Or, How We Pillaged a Small Town in New Hampshire. Oh and broke my girlfriend’s leg.

Ah, Jambo (bka The New England Homebrewers’ Jamboree). The one time a year where I allow myself to get completely wasted and be a total ass.* As always, my homebrew club – Metro South Homebrew League aka The MASH HOLES – made the trip up to Tamworth, NH on Friday afternoon for a weekend of drinking, drinking, puking, and drinking. This year was special for a number of reasons. First, it was the 20th anniversary of the event. Second, my lovely and foolishly trusting girlfriend decided to tag along. And third, the “special surprise” I had teased came to fruition: The Swinging Cowboy himself, Dan Joey, made a trip out from California (with his lovely and foolishly trusting girlfriend).

Joey is one of the original members of the MASH HOLES, and earned the nickname “The Swinging Cowboy” at the first Jambo that we attended. He was wearing a sun hat around all weekend, and ended up being propositioned by a couple, hence the name. Anyway, Joey had reached out to me a few months earlier and said he wanted to surprise the club at Jambo. So I helped a little with coordinating that effort, keeping him informed of the plans and surprising the crew with his arrival at Smuttynose.


Ah the first day/night of Jambo. The Girlfriend, The Dog, and I piled all of our camping shit into The Girlfriend’s larger and more fuel efficient car and started the drive up to New Hampshire. Surviving both my driving and my ranting/raving about other people’s driving, we met up with Joey, Joey’s girlfriend (Michelle), and most of the club at Smuttynose for lunch.

Ya boy's on the left, rocking the Bullet Club shirt and throwing up the Too Sweet.

Ya boy’s on the left, rocking the Bullet Club shirt and throwing up the Too Sweet.

Food and beer were great, natch. Smutty’s Pumpkin Ale was probably the winner, but I’m also a basic bitch so take that opinion with a grain of pumpkin spice. After a pit stop at Stoneface Brewing (best beer: IPA), we arrived at the Tamworth Campgrounds. One of ours, JT, was working the front gate and Andy & Amanda had already camped out the night before.

We spent the next hour or so setting up our tents, arguing about how to layout for pouring tent, casually drinking/watching Jason struggle to put up his tent, and waiting on the rest of the club to arrive. And then the real drinking began.

At this point, I should probably mention The Hammer.

The Hammer. And some MASH HOLES.

The Hammer. And some MASH HOLES.

The Hammer is a club joke/weapon. Our President – unlike our President of Vice – is a soft-spoken guy, so we decided he needed a gavel. As you might expect, a club named the MASH HOLES doesn’t do subtlety very well. And thus The Hammer was born. The Hammer usually stays with me, as I am the most worthy, and makes occasional appearances at club events. This year it became the focal point of our club shenanigans. Some time around 10pm or so, deep into our cups, Joey and I decided that we needed to let the other fine upstanding clubs know that the MASH HOLES were here, and we were here to drink their beer.

So, grabbing The Hammer, we yelled “PILLAGE!!” and stormed off to each tent, demanding “tribute” and “subjugation” (a word that became harder and harder to pronounce). From there, things get a little hazy. We didn’t so much strike fear into our fellow homebrewers as we annoyed the shit out of them. Either way, free beer was add, things were yelled, and I accidentally broke The Girlfriend’s knee. But that’s a story for the courts…



Unsurprisingly, many a MASH HOLE had a hard time rising and/or shining. Normal stalwarts were reduced to shameful vomiting, and yours truly managed to miss the case when putting away the contact lenses and had to spend the day four-eyed. After much hemming and hawing about the tent set-up, display, beer names, and literally every other thing that could possibly be argued about, we finally pulled our shit together in time for the festivities.

Our brand spankin' new sign

Our brand spankin’ new sign

A group of HOLES arguing over where to put the new sign. Yours truly, quiet upset.

A group of HOLES arguing over where to put the new sign. Yours truly, quite upset.

