The results of entering my first homebrew competition

August 30, 2011

The Tennessee Valley Fair and the local homebrew club I’m a member of, The Tennessee Valley Homebrewers, teamed up for the fair’s first ever homebrew competition. Homebrew competitions have been a big part of other state’s & region’s fairs for years (most famously the Indiana State Fair’s Brewers’ Cup.) It’s about time something like this took place locally.

   The judging for the competition, the 2011 TVH Homebruin Cup , took place Saturday August 27th on the 5th floor of the Woodruff Building on Gay street. The Woodruff building  is home to Downtown Grill & Brewery and Woodruff Brewing Company. This was a BJCP sanctioned event. I am not a BJCP judge, although I’d like to be. I have committed to once a month study classes to prepare for taking the exam in July of 2012.  For this competition I volunteered to be a steward . My duties were to help organize entries in the cooler and to help the judges. I gave them bottles, told them what the entry number and what style of beer each one was. I also checked the judge sheets and filled out the cover sheets for each entry before handing it in. I learned a lot by watching & listening to the judges and judging process.

   Judging took place in 2 shifts. The morning shift started at approximately 10 am and went until 12:30.  After the first shift everyone went downstairs to the restaurant to a big meal generously provided by the brewery. 

   Ok, let’s me go off on a tangent right now. Anyone who reads my blog knows how much I love Woodruff’s and the Downtown Brewery. It is my home, my go to place, my version of Cheers, where everyone knows my name. Let me tell you, the hospitality that they’ve shown the homebrew club over the years and for the judging in particular was incredible. Maybe that isn’t a strong enough word. They really went out of their way to help us. Just the fact that they let us use their 5th floor for the event was incredibly generous of them. They also let us use their basement and walk in cooler as a staging area for the beer. The brewer, Al, brought us glasses and several growlers full of beer for everyone to drink on. They made a point to check in with us several times to make sure we had everything we needed. The amount of food provided to us at lunch was enough for everyone to gorge themselves. They are a class act through and through. Thank you so much guys!

  Alright, so after lunch it was on to the afternoon shift. Several of the judges and stewards from the morning shift couldn’t stick around for the afternoon. I ended up stewarding a table by myself. It is an interesting experience to sit there and listen to the judges critique your beer while making sure to keep a poker face.  I had entered 5 beers in the competition. To be honest, I knew up front that at least 2 of them were awful when I entered them. I was hoping the feedback provided would help point out to me where I went wrong. I honestly did not expect to win any medals. I took into consideration when I entered them the fact that  I would be up against brewers who have been doing this for 2o plus years, and that our club has many award winning brewers that make beer, in my opinion, that is far superior to mine. The reason I entered the competition was not because I thought I might win, but for the detailed feedback that is provided by the judging process. I knew I could use this feedback to point out where I could make improvements in my  brewing processes. I basically entered so I could learn things that would help me become a better brewer. I got exactly what I expected. I didn’t win, although my pale ale was 1 point away from 3rd place. I did get the great feedback that I expected. Some of the things pointed out to me have already changed the way I brew. Overall it was a great learning experience.

The last round of the day was for fruit beer and BJCP style catagory 23 “specialty beer” or as the judges called it “weird beer”. It’s for beer that doesn’t fit in any of the other catagories. I stewarded this round as well. We did fruit based beer first. Then I got to play a joke on the judges. When we pull the next entry out of the cooler, we tell them what the entry number is and what kind of beer it is as well. I pulled out a beer, gave them an entry number and told them it was a cucumber, mustard seed, coconut beer based on a light American Lager. They all moaned and the look on their faces was priceless. I still laugh when I think about it.  I told them I was just kidding and told them the real type of beer. They all had a sigh of relief. One of the judges told me that he was going to quit when I announced that one. So, fellow homebrewers please, we all can appreciate a well done “weird beer”, but don’t go making a cucumber, mustard seed, coconut beer based on a light American Lager. It’s not something that will win you any friends.

Well if you are interested to see who won the competition, you can click this link. Congratulations to all the winners and a big thanks to everyone who participated. I plan on being back next year. Who knows, I might even place if I can step up my game between now and then.




