How can some of these things tie into coffee.” All the coffee people listening, I think you guys should as well listen to this episode as how can this apply to us in the coffee world, if that’s the world you’re working. What’s a Brewers Guild?
John: Well, the Brewers Guild is basically, they’re usually regional areas, or there’s the national one which is the Association of Brewers which is located in Denver. There’s thousands of members literally on that. All the micro breweries or almost all of micro breweries will be members and whatever they are. Then you have local ones. For instance, you’ll have a Los Angeles Brewers Guild or a Ventura County Brewers Guild, the San Francisco or whatever, in North Carolina. Wherever you may be, there’s a Brewers Guild near you. They’ll do things such as they will look at the laws of the local region, whatever it might be.
Say you want to open up a brewery, they will make it easier on you. They will tell you what the rules are. They will standardize certain things as far as your health department and your alcohol control board and things such as that. Beyond that, they will do things like put on events like in a few weeks, we’re going to have LA beer week. That’s put on by the Brewers Guild. With lots and lots of events. Everything from a beer festival to whatever it might be. There might be beer and ice cream pairings. There might be a Brewers dinner that’s open to the public
Brendan: So, they do it all from helping you get set up and running to– once you’re there, up and running, to promoting you and bringing you to these events that give you exposure.
John: That’s right. They’ll always have a website, but usually they will have some kind of newspaper or something they print out. You could get a beer map of– It’s a sort of thing where everybody rises. Everybody gets helped out by that. Any brewer can join as long as– You did mention the coffee out of it. I’ll tell you what my thoughts on that are. I think that while the SCAA does a really good job on the national level, they coordinate all the coffee. There’s even different roasters, guilds and all that but it’s a national thing. I would really like to see the different cities whatever they are; Los Angeles or San Francisco or New York, having coffee guilds.
You could have things like pub crawls or morning coffee crawls. It’s something that you could have a place where you can walk from coffee place to coffee place. You’d sell tickets for 20 bucks, it goes to charity and the public would be exposed to all these different coffees. You could get a ticket for each little coffee, every roaster who’s a member of the association, and people would be exposed to your coffee if you were a roaster.
At the same time, it’s going to increase your business. You would have the opportunity to sell pastries or sell your other stuff or if they really liked you, they’d stay there and drink one or two or more coffees or they might buy beans.
Brendan: Buy beans to take home.
John: Yes. Whatever it might be. I think it would really lift the entire area, the whole craft coffee area.
Brendan: That was going to be my next– guilds, I’m assuming, are a little more regional than a national kind of–
John: They are in the beer world.
Brendan: Okay. So they’re working in smaller areas, smaller regions. County? State?
John: Yes. Some they’re county or just region. One place that does a real good job, and they’re not that many so you can even know who they are is Bellingham Washington Scott is a active guild vet. People are able to go. They actually do have a coffee crawl. For 20 bucks you get a ticket and you can go to 12 different coffee or eight different coffee places. You get two ounces of coffee or something, or an ounce and stuff, of cold brew. It’s always cold brew. You could do whatever, right? The money goes to charity. It costs the coffee people two ounces of coffee. Big deal, right?
John: At the same time, it gets exposure to your place. Free advertising and all sorts of things. Some charity gets a benefit and it’s a win-win situation. I’d go to one of those things in a heartbeat if there was one near me.
Brendan: Yes. No kidding.
John: As a consumer.
Brendan: Yes. Absolutely. Well, cool. I’m assuming brewer guilds are typically like a non-profit overseen organization or a–?
John: Yes, that’s right. They’re non-profit. They’re overseen.
Brendan: Or is it just like community of the brewers who get together and say like–
John: That’s right, just the community. They don’t even oversee anything, really. They just–
Brendan: They’re just trying to get–
John: They coordinate. Yes.
Brendan: Promote. All right. I like that. We’ve got home brew clubs on here. This is something I’ve talked to a lot of home brewers and members of the home brew clubs, another thing I’ve never really looked into joining. Tell us a little bit about home brew clubs. What does a home brew club do?
John: Well, a home brew club, it’s a bunch of people who really love home brew, obviously. I’m the vice president right now of the Maltose Falcons, which is one of the larger clubs in the country.
Brendan: I was going to say which is one of the biggest, probably, and longest-running or–?
