In Memory of Bob the Beer Engineer

It is with heavy hearts that we say goodbye to our dear friend and respected colleague, Robert Turnbull, fondly known as Bob the Beer Engineer to us and his devoted readers.

The senior project engineer for Marvel, Bob poured a lifetime of experience into our undercounter product line and was significant in the development of Marvel’s award-winning beer dispensers and wine refrigerators.  He was also one helluva brew master and craft beer aficionado. It’s because of these talents that we started calling him Bob the Beer Engineer, a nickname that stuck.

A creative and inventive engineer, Bob could work his way to the top of any design challenge to create innovative appliances that we could all be proud of. And, he did it all with a sense of humor and a contagious laugh that could turn your day right side up. If you asked him how he was doing, you could bet his reply would be, “Living the dream!”

Deeply entrenched in his craft, Bob cared about his work—and the people. He enjoyed listening to customer “wish lists” to develop a demanded product beyond their expectations. And it was something he did very well. For 12 great years, we were fortunate to have his visionary thinking and practical expertise among our brain trust of engineers.

Bob once said:

Drinking good beer is done for many reasons.  Sometimes we drink to socialize with friends, sometimes to remember old friends, and sometimes just to remember.

Bob, we raise our beer glasses skyward in admiration of you and all the contributions you made to bring out the best in homes across America. Cheers to a friend that we shall drink with again in another place, in another time.

In honor of his legacy, let’s take a look back at the writings he shared with us.


How to Clean Your Marvel Beer Dispenser

To enable instructions, click the video and select “CC”.

Video Tutorial: How to Clean Your Marvel Beer Dispenser

Did you know it’s good practice to clean your beer dispenser regularly to prevent foul-tasting beer?  Watch the video as Bob the Beer Engineer demonstrates how to properly clean your Marvel Beer Dispenser with a Tap Cleaning Kit, or follow the step-by-step instructions below.

Cleaning Your Kegerator: A Step-by-Step Guide
  1. Remove keg to begin.
  2. Close gas valve below regulator.
  3. Push and rotate coupler counterclockwise to detach from keg.
  4. Pull coupler pin to release pressure.
  5. Remove plastic hose clamps with needle nose pliers, and detach red hose line.
  6. Remove plastic hose clamps from beer line, and detach from coupler, using twisting and pulling motion to release.
  7. Use spanner wrench provided in the Tap Cleaning Kit to remove the faucet. Place wrench pin into faucet collar hole and turn clockwise.
  8. Remove tap handle and set aside.
  9. Open cleaning solution provided in the Tap Cleaning Kit and place half scoop into the mixing bottle.
  10. Fill mixing bottle halfway with water, and shake carefully until thoroughly mixed.
  11. Attach cleaner hose by rotating faucet collar counterclockwise.
  12. Pump to inject cleaning solution through tap lines, and after all solution has cleared through the lines, remove cleaner hose from the faucet tower.
  13. Clean grate and top sump area with soapy water and dry.
  14. Unscrew faucet assembly and soak in hot water.
  15. Use the brush provided in the Tap Cleaning Kit to scrub stuck-on grime, and allow the parts to dry.
  16. Scrub coupler with hot water and let dry.
  17. Reassemble tap faucet, and reattach to tower. Tighten with spanner wrench, and screw on tap handle. (Make sure it’s pushed back.)
  18. Reattach red gas line and plastic hose clamps to coupler, and snap clamps into place with pliers.
  19. Reattach beer line and plastic hose clamps, securing clamps with pliers.
  20. Now you’re ready for a fresh keg!

Order Tap Cleaning Kit

The Tap Cleaning Kit (Part # 42242373) includes everything to quickly clean your tap, and includes cleaning solution, pump, mixing bottle, brush and wrench.

To order, contact orderdesk@agamarvel.com or call (800) 223-3900.

A Philosophic Look at Beer Glassware

Recently I was working on a home improvement project with an old friend.  After finishing up we had a beer together.  So I wandered down to the bar and decided a pale ale would be a good choice.  My next question to myself is what glass to drink from.  Just to let you know I have a fairly large selection of glasses and mugs to pick from.

