Shortly after I broke my hydrometer the other week (moments before cooking up Itsy Bitsy Brown), I wanted to replace it and went to get their phone number. My usual approach to this is to simply Google for “just brew it”, and then click on the link I know to be the right one: Aardvark Brewing Supplies (that was their “online” name when they were actively trying to sell stuff online). I realized, as I retrieved the phone number from the simple one-page site, that this website was rather plain and unattractive:

A thumbnail of the old

Unfortunately, the full-sized version of the page is no longer available, so you can’t see the details of what this thing used to look like. I say “used to” because it is now a completely different site:

When I went in to purchase a new hydrometer, I asked Doug about his website. I figured I could help him out by spiffing it up a little. He was interested, and we’ve come up with this new site. It is still just the one page, but we have ideas about fleshing it out a little bit – not too much content, because isn’t interested in the extra work of maintaining inventory and prices. But we’ll add a little more to make customers who’ve never been in a little more familiar with the kinds of products he carries and the kinds of unique services he provides: like one of the best grain mills in the country. It turns out that in his downtime from running the store, Doug is one of the best technicians in entire Southeastern US for all sorts of big, industrial machines and saws. He made the grain mill himself, and all of his customers swear that they get better efficiency in their mash when they use his grain mill than with any other. I am one of those customers: it is a beautiful, miraculous machine. I want to get a picture of it, and add it to the store’s website.

The graphics for the new site came from a company that built an eCommerce website for Doug a few years ago. Several hurdles have prevented Doug from actually taking that store online. But he sent me links to a demo site – or “sandbox” if you will. I snagged the graphics and put them on the new face for his website. His online store had some other facets to it including additional media which I hope to incorporate into the other pages to be added.

I didn’t do all this work for personal gains. But one nice side effect is that Doug wants to pay me for the help I’ve given him (in addition to helping him re-vamp the website, I’m also saving him nearly $600 per year by switching him to new web host and domain registrar). I don’t actually want any money, but it does mean that I’ll be able to more easily snag some new equipment – particularly an 11-gallon stainless steel pot that I’ve had my eye on… I went in Thursday to get stuff for the batch I’m brewing on Sunday (Most Worthy Ale – an American IPA based heavily on a delicious recipe I made years ago named Hellishly Hopped Ale), and he even offered to let me have the ingredients. At that moment, the new website wasn’t yet up, and I insisted that he not try to give me anything until I had actually delivered something.

It is very nice of him to offer payment, but I plan on letting him have my services pretty cheap because I really like having a hand, even if a very small hand, in keeping his store up and running. It’s the best damn resource for home brewers in the area, hands down.

In any event, I’m brewing an IPA this Sunday. This past Thursday was the first time I’ve bought more than three ounces of hops for a single batch in many months. Doug repealed his three-ounce-per-batch rule quite some time ago, but I still stick to it because I would feel guilty if I raided his inventory considering there is still a real shortage. This time, however, he pointed out two alternatives for the hops I was looking for, and I simply asked if he minded if I buy them both. He was fine with that. He told me his Simcoe hops weren’t really fresh. He usually throws out stuff that isn’t really fresh, but he’s hung onto the Simcoe because they’re popular and there’s a shortage. He warns customers before they buy it that it’s probably 1/3 lower in alpha acids than the label suggests (due to age) and that it should only be used as a bittering hop (aromatic oils extracted from late hop additions are the first to go as hops deteriorate). I decided to get Nugget hops as an alternative, but Doug also recommended Summit fresh hops. He said he brewed with them recently, and they were incredibly fresh and pungently aromatic. I got an ounce of those, too. I’ve since decided to hang onto the Summit and to use only the Nugget for Sunday’s brew. Maybe I’ll use the Summit in my next batch (Foreign Extra Stout, anyone?).

The Itsy Bitsy Brown turned out very tasty. It had a good bit of diacetyl last time I tasted it, so I’m trying to vent it off. Hopefully in another week it will be tasty and will have lost the fake-butter flavor that currently tinges it.

Last Saturday I cracked open one of my last bombers of Brain Bludgeoner. It was every bit as luscious and elusive as I remember it. I still have several more bombers, but they are all spoken for. Three are for sharing (one with co-workers next week, one with my friend Jason who helped polish off the one I opened last weekend,  and one with my sister and brother-in-law next month). The last two are for me, but are waiting to be opened until their 1st and 2nd birthdays respectively. I don’t believe in hanging on to homebrew more than two years: by that time I better have brewed even more great beer and thus should have no need to reminisce nostalgicly so far back.

Tonight, I cracked open a 12 ounce bottle of Fiftieth Brew. In retrospect, it really turned out great. When it was still green it was a bit rough around the edges. Now it is quite nice: very firmly bittered but a nice hop flavor and aroma, too. The malt character is a bit heavy (it is pretty much a Barleywine after all), but flavorful with touches of caramel and toffee and perhaps a touch of chocolate. The first few ounces seemed heavy, intense, and difficult to drink. Once the palate gets acclimated however, it is drinkable. The last 6 ounces disappeared much more quickly than did the first.