We ended up with our merch and sign to the left, our 15 different beers and tap system in the center, and Vinny’s Drinking Game Fuckapalooza on the right. Those first two areas are probably self-explanatory, so let’s focus on the drinking games. A few days before Jambo, I had the brilliant idea to challenge festival goers to drinking games. To entice players, they’d have a chance to win merch if they put money down and were able to best me at either (three cup) Beirut or Flip Cup. They could also take the coward’s way out and throw 3 cornhole bags for a shot at merch. Thankfully (and unthankfully) only one man took the coward’s way out.

Unfortunately what this meant was – as the games originator/mastermind – I was forced to be the primary competition for anyone daring to play. I played about 17 games before taking a mid-day nap. I was awakened by The Girlfriend bursting into the tent yelling “Vinny, get up! Larry said he needs you because Scott is terrible and losing all the games!” And well, the President of Vice can’t leave his club in the hands of someone like Scott. By the end of the day, by the semi-official tally (i.e. a series of cross-marks I made on my arm with a dry-erase marker), my final count was 29 Wins and 11 loses. Good enough to bring in just under $200 for the club.

Outside of my drinking heroics, the club entered our Barrel-Aged Oud Bruin into the competition where it scored a whopping 5 out of 50 from the esteemed* judges, with such helpful feedback* as “sour” and “too sour.” Noted. Next time we make a traditionally sour brown ale, we’ll just make a brown ale instead… I guess. In more qualified beer judging news, big thanks to Jeffrey Lyons of New England Beer Review on Youtube for checking out our tent and reviewing Swinging Cowboy (!!). The MASH HOLES segment starts at 4:04 –

I’m happy to report that Swinging Cowboy was the first keg to be kicked, followed by other fantastic brews: Samurai Juice (Colin’s green tea IPA), Smaug (Larry’s RIS), Dicks out for Harambe (my RIS), Disgusting (my Oktoberfest), Swing and a Mrs. (fka Walk of Shame, Andy’s Coffee Cream Ale), Hopnoxious (Larry’s hoppy saison), Demonic Monk (Colin’s spicy Trappist beer), and several of our other awfully named beers. If my memory serves – which it often doesn’t – every single keg we brought to Jambo this year was kicked by the end of Saturday night.

The night was capped when the fearless and fearsome ladies of the MASH HOLES took The Hammer for a much more successful pillaging. A big thanks to everyone who showed up for Jambo including my brother and parents (!!), who I’m sure were so very proud of my stand-up behavior (i.e. the fact that I was still standing up).

As always: can’t wait til next year!


* For those who don’t know me personally, this is what we call “sarcasm.”

Checking In On The Swinging Cowboy

Swinging Cowboy, Day 7

As I wrote last time, my Swinging Cowboy IPA was less than stellar on first taste. I also noted at the time that it wasn’t a fair comparison given the immaturity of the beer so close to its dry-hopping and carbonation. We’re now seven days removed from that last update, so how’s the Cowboy now?

In short: much better.


I had complained about the grassy aroma wafting off this beer, three days from its last dry-hop charge. Today that grassy-ness has faded almost completely and has been replaced by a wallop of strong citrus character.


As you can see from the photo above, I have very greasy fingerprints and a Megaman doll. You can a pretty fair representation of the beer’s color and clarity (or lack thereof). Without the bright light behind it, the beer is a shade or two more orange. Overall, this is what I was shooting for given the light grain bill and the NE IPA style I’d attached to it.


This was the biggest area of improvement, and thank Crom for that. The vegetal, grassy flavor is almost completely gone, rounding into a nice smooth bitterness. It’s still there, but much less pronounced and I think by the time JAMBO rolls around next weekend it should be a distant memory. In its place, the bitterness I mentioned is still prevalent, but there’s a much stronger fruitiness. Mango, papaya, tangerine, all those expensive orange-colored fruits that Yuppie moms buy at Whole Foods. This isn’t near as fruity as your average Trillium brew, but it has a much stronger bitterness. Similar (but not comparable) to Heady Topper.


Still rich and full-for-an-IPA. Not quite as “juicy” as a Treehouse or Trillium; again I’d put it closer to the OG of NE IPA’s (Heady) in mouthfeel. Creamy, but not chewy. Right where I like it (that’s what she said).


