Stoutography

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When I decided to share my interest and passion for Stouts with the rest of the world, I didn’t realize the level of photographic genius that would be required.  Looking at Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook and all of the other social media options, it’s clear that there are those who have a knack for craftbeer photography and people like me who don’t.  I aspire to have the level of creativity and natural talent that some have.  I just put the bottle and glass in the frame, take a picture and post it.  However, there is so much more than that….and I need help!   Fortunately and thankfully the iPhone generation takes care of that…because there’s an app for that!!  I’ve been having fun with two specific  applications, Prisma and Color Splash.  Prisma is an app that takes a photo and converts it into a specific photographic motif.  Color Splash takes a photo, converts it into black and white, and gives the user the opportunity to add color back to any area of the photo.

I struggle with props, backgrounds, and themes – that’s why I envy those social media posters who have the natural ability to “know” what colors work or what backgrounds or settings work best with a bottle or glass of Stout….or any beer for that matter.  I try and learn from each photo….and hopefully can apply it to my Stoutography!

Here are some examples of how a normal picture can morph using the iPhone apps.  Here is a picture I took today of the Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Coffee Stout that I enjoyed.  Next to that is the Prisma interpretation using their “Old Fashioned” motif….

Prisma has about 20 different motifs that you can convert a picture into….it’s a fun, innovative and creative way to present a somewhat regular photo.  It’s free and highly recommended!

Here is a similar picture using Color Splash.  The picture on the left was converted to all black and white and I then added back the color to the label and the “EAT” sign in the background:

It helps to bring the intended subject to the forefront.  It’s a real easy app to use and I plan to use it more in the future!   One note – the iOS version costs $0.99 but I think it a worthwhile investment for something that works so well.

There are numerous other iPhone and Android apps to help the novice craft beer photographer, but there are many other tips and tricks that can be used with requiring an app.  Using an appropriate background and picture specific props can really make a normal picture become great.  For example, the Bourbon County Brand Coffee Stout picture could have been naturally enhanced had I put some coffee beans around the bottle or had I used some type of red background to compliment the label and to make the full glass of stout stand out.

Here’s a couple of pictures where I tried to use props to enhance the photos.  The one on the left just happened to coincide with the first snow of the year in North Carolina.  I thought the white snow would be an excellent backdrop to the dark stout and the blue logo.  I think the snow makes the Stout really stand out!   The one on the right was taken during the holiday season and I wanted to highlight the red label against the red and gold holiday decorations.  The red and gold coloring gives out a warmth to the picture that I think works well.

I’ve also tried a couple of outdoor shots and got real lucky on this one:

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I really like the sun streaming from between the branches of the trees…it was a unique feature that I didn’t expect and most likely will have a hard time ever recreating!

The next photo that seemed to get some notoriety is the one where I lined up my TenFidy purchase from the Barrel-Aged and Java Barrel-Aged TenFidy release event in Brevard, NC.  I tend to think that this got some love because of the excess of it all and the uniqueness of having all of those stovepipe beers stacked like that!

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The last example I’ll share with you is the value of having a “model” with the beer.  In this case, it’s Bella our black pug dog who, on occasion, has photobombed a couple of my shots.  She wouldn’t move from the shot so I decided to take it with her in the picture!  The funny part about it is if I try to have her actually pose for a shot, she won’t do it!

Creativity is key in successful craft beer photos.  While the run of the mill bottle/can plus a filled glass photo is nice to document the experience, it doesn’t really communicate anything else.  Having the imagination and creativity to somehow apply or connect the beer to something else in this crazy world is what makes the picture interesting to others.

If you post craft beer photos in the world of social media, I urge you to use your creativity and artistic background to search for that craft beer picture.  Don’t be afraid to try something new or different.

Let’s go on this craft beer photographic journey together…follow @stoutwhisperer on both Twitter and Instagram!  If you follow me, I’ll follow you right back.  Feel free to share any tips, tricks, or suggestions with us that work for you when taking Stout or any other craft beer pictures!

 

 

My new Stout toys: Eagle Cap-Off and Fizzics!

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The holidays have come and gone…..and it’s now time to introduce you to the new toys I received for Christmas….well, actually I bought for myself!    They are…the Eagle Cap-Off and Fizzics Waytap!

Truth be told, I bought the Eagle Cap-Off back in 2015.  It was a Kickstarter initiative and I thought it was cool, so I was one of the first 50 “investors” to buy one.  Apparently this was an old fashioned design of a bottle opener from the 1940’s that two entrepreneurs brought back to life and turned to the Kickstarter audience to fund their dream.  The campaign was a success and they went to work sourcing materials, getting the parts made, assembling the final product, and getting it to every investor.    Frankly, I had forgotten about it, so in mid-December when I received a small package in the mail, imagine my surprise when a fully functioning Eagle Cap-Off was inside!  My Kickstarter investment had arrived!   Pretty simple operation….put it on the top of the bottle, squeeze the handles together and the cap comes off!