Another reason to homebrew: sharing w/ friends.

August 21, 2011

My last post I put in the title a great problem to have. I never touched on that, so I thought I would do so now. The problem I was going to mention isn’t really a problem, more like a storage issue. I had too much beer. Now wait a minute you say. To much beer? There’s no such thing. Well, as inclined I am to agree with you, there is only so much square feet of space in my house.

Before I go any farther, let me talk about proper beer storage. Good beer and homebrew in particular is very sensitive to temperature. Ideally (and depending on style) beer should be stored between 38 to 55 degrees. I try to keep all my beers stored in my beer fridges. If I don’t have room, I store them in coolers placed on top of air conditioner vents. This typically keeps them cool, but as I rotate through them, I move them to the fridges as soon as I can.

My main beer fridge is a chest freezer that I placed a thermostat control to keep it around 40 degrees. I had boxed of bottles stacked on one another. When I recently kegged some beer, I had to remove them to make room. Kegs have to be kept cold for the CO2 to absorb into the beer for carbonation. My other fridge is just my standard kitchen fridge with food in it. It has always had and will continue to have more beer then food in it. So until a week or 2 ago, I ran out of cold storage space for beer. I did what any self respecting homebrewer should do in my position. I called a few friends over for a party. After a night 0f hanging out with buddies, my cold storage issue was a little less of an issue. I am working on clearing out a few more kegs that I anticipate needing soon. I brought 2 of them to a camping party last night. We didn’t finish them, but we made a pretty good dent. I should have no problem finishing them off by the time I need them.

Imperial Stout and Citra Pale Ale

Which brings me to my main point. If you find yourself running out of room for beer storage because you brew every chance you get, well it’s a good thing. It’s a problem people are more then happy helping you out with. Just be careful who you share with. I had to cut a few people off last night because they were drinking a 8.5% Imperial Stout like it was chocolate milk and getting more then a little swilly. There were a few younger looking people (it’s so funny how 20 somethings look so young to me now) that I felt like carding just to make sure they were legal. Friends assured me that they were, and seriously, I wasn’t trying to be “that guy” at the party.

Ok, Reminder to myself. This weeks beer chores: Bottle ESB on Thursday. Clean sanitize, etc all week to get ready. Saturday is the Judging for the Tennessee Valley Fair’s Homebrew competition. I’ll be at Downtown Grill & Brewery all day, helping stewart the event. I have 5 beers I entered. I have zero expectations of winning, I am really looking forward to honest feedback that will help me become a better brewer. Some of the judges are guys who make excellent beer. Beer I find to be far superior to what I brew.

Sunday I am going to brew 10 gallons of Butternut Squash Ale for Brewer’s Jam. So all week I need to clean/ sanitize equipment, and process the squash. Anyone out there reading this that I can bribe with beer to come help me with this?

Visit to Florida, a wonderful problem to have and more….

August 14, 2011

Hey 1 or 2 readers (do I have that many?) here is yet another overdue and delayed post. I really have intentions of posting more often, but work, lack of internet at home, etc is hindering this. (excuses, excuses). Anyway….

Last weekend I went down to Florida. Specifically Pinellas Park Florida, where I grew up. My mom still lives in the house that I lived in when I graduated high school in ’92. She kindly offered to pay for Orion and Myself to fly down and rent a car for the weekend. I haven’t been down to Pinellas Park for  around 10 years or so. It was strange to see how things changed in that short period of time. The woods where I use to play as a kid is now yet another neighborhood of houses. Enough about all that, this is supposed to be a beer centric blog.

The Thursday  we flew down  was actually the first social media focused and planned IPA day. August 4th was intended as a celebration of India Pale Ale. All over the world bars and breweries celebrated this popular style of  beer. Unfortunately, because of the flight and hanging out with my family, I did not get to partake of an IPA on IPA day. Oh well, it’s not like that isn’t my go to drink at the Downtown Grill & Brewery or anything. Truth be told, I drink enough IPA year round that one special day dedicated to it wasn’t a big deal to me. I’m sure I could have drove to the store and got a six pack if I was really worried about it.

