Dude's Brews


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My First Homebrew Competition

Posted by Don on February 25, 2013 at 7:30 PM Comments comments (0)

So I have been brewing for about 2 years now and have made well over 1000 bottles of beer. Don't worry, I didn't drink them all myself. That is one of the best things about this wonderful hobby, I usually don't have a hard time finding someone to help me enjoy the fruits of my labor. So far, I have enjoyed most of the beers I have crafted and have received very positive feedback from those I have shared them with. However, over the last few months, I have been wondering how my beers would fare in a competition. 

While browsing around the AHA (American Homebrew Association) Website, I noticed the "competitions" link at the top of the page. I have been hesitant to ship any of my brews due to convenience (it is not legal to do so through the US Postal Service) or cost (around $20 through UPS or Fed Ex). So I decided to see if there were any competitions within a reasonable drive of my home. Lo and Behold, the 2013 Boston Homebrew Competition was accepting entries until February 15th for their competition on Saturday, February 23rd. That didn't give me much time. Most of the bottled beers I had in reserve were a little past their prime and my most recent batch, the Honey Ale brewed by the White House for the last Super Bowl, was in my keg so if I was going to enter this event, I had to get brewing. 

First, what kind of beer to brew. Since this was my first competition, I wanted to improve my chances so I reviewed the lists of previous year's winners/entries to see which categories traditionally had the least amount of entries. After much thought, I decided to enter the Fruit Beer category. I had brewed some fruit beers in the past (Cherry Wheat and Blueberry Wheat) with pretty good results. However, rather than brew another wheat beer, I decided to add fruit to one of my favorite styles, Blonde Ale. Now that I decided what kind of beer to brew, I needed a recipe. I use a website called Beer Tools to formulate my recipes. After a short period of time, I had a recipe that looked good on paper. So it was off to the brew store to pick up my supplies. This time, I purchased my ingredients from The Homebrew Emporium in West Boylston. I decided to buy enough ingredients to make six gallons which I would split into 2 three gallon batches; one plain blonde ale and one with blueberry flavor extract (I used real blueberries and the extract in the past and found that I liked the taste of the beer with the flavor extract better). 

Finally, time to brew. Sunday, January 13th was a cloudy but very mild day so I set up my Mash Tun in the garage and got to work on this All Grain Brew. Six hours later, all my equipment was cleaned and put away and I had 2 carboys filled and ready to ferment. I pitched the yeast and prepared for the hardest part of the brewing process......waiting. 

After 2 weeks, the beer was ready to bottle. I ended up with about 30 bottles of each. Now part two of the waiting game, waiting for the beer to carbonate in the bottle (aka bottle conditioning). This process usually takes any where from 2 to 3 weeks. But with the approaching deadline for entries, this meant I would have to drop off my entry prior to tasting it. So on Groundhog Day, my oldest son and I drove to one of the drop off sites, The Craft Beer Cellar in Belmont.  

Fast forward to Saturday, February 23rd....competition day.  I cracked open one of the beers from the batch to give it a taste.  Not bad. I had tried it the week before and was disappointed that the flavors hadn't fully blended yet. I crossed my fingers and hoped the extra week would take care of that. 

On Sunday, I decided to take a look at the competition's website to see if they posted the results yet. I was surprised to see that they had and took a look to see how I did. The main reason I entered this competition was to receive feedback from certified beer judges but, I thought, how cool would it be to have my beer actually place (first, second, or third) in it's category. After scrolling down the page I located category 20......Fruit Beers.

My wife says that the look of shock on my face was priceless....not only did I place, but I finished first in the category! I am now anxiously awaiting to receive a package which will not only contain copies of the judges scoresheets, but my first place medal as well. Once it arrives, I will be sure to post a picture of it along with a picture of my award winning Blueberry Blonde Ale.   

Update - Thursday, March 21, 2013 - After a very long wait thanks to an error by the US Postal Service, I have finally received my package. Along with my medal and scoresheets (see Photos section), I also received a T-Shirt, a package of hops, and a music CD. I also received 2 pint glasses, a bottle of Belgium Tripel Ale,  and a certificate for a 55lb bag of grain from the Cambridge Brewing Company.  

Beer Trip 2011

Posted by Don on October 11, 2011 at 9:30 PM Comments comments (1)

One of my oldest and dearest friends, Brad, lives in the great state of Wisconsin. I have been out to visit him on several occasions, usually with the family in tow. A few years back, after seeing the movie "Sideways" about 2 buddies who go on a California road trip to see the various vineyards, Brad came up with the great idea to do the same in Wisconsin except with beer. Thanks to our patient and supportive families, we were finally able to make this happen. Here is a travel log of the various breweries and pubs we hit along the way with a list of all the beers I tasted. Photos from this excursion can be found in my photos section. 