Now I know you may be saying that a good old regular bottle opener works just fine, I would agree.  However, for something a little bit different, the Eagle Cap-Off would be a neat gift for any Stout lover…or craftbeer drinker for that matter.  It’s also a neat conversation starter…..over a couple of Stouts!   Head over to their website for more information, some history, and to order….and tell them the Stoutwhisperer sent you!!

Now that my bottle is open, it’s time for the pour and that’s where the Fizzics comes in!

The Fizzics is a system that pours your bottled or canned beer and then with a simple push of the tap handle, uses sound waves to create a wonderful creamy, foamy head to top off your beer!  The little micro 2017-01-08_17-11-24_275bubbles that make up beer foam have incredible aroma when they burst and can enhance the taste of the beer!  I bought mine via a Kickstarter campaign just like I did with the Eagle Cap-Off.  If you are Shark Tank fans, you may have seen the Fizzics founders on the show….and they received a nice investment from a couple of the Sharks!   My Fizzics was delivered the week before Christmas so I put it under the tree and patiently waited to open it.

Here’s how it works – I have the Waytap version – you put a 12 oz. bottle or up to a 25 oz. can in the cylinder and make sure the metal tube (see the metal tube in the picture below) is in the bottle or can.  Pull the taphandle and the beer begins to flow.  Once you have 2017-01-15_15-30-32_321most of the beer poured, you push the tap handle and the foam gets created using the remainder of the beer and the sound wave technology.  It takes a few beers to get the hang of it, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing, is it?

The Fizzics Waytap is a portable item and runs on 4 AA batteries.  I think it’s a pretty neat invention and I appreciate the concept of a good foamy head increasing the overall taste and aroma experience, so I’m a big fan.  The only drawback to the Waytap is that it’s not big enough to handle bottles larger than 12 oz…..that job goes to the initial Fizzics model.   The OG Fizzics can handle up to and including 64 oz. Growlers!!  Head over to the Fizzics website and take a look!  A lot of good information and videos to interest you…..and perhaps entice you to buy one!

I encourage you to visit both the Eagle Cap-Off and Fizzics websites and check out their products.  I’m glad I did!

Until next time….have a Stoutstanding week!

 

 

2016 – a Stoutstanding year!

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The end of every calendar year brings a certain amount of rear view mirror reflection and windshield resolutions.  This year is no different.  I tend to look back, take stock of successes, failures, and learnings, and commit to improvement during the coming year.  As I look back at my stout life in 2016, this was the year where I started to walk the talk. This blog, my social media presence, trades, first release events – really just making an overall commitment to being the Stoutwhisperer!  It also enabled me to meet many great people who share the same passion for craftbeer and stouts that I have…..and it has allowed me to taste and review more than my fair share of amazing Stouts!

As I look back on the Stouts I’ve had the privilege to enjoy and taste in 2016, it’s fairly easy to separate those that have really made an impression on me……and those are the Stouts I’d like to recognize on this blogpost.  Before we go any further, I clearly realize that I’ve barely scratched the stout surface as there are so many I didn’t taste this year and there are some that are in my cellar that I haven’t opened…..and that’s a function of my tasting schedule!  I’ll get to them in due time – and the beauty of being the Stoutwhisperer is that aging Stouts isn’t a bad thing!   Now if I were the IPAwhisperer, I’d be in trouble!!

On to the awards:

Best Stout Pour:

Oskar Blues TENFIDY, Raleigh Brewing BA The Miller’s Toll, Southern Tier Choklat Oranj, Alesmith Speedway Stout, Westbrook Siberian Black Magic Panther and any Stout on Nitro!

I happen to like a bit of a foamy head on my Stouts, so when I pour my Stouts, I try and aim for around 1/2 to 3/4 inch of head on the pour.   I think that helps the various aromas contained in the Stout to be released and savored (see Best Aroma award above).  Some Stouts just pour better than others and when they pour well and create a nice foamy head, it’s a beautiful thing…and it photographs well!  This award recognizes those Stouts that had an especially nice pour and retained a nice foamy head.  I also included all Stouts on Nitro because I love watching all of the tiny nitrogen bubbles rise to the top!!

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Best Aroma:  

Prairie Paradise (draft),  Buxton/Omnipollo Yellow Belly, Big Boss Brewing Root Beer Stout2016-12-31_20-25-32_000

After the Pour, the next thing I go for is the aroma.  What does it smell like?  What flavor notes can I pick up?  These three really stand out from all the others I’ve had this year.  Amazing Vanilla on the Paradise, Butterfinger (Peanut and Biscuit) on the Yellow Belly, and true Root Beer on the Root Beer Stout…I could have smelled these and been very happy!  Glad I was able to enjoy the liquid as well…and had a great ice cream float with the Big Boss Root Beer Stout!