However, I did get to visit Dunedin Brewery on the Saturday of my trip. In fact when planning the trip, the first thing I did (like any self proclaimed “beer tourist”) was google breweries nearest to my mom’s house. I was delighted to find out that Florida’s Oldest Microbrewery was in the same county, just a short cab ride away. (by short I mean 30 minutes). I am very anti-drunk driving, so we took a cab driven by one of mom’s good buddies at a super reduced rate so that I could sample and imbide some tasty craft beers. They do a tour every Saturday at 5pm. They charge $5 for the tour, but you get a beer and a free pint glass, so it’s a great deal. The tour is super short. One of the brewer’s named Rick took myself and 2 other guys behind the predominately displayed fermentation tanks to talk about the process of brewing. He showed us some ingredients, talked about the grain hopper, the mash tun, the serving tanks and showed us the goodies in the cold storage room. It took maybe 15 minutes, we spent another 15 just talking about beer and other local brewers and events. After the tour I went out and had a sampler of their beers. I meant to take detailed tasting notes for the blog, but determined that it would take my attention away from actually enjoying the beer, so I didn’t. You can see the pictures below. My favorite beer I tried was probably the wheat.

Ok so that’s my visit to the Dunedin Brewery. Since then I have kegged and bottled beer all week long after work. I still need to rack my Mead into the secondary carboy after a month long primary fermentation. Hopefully I’ll get to do that today. I just have to sanitize the carboy. I didn’t brew this weekend, but picked up ingredients to do the next 10 gallons of Butternut Squash ale. I am hoping to find time to brew it next weekend.

One more thing I want to mention on this post. My favorite local place the aforementioned  Downtown Grill & Brewery having their first ever cask night next Wednesday. They took a half barrel of their IPA and dry hopped it with a bunch of extra hops. Then they naturally carbonated it to make “Real Ale”. They are tapping the keg at 6pm. I will be there at 5:45 waiting for this special event. This really is a big deal because for so long The Brewery has never done anything different like this. I mean, they don’t even brew seasonals. Maybe I’ll see you there.

Cheers, Ratchet

A way overdue blog post

August 2, 2011

I’ve been meaning to update this Blog for over a week now to let everyone know how the brewing workshop went.
 Let me give some background on how this workshop came about. I was texting one drunk evening w/ my friend,  Pardo, who is currently an organizer at the Fourth & Gill Community Center.  We talked about doing a homebrew workshop for beginners. We picked a date a month in advance, and that was that. The one condition that I insisted on was that the community center pay for the ingredients so that we could order them in time. As started getting closer to the date, Pardo set up a Facebook event page and sent the information to be published in the Metro Pulse. Well as we kept getting closer to the date & I had yet to receive the money needed to order the supplies. At that point, my money was wrapped up in the Homebrew Club’s BAMO, so I did not have the funds to order them myself. I wasn’t feeling well & after a lot of discussion, I cancelled the Facebook event listing a week ahead. I didn’t have the money for supplies, Pardo said he didn’t have/ couldn’t get the money for supplies, so there wasn’t a point in going forward. At that point there were several dozen people who claimed they were attending on the Facebook event page. Well a week ahead of time, the money materialized. Pardo set up another event listing. By that point, the damage was done. People had thought it was cancelled, and when it showed back up, I guess they lost their enthusiam for the worskshop.

   We had about 10 people show up. My buddy Shane who is also a member of the homebrew club brought some beer as well. I thought his RyePA was very tasty. He gave me his recipe, and I look forward to brewing it one day. We brewed a basic American Wheat beer at the workshop. We used extract to make the beer, so it didn’t take all that long. We did an ice bath to chill the wort. After we were done brewing, Dj Wigs spun some awesome tunes as the night went along. Someone else ordered pizza.

All in all, despite the low attendance, the workshop was a success. There is currently 10 gallons of beer waiting to go into a secondary fermenter. Eventually we will have a tasting or some other type of event at the 4th & Gill Community Center with the finished product.

Here is a link to the Home Brewer’s Mix that Dj Wigs recorded and put online. Feel free to download.

Here are some pictures. Click to embiggen: