Sep 22 2010

Quick Thoughts About the 2010 GABF and Ideas for Next Time

Beer People are Amazing – It has been said before, but it bears repeating. Beer lovers are just good people. They have a zest for life and they want to experience everything that can with the limited time we have on the planet.

Next time: Do more crowd-sourcing – Talk to the people in the beer line with you. What beers have they enjoyed? Use the friendliness and expertise around you to your advantage.

Me and (In All Likelihood Harassing) Ron Jeffries From Jolly Pumpkin

The GABF does not favor modest, well-crafted beers – Like in a big family, the loudest voice is the one that gets heard at the dinner table. The GABF is no different. The convention center is filled with dozens and dozens of well-crafted pale ales and German lagers, but they get overshadowed by double IPAs, Russian imperial stouts and sour ales.

Next time: Consciously seek out these less extreme beers – They take just as much artistry to make, they are a great way to reset your palate, and they are lower in alcohol, which will extend your tasting day.

You’ll Want to Make Every Beer Like Saboteur

Food and Water is a chore at GABF – Keeping hydrated is a common and smart tip. I didn’t have a problem with this one in that I’ve done some judging and I realize the importance of water and crackers between beers to get you ready for the next. Water was easy. Food was my big problem. I guess I was in a permanent state of fullness with the absurd amounts of water and beer I was drinking.  It was hard work eating bready meals, but if I hadn’t I would have been in serious trouble.

Next time: Plan out your meals as well as you did your bars – Palate fatigue can hit you in a variety of ways.  Falling Rock, Cheeky Monk, etc. are mandatory beer stops, but make sure you know which restaurants you want to hit, as well.  Make your meals worth looking for to.

Break up the monotony – Wandering around the hall and getting samples of beers you can’t get at home from breweries you haven’t heard of is amazing, but you can only do that for so many hours. Running into amazing people at the bars around town, too, is great, but it is good to mix some quality in with the quantity.

Next time: Try to find key events to attend inside and outside of the convention hall – Seek out a food demonstration from Sean Paxton, or sit down for a minute and listen to some of the speakers. My favorite event during the GABF was the Pints for Prostates Denver Rare Beer Tasting (followed closely by the Ladies of Craft Beer Beer4Boobs charity event). This was quality time, with the actual brewers (!?!) and access to some extraordinary and experimental beer.

Falling Rock – Busy Day and Night

There are (almost) too many breweries at GABF– The number of breweries that attend the GABF is over whelming. There are too many to see and try even if you attended all 4 sessions.

Next time: Have a game plan of which breweries to visit – Obviously you should avoid any beers that you can get at home.  And you should plan to stand in line for a few minutes for the rockstar breweries like Dogfish Head, Russian River, Lost Abbey, etc. But watch out for smaller breweries that might run out of their beers quickly (New Glarus, Shorts, etc.)

The New Glarus Line BEFORE the Session Began

Extra Credit:

Memorable (New to Me) Breweries – Shorts, Cascade, New Glarus, Cigar City, Copper Canyon, Odell, Boulevard and Alaskan.

Memorable (New to Me) Beers – Many of my memorable beers were from the Pints for Prostates tasting. Brooklyn’s Reinschweinsgebot, Avery Quinquepartie, Sam Adam’s Kosmic Mother Funk, Upstream’s Farmhouse Surprise, Cascade Noyeaux Sour Ale, Cigar City White Oak-Aged Jai Alai IPA, Jolly Pumpkin Biere de Goord, and many others. In the Convention Center, New Belgium’s Eric’s Ale and Imperial Berliner Weisse, New Glarus’ Raspberry Tart and Moon Man, Odell’s Saboteur and DeConstruction, Boulevard’s Two Jokers Double-Wit, Flossmoor’s Pullman Brown, Shorts’ Key Lime Pie and Anniversary Ale, and a bunch of other beers I’m embarrassed to be forgetting right now.

Proud to be an “Amercian”

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Sep 10 2010

Black IPA Homebrew – Moor is Better

The Black IPA……. Here’s a beer that isn’t a style yet that doesn’t have a name that anyone can agree upon. So, like all imaginary things, I had to make one.

For the purposes of this email, I’ll call it a Black IPA because that makes the most sense in casual conversation. There is no official style guideline for this beer because it hasn’t been declared a style. Some just think it is a hoppy porter or American stout, and they probably have a point. The guys in the Pacific Northwest are claiming to have brewed it first, but most evidence points to it being first brewed by Greg Noonan up in Vermont (although I think the west coast obviously gets the credit for tweaking and perfecting it.  Whatever “it” is….)

And the name. Well, the beer is a strange hybrid (on paper) of a stout and an American IPA. Some are calling it a Black IPA, although it is only part IPA and really owes nothing to the “India” part of India Pale Ale. Some are calling it a Cascadian Black Ale (referring to the mountains in the NW, not the hops) and some favor American Dark Ale (which I like the best, but it isn’t all that descriptive.)

So, it is not a style, it doesn’t have a name, and there’s no rules as to how to make one of these things.  So I did what I always do: I made shit up.

I wanted it to be a clear combination of a roasty stout and a hoppy IPA. I could have just bought some Sinamar (which is just a dark liquid made from Carafa malt you can add to beers while imparting only a small amount of a roasted or burnt character) and dumped it in there, but then it would have just been an IPA that was black in color.  So I used roasted barley for the, duh, roast and some Carafa III, which is a debittered black malt, to mostly impart color. I, also, hopped this one up quite a bit. I used a lot of Amarillo (apricot, mango) and Simcoe (pine, grapefruit) hops at the end of the boil and dry-hopping.

I really like this homebrew, but it took me a few moments to get my head around it. I dig the way the pine seems to roll with the roast. I’d recommend a commercial version, but I really haven’t had one that I loved. I think the 21st Amendment’s Back in Black is very good, but nothing else comes to mind.

So there you go. This one is called “Moor is Better”.

Moor is Better – (Black IPA)

Starting Gravity: 1.054 (7/22/10)
Secondary Gravity: 1.011 (8/5/10)
Final Gravity:  1.011 (8/13/10) Days
5.7% alcohol (by volume)
Apparent Attenuation: 78.9%
Real Attenuation: 64.6%

Mash (65 minutes ~152º)
12 lb American 2-Row
0.75 lb Crystal 60L
0.75 lb Carafa III
0.50 lb Wheat Malt
0.50 lb Roasted Barley

Boil (60 min)
2.0 oz/ 56.7 grams Chinook (11.4% AA) Pellet Hops (60 min)
1.0 oz/ 28 grams Amarillo (7.2% AA) Pellet Hops (10 min)
1.0 oz/ 28 grams Simcoe (12.7% AA) Pellet Hops (10 min)
1.0 oz/ 28 grams Amarillo (7.2% AA) Pellet Hops (1 min)
1.0 oz/ 28 grams Simcoe (12.7% AA) Pellet Hops (1 min)
1.0 oz/ 28 grams Amarillo (7.2% AA) Pellet Hops (Dry Hop) (7/29/10)
1.0 oz/ 28 grams Simcoe (12.7% AA) Pellet Hops (Dry Hop) (7/29/10)

Primary (68º F)
Yeast – Safale-05

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Sep 9 2010

SEO for Beer Bloggers Part 2: Images and Hyperlinks

In my previous SEO tips for beer bloggers post, I talked a little bit about choosing keywords, title tags and meta descriptions.  In taking a few more baby steps, I wanted to quickly hit upon Meta Keywords, Images and Hyperlinks.

Meta Keywords

This is going to be short and sweet: meta keywords are useless. Don’t waste your time filling them out or even thinking about them. None of the major search engines use meta keywords as a factor in ranking, and any engine that might use them is not worth worrying about.