Talk about a night-and-day difference. I may have accidentally (but happily) sped up the aging process due to a gas leak in the keg. The gas connecting post wouldn’t seal, so whenever I removed the gas line – say, to gas another keg – all of the CO2 escaped. This happened multiple times, most likely introducing oxygen. While normally this would be bad, it is my theory that this help scrub out the grassy and vegetal notes much faster. I can’t really run a test on it (I’m not the Brulosophy eggheads), because I’ve now fixed that leak and don’t know how much scrubbing is actually left.

Overall, I’m now MUCH happier with this beer and excited to serve it at JAMBO. There’s also an upcoming homebrew competition for IPAs that I might consider entering if there’s any leftovers.


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Side-by-Side IPA Comparison

Looking into this my chest freezer this fine Wednesday evening (what is it with me and Wednesdays?), I realized that I had two different kegs of IPA. The older of the two is Hustle and Swagger, an IPA brewed with the myriad of free hops I received at Homebrew Con 2016. The younger is a just-kegged, double-dry-hopped take on my old Eighty-Sixed recipe called Swinging Cowboy*. So I figured I try them out side-by-side and see what I like and dislike about each IPA. First, the recipes.

Swagger (left) and Cowboy (right)

Hustle & Swagger


Amount Fermentable
11.0 lb

Pilsner (US)

2.5 lb

Maris Otter Pale (UK)

2.0 lb

Munich – Light 10L (US)

0.5 lb

Munich – Dark 20L (US)

0.5 lb



Amount Hop Time Use Form AA
2.0 oz Nugget (US) 60 min First Wort Pellet 14.3%
1.5 oz Chinook (US) 15 min Boil Pellet 12.0%
1.5 oz Centennial (US) 15 min Boil Pellet 10.5%
2.0 oz Cascade (US) 0 min Boil Pellet 7.0%
1.0 oz Equinox 0 min Boil Pellet 15.0%
2.0 oz Zythos (US) 5 days Dry Hop Pellet 11.0%
1.0 oz Equinox 5 days Dry Hop Pellet 15.0%
1.0 oz Pekko 5 days Dry Hop Pellet 13.0%


Name Lab/Product Attenuation
Hansen Ale Blend White Labs 78.0%

Swinging Cowboy


Amount Fermentable
6.75 lb

Golden Promise (UK)

6.75 lb

Pilsner (US)

1.25 lb

Flaked Oats

0.75 lb


0.63 lb

Carapils (Dextrine Malt) (US)


Amount Hop Time Use Form AA
1.25 oz Nugget (US) 60 min Boil Pellet 14.3%
1.5 oz Cascade (US) 30 min Boil Pellet 7.0%
1.1 oz Centennial (US) 15 min Boil Pellet 10.5%
2.0 oz Citra (US) 0 min Boil Pellet 13.7%
3.0 oz Citra (US) 4 days Dry Hop Pellet 13.7%


Name Lab/Product Attenuation
Vermont Ale The Yeast Bay 78.5%

Another look.



  • Hustle & Swagger is noticeably dark in color, though the calculated difference is only supposed to about about 1 SRM.
  • Both beers were dry-hopped, but Swinging Cowboy was double-dry hopped in the fermenter, while Hustle & Swagger was dry-hopped in the keg.
  • Neither beer is particularly clear and both contain some hop particles.


  • Despite being brewed on 6/30, Hustle & Swagger still packs a noticeable hop aroma. That aroma is predominantly “green” and “dank.” This is probably from the multitude of different hops that went into this thing. There is a citrusy, sweet, fruit aroma on the back end. Almost like tropical fruit candy, but less artificial if that makes sense.
  • Only three days removed from its second dry-hop charge, Swinging Cowboy has a grassy nose. There’s underlying citrus in there behind it, but this smell a lot like lawn clippings (and not because I mowed the lawn today).
  • Winner: Hustle & Swagger, by a nose.


