Why We're Obsessed With Clean Lines

Has this ever happened to you? You just ordered your favorite beer. You know, the one that you've had a thousand times and could easily pick out in a blind taste test. You take a sip and are immediately disappointed with the dirty, musty, buttery suds. Maybe you ask the bartender to double check that it's the right beer. You start wondering if it's a bad keg or if the brewery has started to go down hill with its quality control.

It could be that you're just drinking from dirty draft lines. 

My first big "ah ha" moment came from a reverse situation. When I first moved to Seattle there was one particular beer that became my go-to whenever I was hanging out anywhere that didn't specialize in beer*. I drank it not because I really liked it, but rather because it was pretty much ubiquitous in the city. The beer and the brewery both had a great reputation, but I didn't think very highly of either. My experiences left a bad taste in my mouth that I just couldn't get rid of. One day I visited the brewery in person and had that very same beer. I am so glad that I did! I took a sip and literally blurted out, "holy crap! This doesn't taste anything like the shit that I've been drinking. This is really good!" This was around the time that we were planning TeKu's opening. I had been doing a lot of research on draft systems and draft maintenance and realized that the groaty off-flavors I'd been tasting weren't the brewer's fault; they were the bar's. 

Beer enthusiasts make a big deal out of getting the very best beer drinking experience. We gravitate to only the most well-crafted products, keep an eye on freshness, and obsess over proper glassware. What many of us don't think about, though, is draft cleanliness. The Brewer's Association recommends cleaning lines with a caustic solution every two weeks to remove organic buildup (yeasts and bacteria that can develop nasty off-flavors). Most reputable establishments will follow these standards; however, there are plenty of places out there who don't. Before you grab your next draft beer at your local pub, ask when the last line cleaning was. It might make you reconsider your order.

-Rich

* The beer was Lucille IPA from Georgetown Brewing. Now that I know what it's supposed to taste like, I'm a big fan of both the beer and of Georgetown brewing. We did our first collaboration beer with Georgetown for Seattle Beer Week 2016. Speaking to the quality of the beer itself, Lucille won a gold medal in the 2018 Best of Craft Beer Awards

 

Don't Cramp My Style

What’s the deal with beer styles? Beer Judge Certification Program, Brewer’s Association, and other sources have specific guidelines on beer styles. Why do we care? Can’t we just make good beer and forget what’s “supposed to be” in a certain beer? Of course we can. That’s how styles began! They are, after all, guidelines, not commandments.

Many styles came about spontaneously and regionally out of creativity: what ingredients were available, what would ferment, and what water was available (Saisons, for instance). Some styles were shaped by technology, taxation, and culture (low ABV English-styles, German Reinheitsgebot beer). Beer styles divide beer into shared qualities: color, aroma, taste/flavor, mouthfeel/texture, perceived bitterness, alcohol content, etc. So, specific style guidelines aren’t necessarily there to cramp your, ahem, style. They are a common ground on which to start. If the people want something specific, we can brew it.

For instance, when I say that I want an American stout you know there’ll be certain attributes I’m looking for in that beer. The beer will be very dark brown to jet black with a cream-tan head. It will have moderate to strong aromas of roast (chocolate and/or coffee) and maybe a light fruitiness from hops/esters. It’ll taste of roasted malt notes of dark or bittersweet chocolate, roast to slightly burnt coffee, and maybe a little caramel and hint of fruity hop. If I didn’t know what to call that beer, I’d have to describe all those attributes to someone before ordering a beer, which isn’t really ideal. Style is shorthand, a way of getting on the same page.

Of course, there will be differences between beers under the same style name, and that’s the fun. A cheeseburger is called a cheeseburger and has elements people expect, but that doesn’t mean we can’t add our own flair to it. Or change it all together…

Styles can have immense variety. Just look at the IPA. There are countless varieties: Juicy or Hazy IPA, White IPA, Red IPA, Black IPA, English IPA, Session IPA, and more. Back in the 90s, Ken Grossman of Sierra Nevada brewed—what was considered at the time—a CRAZY bitter beer. This beer was Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. Wow, how times have changed. The West Coast “bitter-bombs” developed and pushed people past their comfort levels. Thank goodness. For when we are comfortable, change is almost impossible. Change brings about delicious new possibilities. Styles are there to rebel against! Let’s tweak and distort, add weird grains, develop yeast strains that make you go, “What was that?!”

A definitive style added to official guidelines does not a beer make, but it does help. Next time you order a Juicy or Hazy IPA, we’ll both know exactly what the hell that means. Yum.  

Periodic Table of Beer Styles

What's in a name?

We often get the question, “is the Teku the best glass to drink beer from?” My answer is always, “not necessarily.” There are a lot of factors that contribute to glassware design. Some are functional while others are purely aesthetic. But first, let’s talk about the glass itself.

