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Friday, March 23, 2012

Exclusive: New Brewery ... Online?

I heard rumors about a new trend in the brewing world over on Twitter - a totally online brewery.  Working my extensive network of industry connections, I was able to have a short e-mail interview with the owner/brewer of the new project, Mr. Arthur Devlin.  It's not the best piece of Q & A I have ever done, but I wanted to post the conversation and be the first to break the details, so forgive me.  Since Mr. Devlin was replying to me on his phone, I have taken the liberty of correcting his spelling.

Here now, is Art Devlin.

JP: Art, thanks for taking the time to answer some questions for my readers.

AD: Sure thing.

JP: I know you don't have much time, so let's get into it.  Tell me about this new brewery.

AD: Well it's something that will, for sure, revolutionize the brewing world.  And I can't tell you too much about it for just that reason.  But essentially, I'll be running the entire process from home.  From my couch.

JP: How do you mean?

AD: Pretty much just that - I'll be able to mash, run off, boil, and pitch yeast right from my couch via the internet.

JP: Now, why bring this approach to beer, when so many craft beer drinkers are focusing on beers made "By Hand" or at the very least "locally" or with local ingredients?

AD: Because it makes sense to me.  It's the perfect blend of tech and innovation, is it not?  While most brewers are trying to figure out enzyme reactions, or how to turn the mash around and get another batch going, I'm focused on eliminating the hard work altogether.

JP: Are you concerned at all about any possible backlash in the brewing community?

AD: The brewing community will accept the way I am doing this for a few reasons, but mainly because they will hate it.  People talk the loudest about things they hate.  Most beer drinkers these days ARE indeed looking for a "hands-on" approach to brewing as if it matters at all.  If I dump my grains in by hand or if my silo opens up and the grain is metered by a valve makes no difference to the final product.  So I think people will drink my beers more often simply to see if they can find a flavor implication that nullifies my process.

JP: I've heard rumors about your packaging design.  Can you get into that at all?

AD: Sure, I think I can let the cat out on this one.  Our product will be released in unique 9oz. plastic packages that are shaped like a mustache.  The back label is removable and has a small application of Spirit Gum that enables the drinker to actually wear the package on their upper lip.  They will come in a 6-pack we are calling "A Pack of 'Stache".  We think the mustache is a greatly under used and modernly effective form of marketing that we are aggressively pursuing.

JP: Can that kind of focused marketing work in the long run?

AD: With the low over-head I have by working from home, we expect to have recovered our equipment costs in 7 batches.

JP: And the package costs?

AD: Well, our beer will sell for $49.95 each, so we will have paid for the entire 50,000 run of these things in about 5 months.  Everything after that is pure profit.

JP: Not to be rude - because you have been kind enough to grant me this interview, but ... that seems a bit high to me.

AD: And it is.  But our studies show that if you have a solid gimmick and a high price-point, the sky is the limit.  Today's beer drinker will accept a low-quality product if the gimmick it's surrounded by is a unique one.   Think "Blue Mountains".  Think "Dead Squirrel".  Think "Quad IPA".  Think "Limited Special Release".

JP: It's not all that common to hear someone in marketing speak so candidly about their process. Are you afraid that the consumer won't even give you a chance based on what you've just told me?

AD: LOL - no.  This won't even be remembered when the product comes out.  With the 24-hour news cycle these days, there will be something else coming down the pipe that will effectively shake the keys in front of the face of the public, distracting them.  I have to run now, it's my turn to see the doctor.


So that's it, that's my interview.  Personally I think the thing is a huge sham and almost insulting to beer drinkers. But the guy seems to have a grasp on marketing, I'll give him that.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

New Chicks ... Finally!

Last you heard, we had a chicken get its back torn out by some ... THING in the middle of the night, leaving us with one bird - Mrs. Butterworth.  As a person who advocates having more than one of the same type of pet, it was time to get new birds.

So, on March 3rd, we went out and grabbed two new chicks: an Ameraucana and  a Gold/Sliver-Laced Wynadotte.  Again,  you gotta have at least two of the same pet, or your OCD kicks in and you attach human emotions to your pets.  Ya dig?

Nice Poop, dude. 
Cat toys?

There is some debate on which bird is which type, and we will settle on names as soon as they begin to ripen. The interesting part (if there is one), is how fast these things grow.  We got them when they were about two weeks old or so, and their wing feathers are already coming in.  After two weeks, most of their fuzz has changed into solid feathers!  It's kind of amazing, really.  They are already in their awkward stage, and makes me happy that my backyard is like the isle of Lesbos, or else I'd have to give everyone "The Talk".  

