Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

Brewery Vivant – Belgium Meets Michigan (Awesomeness Ensues)

Monday, January 16th, 2012

As I’ve mentioned before, I end up in Western Michigan from time to time visiting the in-laws. It seems as though each time I visit a new brewery or brew pub has miraculously appeared in the interim. On this occasion I visited Brewey Vivant, another oasis in the desert of macro brew hell that has plagued our friends in the middle of the country until recent years.

But even with the advent of such great players as Founders, New Holland, Shorts, and Bell’s, Brewery Vivant stands out as unique. Offering up Belgian tradition in the land of Miller Lite is daring to say the least, but Brewery Vivant has several great things going for it, not the least of which is its location inside what used to be a funeral home that looks strikingly like a Belgian monastery. My wife and I were able to sneak away the day after Thanksgiving for a few rounds, which turned out to be a perfect time. There were only a handful of folks in the taproom and we happened to catch one of the managers at the taps. We had a great beer geek conversation about what they were doing and, after talking for a while, we scored a private brewery tour through the beautiful towers of stainless steel and wooden barrels behind the taproom. It always inspires me to see the operating floor of brewpubs and how they can create great brews in a small space.

While their beers obviously tend toward the Belgian malty and yeast-forward flavors, they are brewed with a certain (I hesitate to use the word) restraint. This is not to say they are timid about the Belgian style at all, but rather have created a line up of beers that can be both enjoyed for their complexity without being so overwhelming that you only want one. I have been handed more than my share of “Belgian Triples” that made my eyes dilate with intense sweet or ester flavors. Brewery Vivant has not fallen into these practices in the least, opting instead for a refined, very drinkable compositions.

Another point of note for Brewery Vivant is their use of cans over bottles. Not just any cans, mind you, but 16oz “pint cans”. I’ve been a fan of the can for some time now, and it’s great to see another brewery going that direction, not just because cans keep out the light, but also for the better environmental impact. In another nod to the environment, they offset their energy use by purchasing Renewable Energy Credits. All of this makes the California Hippie in me very happy, all the more so after a few of their Farm Hand and Solitude ales. I’m already looking forward to my next trip!

iPhone/iPod Touch Brewing Apps Review

Thursday, November 5th, 2009

I recently picked up a new MacBook Pro and was really not interested in wasting space for a Windows VM which I used pretty much used exclusively to run ProMash on brew days. My dream solution was to see if anyone had created a brewing app for the iPhone and was pleasantly surprised to find that there were a few apps available! Since I had decided to do my research for this on brew day, I was pressed for time and ended up, rather rashly, purchasing 3 apps

  • iBrewMaster by Joe Cannici
  • BrewMath by Kent Place Software
  • Brew Pal by David Parker
  • iBrewMaster ($4.99) lets you store recipes, but would seem to be meant for folks who have several brews going at the same time need a calendaring tool for keeping track of all their brews and when they need to be racked to a secondary or kegged, bottled, etc. It doesn’t do mash calculations at all, and so to me, it’s not really a useful “brew day application”, which is what I’m after. To be fair, if I had read the app description, I would have known that 🙂 But no matter! We soldier on, as they say.

    Brew Math ($2.99) is a series of brewing calculators that would come in very handy if you totally bugger something up in the brew process and need to quickly run a few ideas through to see how bad it really is, or what you might do to remedy the situation. It seems a very good tool for those who like to run scenarios, but don’t care about saving the results. It handles unit conversions, mash calculations, color, bitterness, carbonation, attenuation, SG correction, refractometer results and pitching rates. I’m keeping this one on my iPhone for the very reason I mention above – it can really help you figure out what might happen if you alter step C due to muckup 2.

    Brew Pal ($0.99) is an impressive app. At the $0.99 price point you might nearly pass it up, but this is does an amazing amount work for you and should probably be priced closer to the $5 of iBrewMaster! You can enter and save your recipes, calculate strike temp and mash volume, and it has a proper brew timer. It really does quite a bit and is probably all you need on brew day. It’s great for messing around with recipe ideas and can be right there at the ready if you get bored and feel like checking out of your all-hands company meeting for 10 minutes. It’s easy to add new grain or hop types, or alter the items already there. I did run into an issue when entering the data for Crystal 15L, which most brewing databases seem to ignore. It only gave me the option of 14L or 16L. I guess the elimination of odd-numbered Lovibond measurements makes the wheel-interface scroll faster, and in the end doesn’t really muck up the color calculation too much, but it was my one annoyance with the app. This app may not serve those who feel they need finer control of certain aspects of the brew process, but honestly, it gives me all my numbers at a glance and lets me run through mash scenarios with relative ease. The image below is a animated gif of screen-shots. If you’re looking to run your brew day off your iPhone or iPod Touch, this is an excellent way to go.

    Update: the latest version now supports more granular Lovibond control!

    Brew Pal, by

    Brew Pal, by David Parker