Searching for the line between "hobby" and "obsession"

Homebrew Clubing

Nordeast Big River Brew Fest homebrew competition results 2012

The Nordeast Big River Brew Fest homebrew competition, put on by my homebrew club (Nordeast Brewers Alliance), culminated with the sour/wild/brett beer judging and best-in-show judging today along with the announcement of winners for all categories. Check out the image below to see the winners of the competition: I picked up three medals, a silver and two bronze. Check out my scores and the feedback: (more…)

2012 Minnesota State Fair homebrew competition results

Today I hit up the State Fair with the wife, kiddo and friends to check out the best-in-show judging for the 2012 Minnesota State Fair homebrew competition. 680+ entries submitted by 350+ brewers, making it one of the largest annual homebrew competitions in Minnesota. My California Common placed 3rd in category 7 – amber hybrid beer. This is the same beer that got me first place in the <6% ABV competition put on by my homebrew club in June, the Nordeast Brewers Alliance.

Speaking of the NBA, I was one of five club members that placed in the 2012 State Fair competition:

  • Category 7 – Amber hybrid: 3rd place, Grant Wright
  • Category 13 – Stout: 2nd place, Nathan O’brien
  • Catgory 15 – German wheat and rye: 3rd place, Davis Kessler
  • Category 16 – Belgian and French ale: 3rd place, Tom Burtyk
  • Category 17 – Sour ale: 1st place, Tom Burtyk
  • Category 19 – Strong ale: 2nd place, Tyler Bye

In addition to the California Common, I’d also entered a maibock, scotch ale and a rauchbier. I’m interested to see what my scores were for those when we receive scoresheets in the coming days.

You can find all the winners of the 2012 State Fair homebrew competition in this picture below: (more…)

Single hop experiment

Back in July, my homebrew club put on a really cool single hop experiment and tasting event. Whomever so inclined brewed up a batch or two of IPA using the exact same grain bill, yeast strain and just one type of hop. Each brewer signed up to use a certain hop ahead of time so we could be sure to have a wide range of hops to sample. I didn’t have time available to brew a batch for this, but attended the event along with 40 or so others – club members and non-club members alike, some of whom were associated with 612 Brew, Boom IslandHarriet Brewing, Northgate Brewing and Northern Brewer. (more…)


Ok, so it’s not quite the victory I was hoping for. My Belgian Golden Strong didn’t place at the national round in the National Homebrew Competition, but just like last year, I’m happy to have advanced through regionals on to nationals. Though as consolation, I must say I was very happy to see my California Common win a “best of show” style session beer competition at my homebrew club’s summer BBQ. Check out the details here on the club’s blog.

The pic to the right is my beer being poured and distributed. Whatever I did with the carbonation on this one was correct, as it has a nice sustaining head without being overly carb’d. I’ll have to look back at my notes. (more…)

My beer competes at nationals today

As a prior post on my blog details, one of my beers that I entered into the National Homebrew Competition got 2nd place in category 18d (Belgian Golden Strong ale) within the regional leg of the competition. I shipped this beer out to Seattle two weeks ago to compete against roughly 30 other beers in my category that had all scored well enough to advance within various regional competitions throughout the U.S. and Canada. I also advanced last year with my Scottish 80/- but didn’t place at nationals, so I’m guessing the same will be the case this year. It’s fun to make it that far though, especially since I’ve only been brewing for a couple years.

It’s kinda fun to ship beer, as I don’t think you’re technically supposed to. They ask you what’s in the box and you tell them “computer parts.” This year, I just gave UPS the destination address, omitting the fact that it was a brewery. I suppose they could look that up quickly via Google Maps, but whatever. Doesn’t matter. The package made it out to Seattle in just three days in time to beat the submission deadline. $41.00 to ship. Not too bad I guess. (more…)

The barrel is full

And thus commences the souring of the beer. 14 members of my brew club, the Nordeast Brewers Alliance, got together on 4/28 and filled the 59 gallon honey wine barrel with the sum of our collective brews (the recipe we all used is found in a prior post here and here is a post on the entire project). The collective FG on 4/28 was 1.013, so there is a decent number of fermentable sugars for the bugs to feast on as well as plenty of long-chain sugars left over from everyone employing a higher mash temperature. We pitched a huge slurry of beer-souring bacteria Nick has collected and propagated over time as well as fresh dregs from sour beers we were drinking that afternoon (New Belgium’s La Follie, Lindemans Cuvee Rene, Surly 5, a handful of Jolly Pumpkin brews and others I can’t recall).

Now… we wait. The plan is to take a sample 6 months from now (Halloween!) and every consecutive 3 months thereafter until we’re satisfied with how it has soured and matured to pull each of our five gallons back out to do with as we please. Along the way, we’ll likely need another five to ten gallons more to syphon into the barrel to account for evaporation, which may be a good opportunity to add beer that’ll pump up the body of the final product if needed. Nick has some ideas about adding beer made with a higher than normal percentage of oats to thicken it all up. Should be interesting when it’s completed!

Most of the pics featured in this post were taken by club member Daniel Snow, professional photographer. I think they look awesome. Check ’em out: (more…)

Nordeast Brewers Alliance barrel-aging sour beer project

14 members of my homebrew club, the Nordeast Brewers Alliance (NBA) threw in some cash to be part of a sour beer barrel aging project, myself included. Originally we thought the money would go to purchasing the barrel, itself. We ended up finding one for free. It had been used by Town Hall Brewery for their Eye of the Storm honeywine this past winter and before that by (I believe) a vintner for a white wine, of what type I’m not sure.