The Ameracauna? Or Wynadotte?

At any rate, we have about 9 weeks to go until they go outside. That's all from BirdTown. Now's the time to remind you that if you are buying anything from Amazon, please click the banner up top and shop that way.  Or hit that Donate button if anything I said here is worth while to you.  Not that it ever would be.  But I don't know if you have a history of head trauma or anything, and might be sensitive to that sort of recommendation. 

Friday, March 2, 2012

Taking Photos At Disneyland

I love Disneyland.  I also love taking interesting pictures, though I really hate carrying my DSLR around the park all day.  Sometimes I forget that I have a fairly good quality camera on my phone (as most of us do), and in good lighting I can take a very nice quality photo with it.

On a recent trip to Disneyland I rediscovered the HDR app I installed several months ago called, of all things, HDR Camera.  I have the Android version, so if you are Apple-inclined, I'm not sure if this applies.  HDR ( or High Dynamic Range) photography is rad, combining different exposures from multiple images of the same subject to produce an image entirely new and impossible to get from just one single image.  For an example, check out my buddy Charlie's HDR of a snow day downtown.  My app can't do images of this quality, but it is good enough to offer a different photo experience while at Disneyland.

The app takes 4 photos, each at different exposures, and meshes them all into one picture.  Then it gives you some ways to adjust things like color saturation and contrast to sort of dial in your new HDR image.  Most of the time I end up tuning the saturation and contrast sliders up all the way, but that's just me and that's how I like the images that come from this particular app.  The hard part is holding the camera still while it cycles through the four pictures.  Just breathe out slowly and you'll be fine. 

Ok, so the details are done, let's look at some pics!  Here are two photos I took of the Flag Retreat Ceremony at Disneyland, something I've been wanting to see for a long time now.  See it: it's cool, and something not many people know about.  It is a bit too cheesy at times, but hey - who cares?  

The Daper Dans are singing, and sounding great.  The first image is just my little Droid X on Automatic.  The second is another pic I took using the HDR app.  As you can see, everything pops a bit more, while not looking too cartoonish, as can happen with HDR photos.  Nothing fancy, but it does enable you to take a more vivid photo with minimal work. 

I've been really into the Haunted Mansion lately, and on this trip it just screamed HDR to me.  

This is a good example of not having enough light in the other shots to compose a decent image, but it's still a bit more interesting than it would have been normally.  The siding on the walls of the porch stand out more, while keeping the rest of the house covered in shadows, with just enough moonlight to define some edges.  I don't have a normal shot to compare, but it's still an ok example of this app.

These were taken inside the mansion, in the elevator that takes you down to the ride itself.  The top one is normal camera function, the second is the HDR app.  The differences here are clear - not only are the colors brigher, but you can see some detail on the gargoyle to the left of the frame. Some of the right gargoyle and the candle flames are blurred out, however, and this is a good example of the downside of mixing 4 pictures in  a free HDR app.  I'm not sure why this happens, though I imagine it's probably a factor of matching all four pics into one and accounting for camera movement.  Oh well, I'm not looking to print these, just to have a little fun. 

Nothing fancy here, I was just testing it on the plaque that sits above the fountain in line for Pirates.  Ever notice it?  It's in HDR, so the color of the tile and grout is a bit more saturated, and I think the detail of the engraving is more pronounced.  Not to mention the rad color scheme near the bottom, closest to the water.  

HDR is better when you have some cool lighting to play with, and night time at Disney California Adventure offers a playground of lighting effects.  This shot is of the zephyr ride (which always seems to be broken when I want to ride it ... ) and the entrance to Paradise Pier.  

THIS is what HDR can do for your images.  Never mind the ugly blue cropping at the bottom, just look at the almost neon blue sky with the lights playing off the wires.  Good shot for a free app.  Try taking this with your camera phone and the sky will be dark and the lights blown out.  

Leaving DCA, I had to snap this pic of the new sign at the entrance, again reaching for the softness of the HDR app.  This was my favorite photo from the trip.

They don't look all that different, but I think the bottom image in HDR is more interesting when you look down at the gates and bars.  

I hope this makes you want to futz around with some free HDR apps in the future.  They can be great fun, but they eat your battery alive and don't always produce great results, but I think it makes you look at Disneyland in a new way, while looking for cool photos to take.  It's not a fix-all for bad photography, but more of an extra tool in your bag to have some more fun.