John: Yes. They’re actually the oldest home brew club in the nation.
Brendan: The oldest. Awesome.
John: Yes. It just so happens they’re located near me, which is the main reason I’m a member, to be honest. They’re good people. They become your friends. You share beers. People bring beers to the meetings. There’s typically, you will present your beers. You will talk about them, how you made them. People will ask you questions. We have somebody called the grand hydrometer who’s considered an authority on beer.
We’re really lucky to have somebody named Drew Beechum who’s an author. He’s written a bunch of beer books. He’s our grand hydro right now. We have a Burgermeister who prepares lunch for everybody. You pay six bucks or seven bucks and you get a lunch. It’s pretty nice. At the same time, everybody brings these beers and it’s– not everybody, but you typically will get about this much of about 20 beers.
Brendan: So, an ounce or so.
John: An ounce or two of about 20 beers. We want to act like a mini judge. Sometimes they will tell you things you could do to improve. Usually, they’ll just tell you how much they love your beer and why they did it. Meanwhile, the new people in the club get to see, “Oh, this is what I could do to make this beer.” They will even give the ingredients and tell you how they made their beer so you could say, “Oh, I could do this and make the same beer if I really liked it and people share that.”
Brendan: Again, another very interactive just–
John: It is interactive
Brendan: – for you to get feedback about your beer and tribe. I’m assuming you’ll learn a ton about beers.
John: You do. Typically there will be 30, 40, 50 people at the meeting. Then you have things such as they organize parties, like we have an October fest and a May fair. There will be things such as bus rides where we’ll take a bus ride to a brewery. Not to one brewery, we’ll go out on a pub crawl, to three or four different breweries say, maybe in the Torrance area for instance. Of course, there’s beer on the bus and then–
Brendan: Just beer beer beer.
John: Yes, it’s a lot of fun, as you could probably guess. We don’t drink too much. We try to hold it down. It’s theoretically just tasting.
Brendan: The more I’ve gotten into craft beer and the craft beer world, I’ve noticed that in a lot of the places I go to. People just really love the environment, the atmosphere and just tasting and learning about the different beers that you can try. It’s not– never really see it get too crazy.
Brendan: That’s a good thing, I suppose. Well, awesome, John, I think we’ve got a ton of info there. I think that’s going to work well for a lot of people. Hopefully, any of the coffee people listening can take some ideas away from this conversation saying, “How can we apply this to coffee?”
John: Sure. I do have a couple of suggestions on that. Say, take the judging and– while the SCAA does a real good job with their cupping program, everything is set, “These are the rules and this is the way it goes.” Your conversation when you had Clutch or the clutch coffee people here and they were all– that was a free form contest. The one they had in Hollywood. I remember that from your podcast.
Brendan: Right, yes. The cold brew competition. There was a coffee fest.
John: They all were able to make their coffee their way, anyway they wanted; either with nitrogen or not, or choosing their own style. I think this would improve the flavors or improve coffee in general if there were maybe– it’s tough. How do you compare– as a coffee lover yourself, how do you compare an Ethiopian Yirgacheffe with a Sumatran or with a–
Brendan: With a Costa Rican.
Brendan: Yes, so many different flavors.
John: Yes, there’s so many different. I would personally like to see different categories.
Brendan: Break it down into regions and then maybe even sub-regions. Then you’ve got obviously different styles or different methods of producing the coffee, whether it’s an espresso or just a drip coffee, then now you’ve got cold brews, and even cold brew has subcategories with steel and nitro.
John: Right. Even from there, there are different things that the cold brewer can do. Everything from the temperature to the concentration and– there’s so many things you could talk about. Everything from the acidity to the overall flavor to the aroma to– I would think that you could actually help people make better coffee. The home roaster, and there are a lot of home Roasters out there, who certainly I would think could benefit from something like this. Even as far as the commercial coffee people, feedback never hurts.
Brendan: What I’ve heard from a couple of different clients and just different coffee people is, they say that there’s not a lot of sharing. People find something that they like doing in the coffee roasting business or in other production business and somebody comes to them, they’re not as open to share as everybody in the beer world is. The beer world is so open. That’s why we started the podcast, because we’re trying to disseminate information about cold brew in particular, but just sharing information I think helps everybody and gives us as consumers a better product.