  • As noted above, both beers are turpid with some small hop particles swirling. In Hustle & Swagger this is likely due to the hops still being in the keg. With Swinging Cowboy, the beer just finished carbing and hasn’t settled yet. This is the very first pour of the beer.
  • They are fairly similar, with SC being a shade lighter.
  • Winner: Draw


  • Hustle and Swagger has mellowed nicely. This was originally one of the most bitter beers I’d brewed, but some of that has evened out. There’s still a nice bitterness but there’s more hop flavor coming across: some citrus, mango, and a hint of sweetness before a bitter finish. Not world-class, but pretty good.
  • Woah. Um… what’s going on with Swinging Cowboy? The flavor is a… not good. Vegetal, grassy. There’s hints of citrus buried underneath but this will need some time to clear up, much like the aroma.
  • Winner: Hustle & Swagger


  • Hustle & Swagger is a bit thin for what I was going for; I prefer the juicier, fuller New England-style bodies on my IPAs (actually on most styles). This is within range for an IPA, and not watery but not dry enough on the back-end for that West Coast bite.
  • In contrast, Swinging Cowboy is right where it should be. It feels substantial without being thick, viscous, or chewy. This is right in line with where I like my IPAs.
  • Winner: Swinging Cowboy


  • By the numbers, Hustle & Swagger is the clear winner, which is a bit of a disappointment.
  • Of course, this comparison isn’t exactly “fair” or “scientific.” Swagger is over a month old and Cowboy is fresh off the dry-hops.
  • That said, Swagger is the better beer right now, but I’m not sure Cowboy won’t surpass it in about a week or so.

Final Thoughts

Truth be told, I’m not sold on either of these beers. Hustle & Swagger is okay, but not up to snuff. I think the “kitchen sink” approach I took with this beer left it flawed and muddled. Still drinkable, but not worth attempting again. Swinging Cowboy on the other hand… I don’t know what to think of this beer right now. When I tasted the hydrometer sample it was a little off, and fully-carbed I’m not so sure what happened here.

Given the busy-ness of this summer, the rushed nature of both these brew days and the state of my brewing equipment (read: not properly cleaned), I wouldn’t be surprised if there weren’t significant flaws hiding behind all the hops in these beers. It’s hard for me to say. Much like my momma is blind to my many flaws, I have trouble nit-picking my own creations. I still have some hope that Cowboy will get better with a bit of age, but I think Swagger is as good as it’s going to get right now, which is a bit disappointing.

Lesson learned: I need to better prepare for my brew days and need to re-dedicate myself to mess of chemicals, tubing, fixtures, and kegs in my bathroom that need a thorough cleaning.


* The story behind “Swinging Cowboy” is a long one that I may regale you with after this year’s Homebrew Jamboree (aka JAMBO). 

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Brewery Visit: Spencer Trappist Brewery

Spencer Trappist Brewery at St. Joseph's Abbey in Spencer. MA

Spencer Trappist Brewery at St. Joseph’s Abbey in Spencer. MA

You may have heard of Spencer Trappist Brewery; it’s the first and only Trappist brewery outside of Europe and the first and only Trappist brewery in the United States. Fortunately for me, it’s also the first and only Trappist brewery in my home state of Massachusetts.

This past Saturday (8/6/16), the monks of St. Joseph’s Abbey in Spencer, MA opened their brewery to the public for the first time. A perfect excuse for a drive out to Western Mass for a beer-related excursion.

The event was a subdued affair as brewery openings go, though I suppose that’s not all surprising given the humble hosts. The monks of St. Joseph’s Abbey were gracious and attentive, working almost every aspect of the event without much outside help. Monks checked our ID, applied the 21+ bracelets, answered questions, poured and distributed samples, and handled sales. The only missing task was brewing.

Good advice.

Good advice.

Control Room

Control Room

The brewery is a massive, state-of-the-art facility capable of producing 40,000 barrels per year. Absolutely huge for a brewery that’s only been open for 2+ years. The monks don’t produce nearly that much (5,000 over the first two years before expanding their lineup), but that doesn’t make the 36,000 square foot facility any less impressive. It was – by far and away – the most immaculately clean brewery I’ve ever seen.