Surprise Stouts:

Stillwater On Fleek, Birdsong Brewing MexiCali Stout, Twin Leaf Brewery MDXXI, Blue Mountain Dark Hollow, Alchemist Beelzebub, Lagunitas High West-ified Stout

Each of these were pleasant surprises in their own way…either through my not knowing the brewery, or having low expectations.  In each case, these Stouts made me seek out more and that’s a good thing.  Give them a try!

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Best Beercation location: Asheville, NC

Asheville is an wonderful place to visit, even without the incredible number of craft beer breweries!  Located in the mountains of western North Carolina, it’s a beautiful place to wander around and get lost in their various neighborhoods.  Add their vibrant craft beer scene and it becomes a must visit for any craft beer lover.  Read my blogpost from a couple of months ago that provides a nice overview of the long weekend my two sons and I had in Asheville – Oskar Blues, New Belgium, Sierra Nevada, Burial, Wicked Weed and many others too numerous to mention.  The food is amazing as well – make sure and stop by Vortex Doughnuts in the morning and Buxton Hall BBQ in the evening – they are both in the South Slope area of Asheville!

Most Stoutstanding Breweries:  

In my opinion, these two Breweries seemed to separate themselves from the pack for their creativity and innovation and should be recognized!

Prairie Artisan Ales

Prairie took their Bomb! and Noir lineups to another level in 2016….wonderful flavors and spices  – Vanilla, Coffee, Pirate, Prairie, and Christmas.  Add an innovative barrel aging program – Apple Brandy Barrel, Sherry Barrel, Oak Barrel, Bourbon Barrel, Rum Barrel….and the combination of flavors and barrels make for an impressive and highly in demand lineup!  Of special note was the one brewery only draft release that I was fortunate to get a 16oz. growler of – Cinnamon Pecan Bomb!  That was one of the highlights of the year for me….incredible flavor palate which I was very fortunate to taste!  Special thanks to Michael of Tulsa for the extra effort in getting and shipping that growler to me!!  Lastly, I hear that Paradise (Vanilla) is coming off the line soon and will be available in bottles!  Can’t wait for that one!

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Epic Brewing

Epic Brewing took their Big Bad Baptist program and created an entire family!  They started with Son of a Baptist by engaging local coffee roasters all across the country to create 12 separate versions of Son of a Baptist, a non barrel aged coffee Stout.  More recently, they aged their coffee beans in whiskey barrels and added it to BBB, creating Double Barrel Big Bad Baptist.  Next, they went south of the border and brewed Big Bad Baptista, a relative of BBB but using Mexican coffee, cinnamon, and vanilla.  Finally, they just released Son of a Baptist in 12oz cans….again using different local coffee roasters to create regional variants of SoB!  The Epic team was indeed busy this year and their creativity and innovation has paid off!

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2016 Stout of this World All-Stout Team

As I look back at my various tastings over 2016, these are the ones that really made me take notice or made me want more.  They challenged all of my senses and expectations and happily and easily surpassed them…..

Prairie Artisan Ales Pirate Bomb!2016-03-18_210739939_544F9_iOS

2016-12-02_17-21-18_857Epic Brewing Big Bad Baptist

Epic Brewing Big Bad Baptista2016-12-03_15-39-47_927

2016-11-13_15-36-52_718Bell’s Brewery Black Note Stout

Prairie Artisan Ales Cinnamon Pecan Bomb!2016-10-07_17-04-46_338

2016-03-26_202511511_CBE20_iOSRaleigh Brewing Double BA The Miller’s Toll

Southern Pines Drunken Vigils2016-10-23_15-41-41_515

2016-07-16_192807305_60953_iOSGoose Island Bourbon County Brand Stout

Dark Horse Plead the 5th2016-01-09_205936305_E6A42_iOS

2016-11-20_15-06-32_390Westbrook Siberian Black Magic Panther

Prairie Artisan Ales Pirate Paradise2016-10-22_15-45-47_525

2016-11-12_15-44-03_506-2016-11-13t00_44_53-408Oskar Blues Java Barrel Aged TENFIDY

 

That puts a wrap on 2016!

Love to get your comments on any of these!  That’s the beauty of Stouts – everyone’s taste is different!  Help me select my Stout list for 2017 – share your favorite Stouts with us.  Looking to expand my horizons and need your input!

I’m looking forward to a Stoutstanding year and I’ll be sure to bring you along for the journey.   Follow me on Instagram and Twitter (both @Stoutwhisperer) and keep reading my blogposts!!

Happy New Year and with apologies to the Star Wars fans out there….

May the Stout be with you!