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Homebrewers head to Denver

Eight hundred or so homebrewers will gather this week in Denver for the American Homebrewers Association’s national conference.

Last week the Rocky Mountain News had a story about how the hobby contributes to Colorado’s economy – including the fact that perhaps 90% of professional brewers got their start as home brewers. The Denver Post had a similar story about “Making leap from beer to there.”

The conference itself runs Thursday through Friday (details), but there are official pre-conference events beginning Tuesday.

Additionally, Flying Dog Brewery and Wyeast Laboratories, Inc. are hosting a reception Thursday from 4:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the Blake Street Tavern, next door to Flying Dog Brewery in Denver.

Reception attendees will be treated to presenting speakers from both Flying Dog and Wyeast, an array of door prizes, complementary hors d’oeuvres and samples of Flying Dog’s barrel-aged Horn Dog Barley Wine release. Admission is FREE, but limited to the first 75 people.

Speakers scheduled to present:
Eric Warner – Lead Dog, Flying Dog Brewery: Discussing his background, the importance of homebrewing and how to get into the beer business
Matt Brophy – Head Brewer, Flying Dog Brewery: Flying Dog’s Open Source Beer Project
Jon Graber – Wyeast, Marketing and Sales Manager: Wyeast’s “Very Special Strain” (VSS) promotion
David Logsdon – Wyeast, Founder/Owner – The importance of yeast health
Greg Doss – Wyeast, QC Manager/Brewer/Microbiologist – The benefits of using the Wyeast Activator package.

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Wyeast debuts gluten-free yeast

Wyeast Laboratories will soon begin selling two of its most popular yeasts to homebrewers in gluten-free form. The Oregon yeast lab already offers the yeast to commercial brewing companies.

Wyeast 1272 GF American Ale II and Wyeast 2206 GF Bavarian Lager will be sold in Activator Pure Pitchable Yeast packages.
The gluten-free yeast will be offered to home brewers via Wyeast’s quarterly VSS – Very Special Strains – Promotion beginning July 1. The VSS Promotions feature strains of yeast otherwise unavailable to homebrewers. Wyeast expects these gluten free strains to be continued as permanent offerings when this introductory promotion has ended.

Jess Caudill, product and process development microbiologist at Wyeast reports that these strains have performed well in test brews at the lab, and at independent test breweries and labs. Yeast vitality and overall cell count will be comparable to Wyeast’s current popular products.

Due to an increase in celiac disease, gluten intolerance and wheat and barley allergies, gluten-free products are one of the fastest growing sectors in the food industry. While much of the attention has centered on find grains to replace barley and wheat malts – the two most commonly used in brewing – using gluten free yeast is just as important.

Until recently, commercial or homebrewers who want to brew beer free of gluten had to propagate their own yeast in a gluten-free medium.

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New beers from the northeast

LongShot beersThe three winning brews from the 2006 Samuel Adams American Homebrew Contest are now available nationally in the Samuel Adams LongShot mix six-pack. The homebrews, which include an Old Ale by Don Oliver of California and a Dortmunder Export brewed by Bruce Stott from Massachusetts, were chosen from more than 1,500 consumer entries. Rounding out the variety pack is a Boysenberry Wheat, submitted by Samuel Adams employee winner Ken Smith from Colorado.

Boston Beer also has posted the rules for the 2007 Samuel Adams American Homebrew Contest. Entries must be received between April 15 and May 1. The winners will be announced in October at the 2007 Great American Beer Festival.

Magic Hat Brewing Co. will ship hI.P.A. to mark the return of spring (kind of important to the folks in chilly Vermont). A more heavily-hopped version of IPA, hI.P.A. featrues exclusive artwork from legendary 1960s design icon Stanley Mouse. From his distinctive hot rod illustrations to posters that defined the 1960s concert experience, Mouse placed his creative stamp on an entire generation.

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AHA membership up 20%

Celebrating its 28th birthday, the American Homebrewers Association reports membership has grown 20% in 2006.