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Christmas 2014 gifts from daughters, nieces and nephews

glassware2I am that guy when Christmas comes around and we draw names, whoever draws my name know in a pinch they can get me a set of glasses, beer mug or whatever along those lines.  I have had the obsession with glasses ever since I was a kid.  My dad had a small collection from his time in the service and going to the various bars after.  Back then most bars would advertise with their logo (same as today) and you could pick them up for 2 bits or so (not the same as today).  He also had a small collection of the pilsner glasses with the stem base and gold wheat logo.  For those into antiques you might be aware of this glass.  Anyway, I got a set of these from my father-in-law estate when he passed away.  I proudly keep them on display above my bar, but rarely do I use them.  This past weekend I started to think, “Why don’t I use them?” I must say drinking from this glass brought back many good memories of having a beer with my father-in-law, even though we never used them when he was around.

That night got me thinking about glassware in general.  I know there are all kinds of beer glasses with descriptions and what style of beer each should be used for.  But where did these different style of glasses come from, and why are they matched up to certain beer styles?

First, beer style evolved out of what was available to the brew master. Glass style and shape evolved I assume form what the glass blower liked to make or again what materials they had on hand.  So putting these things together one can only assume that like beer evolved with a region, glassware did also.  Yes there might be a scientific reason why a tulip stemmed goblet works great for a Belgium monk ale.  But I think it is more to do with region stuff.  And that get me back to my point.  Point, did I have a point?  Oh yeah, my point.

A very wise wine server once told me, “The glass you use to drink your wine from is called a wine glass, get over it.”  I think the same can be said for beer.  But I must stop at plastic cups.  I hate drinking good draft beer from plastic cups. So what about a point again?

Drinking good beer is done for many reasons.  Sometimes we drink to socialize with friends, sometimes to remember old friends, and sometimes just to remember.

Remembering when I was a kid looking at my dad’s glass collection hidden away in that cupboard over the refrigerator all covered with dust. And remembering the stories my Dad told me about the bars he visited in his day, Diamond Jim Brady’s, the Dakota Inn…these are places I will never be able to see.  They are long gone.

My point is, good beer is to be enjoyed, not drank to get drunk.  And what better way to enjoy something, then by remembering.

Take care and drink wisely,

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Bob’s Beer Facts: The Age of Transformation

bob the brewer

Beer has been around for about 10,000 years.  Pretty much the length of modern day human civilization, but in the late 1800s (1860 to 1880) A huge change accrued that most of us take for granted.

For the first 9,800 years (or whatever) humans have been fermenting Ales at room temperature.  But by mid 19th century in Bavaria, they were fermenting at a cooler temperature and the beers were significantly better.

Danish Brewer Carlsberg went to Bavaria to find out why and how.  He isolated the Lager yeast (cooler fermentation temperature), and in a matter of 20 years, 98% of the world’s beer was converted from Ale to Lager.  That my friend is about .2% of human civilization.  One brewer armed with a microscope, who was concerned about the quality of his beer, changed humanity forever.

And that my friend is a quantum leap.

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Key Players in the Craft Beer Movement

Well another Great American Beer Festival has come and gone.  I was unable to attend, but my heart was with everyone who was there.

(You’re welcome brain.)

But before we just start thinking that this is just a place to go drink great beer, I ask everyone to take some time to thank the founders of both the Beer Fest and to the entire craft beer moment.  I do not have the time or space in this blog to go into the true depth that is needed to give just cause to those individuals that deserve our full and deep-hearted thanks.

Thinking of these guys as baseball cards, Fritz Maytag (yup, from the lonely service repairman) would be my Jackie Robinson rookie card.  Here is a guy that spent most of his family inheritance to buy and fix up Anchor Brewing.  By buying an off-color brewery in San Francisco in 1965, he helped stop the decline of little breweries being wiped out by the big three.  He almost went broke but he hung with it and for his persistence we have Steam beer.  Not one of my favorites but a stone in the craft wall that needed to be built.

Jack McAuliffe was in the US Navy when he fell in love with true Scottish ale and brought the love back home where he started home brewing and even giving commercial brew a shot.  Now keep in mind this was before the internet and home brew shops, so where and how he got his stuff is still a mystery to me.  But he served it to his friends and a small craft hot spot started taking off.

Merlin Elhardt started a newsletter for craft beer enthusiasts in the early 70s.  Keep in mind again before internet but also before the fast coping Xerox machines of today.

Charlie Papazian started the Brewers Association, and is the founder of the great American Beer Festival. He’d be like a signed Babe Ruth trading card in good condition.

I am in awe of these four gentlemen and the many more that played their part in the craft beer revolution.

These are the guys, through their love and passion of good beer, restarted what was dying in this country, and some could argue in North America.

Even Canada only had Labatt’s, Hams, Black Label and Cinci, which again is only a Miller or Bud cleaned up a little bit.  These guys and many more rediscovered ales after being all but gone from the market place for a century. (That is another interesting story.)

Take time out and give these guys a big “Salute”.

And a special thanks to Tom Acitelli, author of “The Audacity of Hops”.  Reading about the history of beer is a great way to spend time between stirrings the mash and boil.

Take care and drink wisely,

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Fritz Maytag at Anchor Brewing Co. in 1965, the year he bought the near-bankrupt brewery. Photo courtesy of Anchor Brewing Co.

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New Albion Ale founder Jack McAuliffe, Courtesy Boston Beer

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Merlin Elhardt with The Founding Board of the Maltose Falcons (1974).

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Charlie Papazian, founder of the Brewers Association and Great American Beer Festival.

Bob’s Beer Facts: Age of Beer

Bob the Beer Engineer

I have a sign in my beer cave that states “Beer will change the world, but I don’t know how”. I think this is truer than most people would like to believe.  As many of you might know beer is about 10,000 years old. It was found in clay pots in Sumatra (now modern day Iraq, just south of Mosul).  As some of you might remember from 7th grade social studies class, this was the cradle of civilization. Some could argue which came first, beer and then civilization, or was it beer and then civilization. I have my opinion.

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Specially Brewed Beer

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Photo Credit: Tim and Candy Strain

Paradise by the Dashboard Light

A Recent Adventure with “Specially Brewed for Us” Beer

Say ‘Yah’ to da U.P., Eh?

My family and I recently returned from a vacation in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. While exploring, we stopped for lunch at the Little Falls Inn in a town called Paradise. Yes, there is paradise in the U.P.  Where else could it be? There truly are not too many places in Paradise, and that is what makes it so special. The food was great along with the people and atmosphere. But I digress; this is a blog about beer.

When the waitress asked what we would like to drink, my son-in-law asked what was on tap. Now here is the moment things get interesting! While reciting the list of available beer, she spoke those words that every beer drinker loves to hear:

We have one beer that is brewed especially for us, called Red Flannel Ale.”

8606091105_1e25753a22_hI have had many “brewed especially for us” beers and most are something that the brewer makes and is not too proud of, but every now and then you hit the jackpot. Now usually I do not like red ales too much.  To get the color right many brewers use either black patent or chocolate malt.  This can give a beer too heavy of a roasted tasted with nothing to balance it out. This Red Flannel Ale used I believe different caramel malts to get the color and body correct.  The hop additions were light and very well balanced.  I don’t say this too often, and I don’t think I have ever actually written this, but this was one of my top ten beers of all time.

It was (is) a perfect Red Ale.

I got a little more information from the bartender before we had to leave.  The brewer is Mackinaw Trail Brewery in Petoskey, Michigan.  They are both a brewer and wine maker. Now before you make the mad rush to Petoskey, keep in mind, that as craft beers go, every batch is unique. It could be we hit the perfect beer, or it could also mean that they are really a great brewer.

My point is, if you have a chance to try a unique beer, in a unique place, don’t pass it up.  You will always have a chance to have a “usual beer” when you get back home.  A once-in-a-life time beer happens only once.

Take care and drink wisely,

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Home Brew Fest 2016

Saturday, May 14, was our annual Home Brew Fest and the weather did not cooperate. With below freezing wind chills and a little snow in the air for mid-May, what are you going to do, whine about it? Nah, relax, have a home brew.

The Fest has grown over the past few years from just me, and three beers, to six brewers and 11 beers this year.

We had two Marvel Mobile Beer Dispensers (keg coolers) to keep the pale and Amber beers flowing, along with a jockey box (no ice needed) and a converted refrigerator for the dark beers to dispense with nitro, and two beers in bottles. The Marvel keg coolers worked very well, even in the chilly air.  As many refrigeration engineers will tell you, many refrigerators start to have issues below 55°F.  But the five beers we had in the coolers all came out at 42°F. This is a very good temperature for pale and amber ales.

Marvel Mobile Beer Dispensers at Home Brew Fest

As for the competition, Tommy walked away with $119 in votes for his Chocolate Mike Porter. In second place was Aaron at $59 votes with his Tantrum Tamer IPA. Overall we collected $465 for Relay for Life Cancer Research. The Chocolate Milk Porter was a great addition to this year’s lineup, as the guests agreed, chocolatey and creamy. And my personal favorite, the Tantrum Tamer Pale Ale was just a wonderful beer. I think if it would have been a little warmer, a summer beer could have taken the top spot. It looks like I am going to have to step up my game if I am going to be a contender next year.

Thanks to all those who came out and braved the cold, rainy, snowy, windy weather that we call West Michigan. People as far away as Grand Rapids, Holt, Grand Haven, and even Northern Indiana. All true craft beer lovers. We hope to see you next year.

Drink wisely and take care,

THANKS

I would like to thank all the people involved that helped me make this happen.

To the brewers, Tom, Brian, Scott, Jeff and Aaron, thank you very much for creating such a variety ranging from Belgium Wit to dark porters.

To the grill master, Jim, who brought ribs, chicken and pork butt. Wonderful!

To the set up crew, Nikki, Katie, Jeff and especially my wife who put up with me for the past three months to help put the final details together. I never thought I would need a “she shed” for a beer fest. It was a big hit.

To the Wheatland Gang that allow us the use of the tent and tables.

To the weather, because of the cold we did not need to use any of the 100 pounds of ice I had gathered to keep kegs and food cold. Anyone need some ice?

To Jim for helping us get the name plates needed for our trophies.

To Judy and Jeff for their enthusiasm, pretzel necklaces, and logo cups.

And Mike for being our parking guru. You did a heck of a job. I told you, you wouldn’t need chaps.

home brew fest

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Reinheitsgebot: The Beginning of Beer Purity. Or Is It?

Happy Quincentennial, Reinheitsgebot

April 23, 2016 is the 500th anniversary of the Reinheitsgebot Beer Purity Law of Bavaria. Many consider this the start of “beer purity” laws and the birth of Germany (then Bavaria) as the place best known for the quality of its beer.

But I say, “Not so fast!”

In doing a little background check, (Wikipedia, thank you very much), I discovered there are many older beer laws on the books, some dating back to 974 in nowadays Belgium. So there’s that.

And then there’s also the fact that the Reinheitsgebot is more about the price of beer and grain restrictions than about the quality of beer. See, at the time, some brewers were using wheat and rye, but these grains were needed for bread bakers and thus restricted from use in brewing beer.

Don’t get me wrong, the Reinheitsgebot will always have a very important place in beer-making history. Just don’t take it as the Holy Grail of beer purity it’s been made out to be.

Take care and drink wisely,

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server holding 11 full mugs of beer

Happy National Beer Day

It’s “National Beer Day” today! The day we celebrate the end of the Great Experiment in the U.S (also known as Prohibition). So enjoy a pint (or two) to celebrate the end of a very dark time in U.S. history.

As FDR stated after signing the end to prohibition, “I think this would be a good time for a beer.”

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national beer day prohibition ends in 1933

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