To be clear, I’m not talking about the category tags and keywords that are used to fit all your posts into tag categories and to populate keyword clouds. Those are completely different and worth filling out with a few important keywords in order for your plug-ins to create indexable tag pages. But if you see a meta keyword field (usually right after the title and meta description fields), just leave it alone and spend more time enjoying a beer.

Images

Bloggers often forget that their pictures and images are indexable, as well. (For example, this image search for beer glasses) The problem is that it’s really difficult for a search engine to rank them. A spider can’t “see” these images and distinguish which one is the best match for a query. So search engines depend on the information we can give them.

Descriptive File Names: Let’s say you are reviewing a Jolly Pumpkin Bam Bière, and you’ve taken a beautiful picture of the bottle and the glass you’ve poured it into.  When you save that picture, use a descriptive file name. Instead of saving it as image1.jpg, name it jolly-pumpkin-bam-biere.jpg. That clearly conveys to the search engine that words you would like associated with your image.

Alt Text: When you add an image to your site, you also should use Alt Text to label your images. This alt attribute describes the image to the search engines and the text only appears to the user when their cursor hovers over the image. As an added advantage, it helps users with a vision impairment, or if they are searching the web with images disabled, understand what the image is if they cannot see it. This a simple tag they can be associated with your images through you HTML, or it will often be a field you fill out when uploading images to your blog.

Here’s an example of an optimized image:

Fooled You - It's Actually La Roja

Hyperlinks

The quality of the links you have pointing to your site is a huge factor in the how important the search engines think your site is.  Hyperlinks are, also, huge levers in helping search engines understand the keywords you want to be indexed on your pages.  Obtaining those links, in good or bad ways, is a whole ‘nother post and a trickier topic. Right now I want to address the importance of linking and the words you use in your hyperlinks.

Make Sure There Are Links to All of Your Pages: This is something that gets overlooked by webmasters. When a spider comes to crawl your site, it has to be able to access all of your pages by clicking on links on your site. It cannot type a query into your search box, and it can only navigate your site like you would without a keyboard. If a spider cannot find a page on your site by simply clicking around, that page will not exist in search engine results pages (SERPs).  Make sure you are linking to your most important pages from your homepage. I can address XML sitemaps in the next post, which can help here, too.

Descriptive Keywords in your Hyperlinks: When someone links to your website with a hyperlink, they are effectively casting a vote to tell the search engines that you have a trustworthy and valid site. In addition, the keywords they use in the hyperlink will be associated with your site. (For additional reading, you can look into Google Bombing, as well.)

So, if they link to your review of Bam Biere by making the hyperlink “Look at this really cool review!”, you can thank them for the link and the traffic that comes to your site through it, but they didn’t help you as much as they could have. Having the words “really” and “cool” and “look” are not things that a user will be typing into a search engine and expecting to find your post.  If that person had linked to your post with “check out this amazing Jolly Pumpkin’s Bam Bière review”, you would have been passed all that good link juice and your post would be associated with the keywords “Jolly Pumpkin”, “Bam Bière” and “review”. All of which are fantastic and relevant keywords.

Make sure you are using descriptive and keyword-centric hyperlinks when you are linking to other pages on your site (like I did in the first paragraph of this blog post), and be a awesome SEO net-citizen by linking to other sites with well thought out hyperlinks.  If you can get other sites to link to you with great hyperlinks, that helps but I wouldn’t hand them the words. If every single hyperlink leading to your site is exactly the same, it will eventually look suspicious to the search engines. Google values diversity, so “Bam Bière review” and “review of the Bam Bière” and “reviewing the JP Bam Bière” are much more valuable than three links that all say “awesome Bam Bière review”. You don’t always have a lot of control in how people link to you but, in this case, that can be a good thing.

That was Part 2 for SEO for bloggers. Let me know if this one is helpful, too. And, if you have any specific questions, you can send those my way, too, for a future post.

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