“Today’s AHA has evolved with the times, recognizing the value of maintaining the tradition and quality of homebrewing in the USA,” said founder Charlie Papazian.

“In 1978 when the AHA was founded it was alive with the thirst for pioneering the original themes of flavor and diversity, says Papazian, “We were the original craft brewers with a passion for telling the world about great beer and how to make it at home.”

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Friends teach friends to homebrew

The numbers are in from the American Homebrewers Association 8th annual Teach a Friend to Homebrew Day. Homebrewers from 29 states as well as the Yukon Territory in Canada, South Africa, Nigeria, and England, participated at 128 sites.

The AHA began the event – always held the first Saturday in November – as an international effort to introduce people to the homebrewing hobby and establish relationships with local homebrew supply shops and homebrew clubs. Basically, those who already know how to brew help those who don’t brew a batch of beer.

This year the AHA counted 786 participants at the 128 sites with an estimated 260 new homebrewers being introduced to the hobby.

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Carolina brewers win first GABF Pro-Am

Jamie Bartholomaus of Foothills Brewing in Winston-Salem, N.C., and long-time homebrewer Tom Nolan teamed up to win the 2006 Great American Beer Festival Pro-Am Competition. Bartholomaus scaled up Nolan’s 11-gallon homebrew recipe for a Baltic Porter.

Scott Yarosh of Papago Brewing (as well as Sonoran Brewing) and homebrewer Barry Tingleff captured the silver medal with Hop Dog IPA, while Whale’s Tail Pale Ale from Odell Brewing Co. won the bronze. Odell’s founder Doug Odell brewed the pale ale with homebrewer Ryan Thomas.

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Making the BJCP test look easy

Many have equated taking the Beer Judge Certification Program exam to tackling the law boards. That might be a stretch, but it’s tough enough that a presidential candidate could gain a few more votes by suggesting a “No brewer left behind” program.

But the BJCP test looks a lot easier when you look at what it takes to earn the title of Master of Wine.

Of course, the wine title also costs more.

The first hurdle for a prospective candidate is just to get in the program. Successful applicants typically have worked several years in the wine industry or hold a diploma from the Wine & Spirit Education Trust, an educational body affiliated with the IMT. They must write an essay (sample question: Discuss the role of wood in fermenting wine), and if accepted, they must part with $2,200 for a three-day seminar to introduce them to the program.

Almost makes you think wine experts have earned the right to sound pretentious.

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Minnesota woman wins Lallemand scholarship

G.L. Exire LaTourA Minneapolis woman has won the 2006 Lallemand Scholarship that entitles her to a two-week brewing course at the Siebel Institute of Technology. Winner Gera (G.L.) Exire LaTour has been brewing since March 2004.

The Lallemand Scholarship goes annually to a member of the American Homebrewers’ and includes $2,900 for tuition to the World Brewing Academy Concise Course in Brewing Technology but also $1,000 to use for expenses.

The winner won her first blue ribbon at the Minnesota State Fair Home Brew Contest with a Cucumber Dill Cream Ale. She is an active member of the Minnesota Homebrewers Association, where she is known for her eclectic beers. She is a Certified Beer Judge with the BJCP and helps organize local BJCP exam prep classes.

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Hey dad, how about a homebrew kit?

homebrewersThere’s much to be said for Arizona Daily Star’s story about homebrewing, pegged to the idea that a homebrew kit makes a good gift for Father’s Day.

It does. But you’ll be happier if you don’t let the headline (taken from a quote in the story) set your expectations too high.

It reads: “Homebrew: ‘You can’t buy beer as good as you can make'”

Wrong. Yes you can, and we’re not even going to bother to start listing the names of beers.

Back to homebrewing. You can learn to make great beer, better than some beers you buy and beer that you’ll like even better because you brewed it. Just be prepared for the consequences the story points out:

With Father’s Day approaching, you may be out shopping and see the beginners’ home beer kit and think, “Now that’s something Dad would love.” A word of warning — within its cute little brown plastic barrel and embossed staves is a lifestyle change, poised and just waiting to strike.

And that’s a good thing.