Day #1 - Wednesday

After picking me up at the Milwaukee airport, Brad took me to our first stop.....a cigar bar in Waukesha, WI called "The Nice Ash".  www.theniceash.com  They had a great selection of beers on tap.  I began with a pint of "Fat Tire" from New Belgium brewing and followed it up with a pint of Lagunita's Pale Ale.  

Day #2 - Thursday

Late in the morning, we headed west toward Madison, WI.  On the way, we stopped by a micro brewery in Lake Mills called Tyranena. Unfortunately, they do not open until 4pm so we decided to move on and try to hit it on our way back. After an hour or two on the road, we finally reached our first brewery....New Glarus, home of my favorite beer, Spotted Cow  www.newglarusbrewing.com.  The brewery was very impressive. We went on the self guided tour and then stopped by the gift shop for our 3 samples.  I tried the Wisconsin Belgium Red" which boasts that it has over a pound of cherries in every bottle,  a lager style beer called "Two Women", and their nut brown ale called "Fat Squirrel". After browsing the gift shop, it was time to head into Madison. 

Our final beer stop of day 2 was a small brewery called "Capital Brewery in Middleton, WI  www.capital-brewery.com.  We stopped by the gift shop and learned that they did not have a tour but they did have a beer garden which was just about to open so we adjourned there to meet our bartender, Tiffany. I started with a pint of their American Lager which is called "Supper Club". Then, at Tiffany's advice, I tried a pint of their Hefeweizen, a refreshing wheat beer with a light fruity flavor and an aroma of clove and banana. 

Day #3 - Friday

We headed north from Madison to a place called Stevens Point. It is the home of the fifth oldest continually operated brewery in the United States, Stevens Point Brewery  www.pointbeer.com. A great tour with plenty of samples in the tasting room. I started with their Point Special Lager, moved onto their "Drop Dead Blonde Ale", sampled the Raspberry Saison, and finished with their Octoberfest. 

Next, we headed east to a small town called Amherst. In the middle of an office park, we located Central Waters Brewing  www.centralwaters.com. This brewery features a tap room located right in the middle of their brewery. The place was packed, I had a pint of their Irish Red Ale which was outstanding.  

We finished our evening with a quick drink at a restaurant/pub called the Tilted Kilt www.tiltedkilt.com . In addition to the scenery, I enjoyed a Central Waters Mudpuppy Porter. 

Day#4 - Saturday

We logged quite a bit of time on the road Saturday as we headed to our northernmost destination, Leinenkugels in Chippewa Falls. www.lenie.com  The tour is free and includes 3 free samples in the Lenie's Lodge. The thing I like best about Leinenkugels beer is the ability to blend the flavors. My first sample was a combination of their Creamy Dark and their Berry Weiss (called a Black Bear).  Next I had a combination of their Octoberfest with their Red Lager (called a submarine...get it?)  I finished with a sample of their Octoberfest.

After leaving Lenie's we started our long drive back to Brad's house. As luck would have it, fate put us in Lake Mills just after 4pm so we were able to stop by Tyranena www.tyranena.com . Brad and I split their sampler in the tasting room; nine 4oz samples of their various beers and 1 sample of their root beer. Since Brad was driving, he had the root beer and 4 beer samples. Leaving 5 of the 4oz samples for me. My samples were, Stone Tepee Pale Ale, Bitter Woman IPA, Chief Blackhawk Porter, Hop Whore, and my personal favorite, Scurvy IPA which featured bitter hops balanced by orange zest.

Day#5 - Sunday   

Being a Sunday in Wisconsin, we were required by law to watch the Packers game. Prior to kickoff, Brad learned that Sprecher Brewing Company in Milwaukee http://www.sprecherbrewery.com had a Sunday tour we could hit before kick off. We were glad we did. Great tour with 3 good sized samples. I had their Black Bavarian, Hefeweiss, and Dopple Bock. We headed back to Brad's just in time for the game.

Day#6 - Monday

I said goodbye to my gracious host and his wonderful wife and headed home. During our 5 day excursion, we visited 7 breweries and 2 pubs. I sampled 24 different beers and got to spend some quality time with a great friend. Be sure to check out the photos from this journey in my photos section.