If cleanliness is next to godliness, then my homebrewery is probably an affront to God.

img_2288 img_2296 img_2284 img_2291 img_2286 img_2301 img_2300 img_2295 img_2299 img_2294

The public event also served as Spencer’s launch for their feierabendbier (which I’m told is pronounced fire-ah-bend-beer), a Pilsner-style “after work” beer, and the first Pilsner ever brewed by Trappist monks.

The monks were selling this new brew alongside their relatively new IPA. Inside the brewery there were also kegs and pallets of their Holiday ale and Imperial stout. I didn’t notice any of their Trappist Ale, but that might be because I was partially blinded by brewery-envy.

Truth be told, I wasn’t crazy about the feierabendbier. I’m not usually much of a Pilsner drinker to begin with, but this one lacked the crisp, dry finish and noble hop kick that I expect from the style. There’s a Belgian-ish character that doesn’t do it for me.

The Trappist IPA is a more reserved take on the style (again, not really surprising), that is certainly drinkable but probably not in line with what most American craft beer drinkers would expect for an IPA. There’s a strong caramel flavor that overpowers the hops.

img_2293 img_2295 img_2290 img_2307

Their other beers (Holiday, Spencer Trappist Ale, Imperial Stout) are all quite good, with the Spencer Trappist Ale remaining my favorite. As the production has increased, Spencer has been able to cut the rather hefty price down on that beer. Great news for my wallet and for people who haven’t had a chance to try it, or were steered away by the high price.

All in all, a great experience. Hopefully the monks will do it again some time in the near future.


If we learn from our mistakes, then I am well on my way to a PhD in homebrewing. 

I talked last time about Hustle and Swagger, a concept so dumb only I could think it up (and hope it would work). Unsurprisingly, this beer isn’t the greatest IPA to ever be brewed.

But, perhaps surprisingly, it isn’t the worst either.

I made two major mistakes with Hustle and Swagger. The first I somewhat expected but chose not to avoid, and the second I should’ve expected but didn’t. First, I threw way too many hops I was unfamiliar with into this beer. The result is a pretty muddled mess, but not undrinkable. There’s hints of the exotic citrus, fruit, melon and whatever-else flavors from the Zythos, Pekko, and Equinox hops, but none of them really shine through. In fact, they’re hindered by my second mistake.

My second mistake was dry-hopping in the keg. This, in and of itself, isn’t a mistake, but I used stainless steel tea infusion balls instead of muslin bags. This allowed a lot of the hop particles to escape into the beer and therefore into the glass. The result was a strongly bitter flavor with some green, grassy flavor notes. The bitterness and grassiness overpower the sweeter, fruitier flavors.

All that said, the beer isn’t a total bust. It has a strong, pleasant aroma that showcases more of the fruit and citrus than the grass. The bitterness becomes more subdued after the first few sips and more of the flavors start to appear. It’s also kind of a pretty beer:

Ironically, before the in-keg dry-hopping this beer was crystal clear:

The yeast was also a bit of a failure. Despite building up a robust starter, the beer never fully attenuated. Given the high charge of bitterness from the hop floaties, that’s probably a blessing in disguise. The residual sweetness helps make the beer less biting.

The last bit of not-so-bad news: as the beer slowly ages, all its flaws are starting to mellow. It’s become gradually a better and better beer over time. Obviously there’s a point of diminishing return when aging an IPA, but more importantly there’s a point of diminishing return of leaving a beer in a needed homebrew keg.

I don’t foresee too many issues finishing this IPA, though I do wish it had turned out better. Live and learn. 

Getting Back After It

It’s been a busy month around here, but unfortunately not much of it has been spent brewing. Earlier this month, I traveled to Baltimore for Homebrew Con. Shortly after that I celebrated Harpoon’s 30th anniversary with some beer writers and tenured Harpoon employees (I’ll have an upcoming article on this for the Dig). And this past weekend was Sierra Nevada’s Beer Camp at Boston’s City Hall Plaza. So as I start to sober up and finish up the kegs from Beans N Brew, I realize it’s time to start brewing again.