The huge 60 gallon barrel is graciously living at Nick’s place in Northeast Minneapolis. Everyone is aiming to have their 5 gallons fermented around the time of our April club meeting (4/21), at which time we’ll syphon it all in along with the bacteria to do the souring over the course of the next year or so. Man, it felt weird to brew this beer this past weekend knowing I wouldn’t be drinking any of it for over a year. Normally I figure I drink or give away most of my output between two and nine months from brew day. This one will have to pay off in time. Here is what Nick bought to be split up between 14 guys: (more…)

NBA brew club update

Lots of cool stuff going on with the Nordeast Brewers Alliance over the past few months. We voted in an executive committee to keep the club organized and moving ahead (I’m VP of communications haha!), got membership cards so we can start taking advantage of brew shop discounts, drafted some by-laws, had a few fruitful and informative meetings, gained some new members and are planning events for the remainder of 2012. Check out all the updates on our blog: or “like” the club on Facebook: (more…)

1st Annual Nordeast Big River Brew Fest

The Northeast Homebrewers Association (NBA) has been on the hunt for more members, mainly because we need to reignite some enthusiasm and generate fresh ideas for how the club can be successful – and maybe we even need to spend some time first defining “success” for us. In pursuit of new members, and in order to get into the 1st annual Nordeast Big River Brewfest free of charge, one of the founders of NBA got our club a booth/table at the event which was held Saturday 10/15/11 at the historic Grain Belt Brewery’s bottling house in Northeast Minneapolis. Unfortunately, the guy who coordinated it ended up being busy that day, but a few others from the club were able to man the both in his place.

We setup right next to the Northern Brewer table, so it was cool to speak with a few of those guys about brewing and the new location that will be opening near my house in Southeast Minneapolis in the coming weeks (yes!). We also managed to snag a few email addresses of interested homebrewers, so on the whole I think our presence there was as successful as we could have reasonably hoped. Also, it was a beautiful day so it wasn’t too terrible sitting at our location outside. (more…)

Northeast Homebrew Club Summer Grill Out

Instead of having a monthly club meeting at Pracna on Main in July per usual, the Northeast Homebrew Club decided to organize a little BBQ – or, sorry – “grill out” (for those from south of here who insisted the event be re-named, as no actual barbecuing occurred). Touché.

The party was held at Adam’s place in Northeast. We got a little tour of his brew setup, sweet in-home bar and his saaz hops that have somehow survived being planted far too deep, upside down and having been accidentally attacked by a weed wacker. There was no shortage of great homebrew, craft beer and delicious foodstuffs. I believe I brought some of my kölsch and amber kölsch, as well as a saison or two. Some of us even brought the wives and kiddos. Good times. Here are a handful of pics:

Nate, one of the club organizers. Pretty serious about... something.


NBA March Meeting Madness!

Great times at the Nordeast Brewers Alliance (NBA) meeting at Pracna on Main Saturday afternoon. It seemed like almost half of the 20 or so people in attendance were new faces. It’s cool to be a part of this club as it’s just getting off the ground, as I feel like we all have the opportunity to offer feedback and make it our own.

Club organizer Nathan passionately explains why Coors has a more distinct hop profile than Bud, hence his self-identifying as a "Coors Man."

The majority of the meeting covered plans and events for the future (psyched for the BBQ brew day in July!), discussion of solidifying our online presence, a tutorial on yeast starters, a tasting session focused on the style of beer we were encouraged to brew at the last meeting and a historical look at the style members will be brewing for the April meeting, Amber ale.

I picked up two good techniques in conversation that I’m excited to start employing right away: (more…)

Summit Unchained #6 and the SPHBC

I attended my first St. Paul Hombrewers Club (SPHBC) meeting at the Happy Gnome earlier this month. This is a very large club in comparison to the Nordeast Homebrewers Alliance (NBA), with about 40 or so members showing up for the meeting and another 40 to 50 absent.

Lots of “personalities” at this thing. Pretty crazy… though I met a few cool people, enough at least to check it out again next month. I did appreciate the fact that they had some concrete activities planned. We sampled two highly rated exemplars in the German Pilsner style and discussed how well they fit into the BJCP guidelines. I didn’t recognize the two we sampled, as admittedly I’m not a huge fan of Pilsner nor am I a German beer aficionado (though that may change after I visit Munich a few months from now!), so I can’t tell you what we tried, unfortunately.

Photo courtesy of BrewingTV

The second part of the meeting was occupied by guest speaker and brewer at Summit, Damian McConn. His visit to the meeting was in clear promotion of the new Summit Unchained Series #6 beer that he designed, Gold Sovereign Ale. It’s a smart PR move for Summit to have him come to speak with a large, concentrated group of local beer geeks to build momentum for the release of his beer the following week. (more…)

Joining homebrew clubs

I’m hitting a bit of a wall…

I’ve read a lot about brewing, watched hours of video online and done enough research to become bored with doing that type of research. I’m realizing I need to talk this brewing stuff out with other homebrewers. None of my close friends brew, so I can’t really talk to them about the hobby in excruciating detail and I’m pretty sure I’m driving my wife batshit talking about this all of the time. Yes, I’m in desperate need of brewing friends.

NBA's single hop IPA tasting session

I’ve joined two homebrew clubs: the well-established, award-winning St. Paul Home Brewers Club and the fledgling Nordeast Brewers Alliance. I’m excited about both clubs, as I perceive they’ll offer different benefits at each end of the spectrum. NBA seems like it will give me the opportunity to get involved with a close-knit group of brewers and help shape the direction of the club, while SPHBC could provide an easy path into the world of homebrew competitions, something I’m pretty interested in. (more…)