John: No doubt. You’re doing a great service, I think, in my opinion, for the overall coffee world because you really are sharing information that we can all benefit from to make better coffee or to maybe learn new methods. I try to do the same thing in my own way at Tavern service, because we do get Roasters coming in to– we sell Corny kegs and we sell Sanke kegs and stuff like that.
Brendan: They need equipment.
John: They’ll come in and get that and they come and they try our coffees which we have on tap. They’ll tell us what they think of them and then we say, “Hey, where’s your coffee?”
John: Really, we seriously. We make a break coffee and then we talk coffee, we talk about aging, you talk about how do they nitrogenate, how do they purge the water out of it, what temperature do they use, how many pounds per gallon. All that stuff which for all you Roasters out there, of course, that’s really important. That’s critical information. I don’t think that– we all are very creative people and you guys, you Roasters in particular, are very creative. How you choose to blend your coffees and all that, I don’t think you have anything to worry about by sharing things such as temperature control and pounds per gallon and acidity and water treatment.
Brendan: There’s just so many variables that go into whether it’s roasting or producing what’s in the final cup that it’s almost impossible to duplicate. You have big breweries who share their recipes because they either want to promote their craft or they’re just confident that nobody else is going to take that recipe and brew the beer as good as they do.
John: For instance, one of your previous guests who had Clutch, I think it was Saddam or– what was the one that won the first place? Whatever won that first place. I would love to make that coffee, right? There’s no chance. I can’t get those beans.
Brendan: Yes, you’ve got a whole different water supply and you’re going to have different mineral outcome.
John: Yes, a whole different water supplies.
Brendan: Yes, it’s funny to me, but it’s where things seem to sit right now.
John: Yes. I would encourage the Roasters in the world out there to maybe be a little more free because it’s really a matter of time till the really big boys, and I’m talking about the hamburger chains and stuff like that, will come up with cold brew and it’s not going to be the same quality as the craft coffee that you guys make. You really need to differentiate your coffee and really have high standards. We get off by soapbox right now.
Brendan: All right. Well, John from Tavern Service, thanks for joining us today.
John: All right, Brendan.
Brendan: If you’re looking to learn more about cold brew or draft coffee, make sure you check out keg outlets’ Ultimate Guide to Cold Brew Coffee and Serving Coffee on Draft. But hey, don’t just take my word for it, here’s Daniel Browning from the Browning Beverage company in Marfa Texas.
Daniel Browning: As I got on the internet and I started looking around and I found keg outlets’ Ultimate Guide to Cold Brew Coffee and read it a couple more times than I’ve read anything in my life, that was pretty much all the research I needed.
Brendan: If you’re looking to start your journey with cold brew or draft coffee, check out The Ultimate Guide to Cold Brew Coffee and Serving Coffee on Draft. A free 34 page eBook offered at kegoutlet.com. You can get there through the Drips and Draughts website by going to dripsanddraughts.com/ultimate guide.
Brendan: All right. A big thanks to John Aitchison for joining me today and an even bigger thanks to him for bringing me some home brews to try. He actually left me a couple bottles of Mead. For those who aren’t familiar with it, which I wasn’t very familiar with it and still am not, but Mead is basically fermented honey. Sometimes you can throw in some fruits. He left me a raspberry mellow-Mel and a Mead that was actually made from coffee blossom honey. We’ll definitely be drinking that one on the show and talking about that, but I hope to have John back out to talk more in depth about Meads.
I just looked it up briefly and it’s basically fermented honey with water, and they can range in alcohol from 8% to 20% which is crazy. It’s just crazy. Thanks to John. If you guys have any questions about anything that we discussed or any of the ideas about the BJCP and how some of those ranking systems might be able to apply into the coffee atmosphere or the coffee world, let us know. Reach out to us; we’ll definitely try to get John back on the show. If there’s any questions that you’d like us to discuss, we’re here to help. All right, guys, I think that’s going to do it for today.
Don’t forget to hop onto iTunes and leave us a rating or review and make sure you get those kegerators ready for this summer because cold brew season is coming. Once again, if you’re looking for links or show notes from this episode, you can find those by going to dripsanddraughts.com/62. A final thanks to John Aitchison for joining me today. I’m Brendan Hansen and we’ll see you again next week on the Drips and Draughts Podcast.