Brackets and Green Beer: Embrace March Madness

March 17, 2016

At Van West Media, we take the month of March very seriously. Why? Two words: basketball and beer. Of course, St. Patrick’s Day is a holiday celebrated worldwide – so we decided the best way to celebrate St. Paddy’s Day and the NCAA March Madness tournament was with a green beer taste test and a Van West Media-branded basketball bracket, which you can download for yourself here.

Make the Beer Green: The Tasting Process

Food coloring was added to three different lagers and one ale which were judged blindly by three individuals to determine which we thought might make the most ideal green beer for St. Patrick’s Day.


The beers were poured into clear plastic cups and labeled A,B,C,D to keep it anonymous. This was a non-scientific, but very enjoyable exercise.

PSA: No leprechauns or rainbows were harmed while carrying out this experiment.

Ales vs. Lagers – What Gives?

These two types of beer are like the primary two branches of the beer family tree and every beer (exluding some sours/wild beers and extremes) falls into one of these two categories. The most notable difference is bottom-fermenting yeast versus top fermenting yeast, as well as the temperature at which the beer is fermented. Lager yeast likes to bottom ferment at colder temperatures whereas ale yeast is top fermenting and likes things a little warmer.

For the science types out there – yeast are single-celled mircororganisms and there are hundreds of varieties and strains out there. Different yeast strains can impact the finished flavor of beer in different ways and remember – no yeast = no beer so show some respect. There isn’t a ‘better’ or ‘worse’ when it comes to Lagers or Ales and there are many different individual beer styles within each of these categories.

Beers and Styles Used in This Experiment

Lagunitas IPA – American Style India Pale Ale

A well established IPA from California that has been around since before this whole craft beer thing was even a thing. Bitter, hoppy and high gravity (strong). Fun fact – 43 different hops and 65 various malts!

Smuttynose Vunderbar Pilsner – German Pilsner
A delicious clean, clear and crisp drinking lighter colored pilsner. Delicate and easy to drink and amazingly good when you can find it really fresh or on draft. Fun fact – There is an actual song for this beer (read on or view below. You won’t regret it)

Kelso Pilsner – Czech Pale Lager (Czech/Bohemian Pilsner)
Head brewer Kelly Taylor has a history in beer stretching back to the early 90’s and founded Kelso with his wife in 2006. Aside from brewing awesome beer, he has mentored countless other brewers and industry folks in the NYC area. Fun Fact – local favorite brewing right here in Brooklyn!

Braven Bushwick Pilsner – Czech Pale Lager (Czech/Bohemian Pilsner)
Kind of the new kid on the block, Braven Brewing Company has been around since 2013 with a strong affinity to the Bushwick Brooklyn neighborhood. This beer was brewed in the tradition of an old Brooklyn style and is something you can drink all day and still walk straight on your way to the L-train that’s running shuttle and 30 minutes late. Fun Fact – currently raising money to build a brewery if you want to invest.

How We Rated the Beers

04_ourtastetestersVery unscientifically. I repeat, very unscientifically, but hey – the beer was green. If we were being responsible we would have used something like the scoresheet from the Beer Judge Certification Program, which is a well-established 50 point scoring system for rating beer in BJCP sanctioned homebrew competitions. This scoring system provides an easy to follow and mostly objective framework in which beers are scored according to accuracy of their defined style. You can download a BJCP scoresheet online. Below are the primary metrics (beer goggle analytics, anyone?) used in their scoring framework.

Not that we followed BJCP Guidelines, but if we did it, the rating framework would be as follows:
Aroma – 12 Points
Appearance – 3 Points
Flavor – 20 Points
Mouthfeel – 5 points
Overall Impression – 10 points

Beer Style Overviews:
(Styles and description from the BJCP website –

American IPA
(21A from BJCP Style Guidelines):
Overall Impression: A decidedly hoppy and bitter, moderately strong American pale ale, showcasing modern American or New World hop varieties. The balance is hop forward, with a clean fermentation profile, dryish finish, and clean, supporting malt allowing a creative range of hop character to shine through.

German Pilsner
(5D from BJCP Style Guidelines):
Overall Impression: A light-bodied, highly-attenuated, gold-colored, bottom-fermented bitter German beer showing excellent head retention and an elegant, floral hop aroma. Crisp, clean, and refreshing, a German Pils showcases the finest quality German malt and hops.

Czech Pale Lager/Czech Premium Pale Lager
(3A/3B from BJCP Style Guidelines):
Overall Impression(3A): A lighter-bodied, rich, refreshing, hoppy, bitter pale Czech lager having the familiar flavors of the stronger Czech Premium Pale Lager (Pilsner-type) beer but in a lower alcohol, lighter-bodied, and slightly less intense format.

Overall Impression (3B): Rich, characterful, pale Czech lager, with considerable malt and hop character and a long, rounded finish. Complex yet well-balanced and refreshing. The malt flavors are complex for a Pilsner-type beer, and the bitterness is strong but clean and without harshness, which gives a rounded impression that enhances drinkability.

And the Winner is…

Smuttynose Vunderbar Pilsner – Smuttynose Brewing Company


Beer Nerd Warning: Since we were judging multiple styles at different temperatures and at different freshness, the results can hardly be considered scientific or conclusive. We were also performing under sub-optimal workplace conference room conditions – primarily meaning no pretzels for palette cleansing, beer with varying freshness dates (always look to see if your beer has a date before you buy it), temperature differences in one of the styles and a vague guilt about the unanswered emails piling up in inboxes while we shamefully colored perfectly good beer green. That being said, the judging was blind which provided some objectivity.


So before you start feverishly filling out your NCAA bracket over some green beer, here are some words of wisdom we learned from the owner of Good Beer NYC, an amazing craft beer shop in the East Village of NYC:

What’s the best beer in the world?
The one that’s in your hand right now.

How Nonprofits Can Benefit from Google Ad Grants

March 15, 2016

With AdWords, an online advertising solution from Google, nonprofits can receive Google ad grants upwards of $10,000 for monthly advertising to share their story with audiences all around the world and thus recruit more volunteers and bring in more donations.

Nonprofit organizations are working on changing the world – Google wants to help them do that.

Google_2015_logo.svgGoogle Ad Grants allows nonprofits organizations to reach out to the people who matter the most. This is done by showing search ads to those searching Google for nonprofits in similar fields. Google Ad Grants also allows the nonprofit to choose how near or how far to focus the ads. Google Ad Grants also makes it significantly easier for supporters to donate. A simplified experience makes it more likely for people to be willing to donate.

Once ads go live, nonprofits can use Google Analytics as well as conversion tracking in order to understanding how their ads are performing. These tools allow the organization to see what keywords are working or aren’t, which ads are driving the most donations or bringing in the most volunteers, etc. The answers to these questions will lead to much stronger and goal oriented ads.

The way it works is pretty simple. First, check to see if your nonprofit is eligible for Grantspro. With this program, if the nonprofit meets certain criteria, they can receive up to $40,000 in in-kind AdWords advertising every month. Just check out the Google Ad Grants success stories!

Then there are two options to choose from, AdWords Express is the program best suited for those who have limited time to manage a Google Ad Grants account, or AdWords which has the powerful tools needed to manage all aspects of a Google Ad Grants campaign.

Quick Facts about Google Grants for Nonprofits

  • Ads will be entirely text-based
  • Ads will only appear on Google search results pages
  • Ad campaigns must be keyword-targeted.
  • Maximum cost-per-click (CPC) will be $2.00
  • Grantees can receive $10,000 (or up to $40,000 for Grantspro participants) of in-kind AdWords advertising each month.

Contact Van West Media today to strategically develop and manage your nonprofit organization’s Google AdWords campaigns. 

To discover if your nonprofit is a fit for the Google Ad Grants for Nonprofits program, check out these great resources:


Farming Goes Vertical: AeroFarms Launches New Site By Van West Media

March 3, 2016

Aerofarms-logoVertical farming is the next big thing in AgTech and AeroFarms, a company headquartered in New Jersey, has spent the last ten years positioning itself to be at the forefront of the vertical farming movement. With significant funding in place and having broken ground on a 70,000 square foot Newark facility in 2015, AeroFarms is on a mission to combat the global food crisis by leveraging patented technology and farming locally. AeroFarms builds, owns and operates indoor vertical farms that grow safe, nutritious food in a way that is respectful to the planet and the communities in which they grow.

As pioneers in this space, and ready to launch their core products into the marketplace, AeroFarms wanted to find an agency to partner with that could clearly convey a multi-faceted story for its corporate website redesign. This story needed to speak to a divergent audience exactly what differentiates AeroFarms from the many new players beginning to crowd the vertical farming space.

Success metrics were focused on three core audiences that AeroFarms wanted to attract moving forward. These included potential investors/partners, new employees, and the media. Working closely with the AeroFarms team, Van West Media defined several main goals for brand positioning and how to incorporate these goals into the website redesign.

Our Goal: AeroFarms needed to convey the company’s proprietary technology in an engaging manner without allowing the story and visuals to become too techy or inscrutable for general audiences.

Our Solution: Highlight and showcase the rich visuals without impeding on the extensive company narrative and story. We used colors that are bright and inviting as well as colorful imagery set against clean crisp white pages. We complimented this with easy-to-read texts, allowing for very digestible chunks of content with built-in “scan-ability”. Subtle scroll animations respond to user interactions allowing for increased engagement and user synergy.Image1_AeroFarms

Our Goal: The website redesign had to clearly and concisely tell AeroFarms’ multi-faceted story. This story includes providing a possible solution to help solve the global food crisis, explaining the nutritious benefits of sustainable and socially responsible food production, and the benefits of being respectful to the planet and local communities. All without being heavy handed.

Our Solution: Create a system of communication that appeals to a broad audience, but also speaks to those who are interested in a deeper dive into the company’s technology and environmental benefits. We worked closely with AeroFarms to weave the proprietary technology and the environmental story throughout the site. This allowed curious users to explore AeroFarms accomplishments to date as well as the rich story behind the AeroFarms concept.Image2_aero-farms-responsivev2

Our Goal: Differentiate an established company like AeroFarms from the many new players entering the indoor farming space.

Our Solution: Create a website that functions in the cleanest, clearest and most seamless way possible in order to showcase AeroFarms’ unique story and value composition. This includes the existing patent, partners, investors, the physical space, future plans, leadership and the very strong media mentions that AeroFarms has already received. Van West Media designed an extremely accessible interface, clean, clear and intuitive navigation, and a site that was designed using today’s best practices so that the incredible story behind AeroFarms could clearly and effectively resonate throughout the entire site.Image3_AeroFarms - In the News

Van West Media looks forward to the next chapter in our exciting partnership with AeroFarms. Stay tuned…