What’s the deal, why did we name our business after it? The Teku design was a collaborative project between two Itilian beer enthusiasts: Teo Musso, owner and Master Brewer of Birra Baladin, and sensory expert Lorenzo Dabove, who operates under the alias Kuaska. Karrie and I discovered the Teku glass while traveling through Europe on our 1-year anniversary/belated honeymoon. All the craft focused beer spots seemed to be serving in it and it was around the time that we were searching for a business name. When we got home we did some research and found that the glass was created with the intention to serve as the industry standard for beer sensory evaluation, much like the ISO glass used by wine sommeliers. Teo and Kuaska wanted to combine form and function to create something that was both elegant and that heighted the beer tasting experience. What they created was a long-stemmed glass that resembles a typical wine glass, but with sharper contours and an outward-flaring lip. I’ll let you be the judge of aesthetics, but I will make a few points about the functional design. The tight taper of the glass captures the volatile flavor aromatics release by the beer and concentrates them to your nose. The sharp outward taper at the top of the glass increases turbidity as the beer flows from the glass to your lips, which forces CO2 (carbonation) out of solution along with more aromatics. There is also an option to have the glass laser etched at the bottom to form a nucleation site where a constant string of bubbles can form to create a similar effect.

It was the spirit of the glass’s design that inspired the name Teku Tavern. We had a shared goal of elevating the beer drinking experience for you, the consumer. Our mission at Teku Tavern is to create the best beer drinking experience possible. So back to the question, “is the Teku the best glass to drink beer from?” Because the Teku is so good at releasing and concentrating aromas, and because the tasting experience is so closely linked to smell, it can heighten the overall experience of certain beers. For others, certain flavors may become overwhelming. I recommend that you decide for yourself what the glass works best for. Experiment. Grab your favorite beer, or maybe a couple different styles of beer. Pour half in a Teku glass and the other have in another style of glassware. (Even better, try several!) Do side by side comparison. What flavors really pop in one glass vs. the other? Is that a good thing?

I’ll go into more detail about glassware design in a future post, but ultimately, it’s your pallet and your beer drinking experience. Drink what you like, drink it in the glass you think presents it best, and have some fun doing it!

-Rich

No More

When I saw a screenshot of Melvin Brewing’s “Touch Us” page, which heads with “SHOW US ON THE DOLL WHERE MELVIN BREWING TOUCHED YOU,” I was confused: A child molestation joke? What the hell? Then, I read about the admitted sexual assault perpetrated by one of their Wyoming based employees towards a female server in the Menace Brewing Taproom in Bellingham. Finally, I read their eye-roll-inducing apology in response to the (deserved) hurricane of backlash by the community.

The first thing I thought was, “How did I not see it before?” The “Touch Us” page had been there for quite some time. Why is this coming to a head now? Because chauvinism exists in the world and sometimes we don’t even see it. I’ve become so used to it—it is so engrained in my life—that I’ve been socialized to accept it, to brush it off, to chalk it up as just another poor choice by a man.

The second thing I thought was, “I’m done brushing it off.”

Melvin Brewing consciously had “Touch Us” on their website after one of their employees went into an establishment and sexually abused someone. Melvin Brewing consciously kept the “Touch Us” page on their website as the #MeToo campaign caught momentum and people everywhere were opening up about their sexual assault stories. Melvin Brewing consciously kept “Touch us” on their website because its what they stand for. The joke was still funny to them even as people were screaming for help.

Though, apparently, they don’t stand for it anymore.

Previously, on their Facebook page, Melvin posted, “Many of our employees at the breweries and in upper-management are women.” Does this excuse the behavior because you don’t just hire men? When my Aunt’s racist friend insists, “she has a black friend,” it makes me think she’s even more racist.

Listen, I’m not usually one to write someone off. Everyone can mess up, people aren’t perfect and they make mistakes. What really upsets me is unawareness and lack of responsibility. We’ve seen other examples of this behavior happening, very recently, in the craft beer community (demeaning and objectifying labels, innuendos, sexual harassment, etc.) and beyond (Hollywood, politics, schools, churches, and more). Even if you were a misogynistic scumbug, wouldn’t you want to be on your best behavior? Isn’t this the time to re-evaluate, reflect, and ask yourself, “Are we helping?”

But I guess if you already have a binder full of women as employees, you’re good to go.

Melvin’s walking around with their fingers in the ears, humming their own tune, oblivious to the systematic sexism that infiltrates our everyday lives. It’s not their problem. It’s someone else’s.

In this craft beer world—and the world at large—it’s a struggle to be a woman. It’s a struggle to maintain integrity and still try and move onward and upward. It’s a struggle to be undermined and belittled. The cards are stacked against us women.

We need progressive breweries that are willing to reach out a helping hand to women and not feel up them up.

And then joke about it afterwards.

"Chill out, its just locker room talk.”

-Shawna

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