I think it’s time to officially dub 2016 the Summer of IPA, because outside of a rebrew of Nelson’s Saison aka Classy AF, I’m focused on brewing a couple more IPAs in the near future. So IPA #3 and #4, what will they be?

IPA #3 will be a New England-style IPA, based on this recipe from Ed Coffey, brewed for a Brulosophy exBEERiment. The grain bill is fairly straight-forward: ~80% pale malt and 20% flaked oats, but with a fairly complicated hopping/dry-hopping regiment. I’m interested in trying the double dry-hopping technique again (I haven’t tried this in a while); I’ll probably alter the hops used but I’ll follow this recipe pretty closely (before I inevitably decide to fuck with it).



IPA #4 already has a name: Hustle and Swagger. This will be yet another variant on my Hustler recipe, using a lot of the free “swag” hops that I got from Homebrew Con. There’s some interesting hops in this recipe thanks to the good folks at YCH Hops and Yakima Valley:

  • Zythos – tropical (pineapple) and citrus tones with slight pine characteristics
  • Equinox – unique berry-and-fresh-pepper character
  • Pekko – clean, pleasant, floral, citrus, mint, herbal, mellow, pineapple, thyme, saaz-like cucumber, sage, touch of lemon

I’ll probably have to build up a starter for the Hansen Ale Blend from White Labs that I used for IPA #2. It’s been a while since I harvested the yeast from the starter, so I’m hoping it’s still viable. If not, I’ll augment it with some of the free yeast I received at Homebrew Con, probably Mangrove M44 West Coast yeast. If I’m using swag hops, might as well use swag yeast too, right?

I’ll post recipes along with the brew day recaps soon. I’m hoping to brew IPA#3 on Friday.


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Homebrew Con 2016 Recap

Alternate Title: A Bunch of Pictures of Me, Hugging Dudes

Mash Holes - President JD, President of Vice Vinny, and Scotty No Nickname

Mash Holes – President JD, President of Vice Vinny (me), and Scotty No Nickname


What follows is what I did what I remember of the 2016 Homebrew Con in Baltimore. I’ve bolded some key words and phrases to make this easier to skim through and read the stuff that interests you. Or if you’re like me reading these things: searching for your name. You vain sonuvabitch.

Day 1 – Which I Believe Was a Wednesday

My flight landed in Baltimore around noon, while my Mash Hole cohorts were en route via car from Boston. I took the train straight down to the Convention Center, and since I had plenty of time, wandered the whole 100ft to Pratt Street Ale House. I had roughly one taster-sized glass of Oliver beer for every 10 of those feet I walked (and a pretty good chicken sammich) before heading over to the Convention Center to sign in and pick up my swag-bag.

As members of our Club started trickling into the city, we made our way to the Brewing Network’s 11th anniversary party at Peabody Heights Brewery. We took a (surprising long) school bus there, and I met up with three of my local friends and two of their lady-friends that I’d talked into hanging out. The best beer of the bunch was Peabody Height’s Bourbon Obscura. After a few poor showings of cornhole and a lot of beers, I bid adieu to my friends and hopped on the not-short bus back into town.

The Mash Holes had set up camp at Heavy Seas’ tap house, and I was determined to go join them. So I walked through a part of town I’m pretty sure was part of The Wire for a beer, before heading back and finally crashing for the night. Not a bad start, but the main event was to come.

Day 2 – Thursday. All Day Special: Thursday, All Day

Oh baby. Things got off on the right foot with a shot of bourbon, and a trip to Miss Shirley’s for breakfast. This place doesn’t fuck around (and the prices show it). While most of the boys and gal opted for Bloody Marys, I went straight for a can of Union’s Duckpin Pale Ale with my coffee and chocolate chip pancakes. This was one of the best beers and easily the best meal I had all week.

Breakfast of Champions

Breakfast of Champions

I skipped the morning sessions and opted to check out the Homebrew Expo, and holy shit am I glad I did. I was handed more free stuff than I knew what to do with. Over the course of the Con I filled up two bags worth of swag, including:

  • Roughly a pound of free hops (Zythos, Cascade, Equinox among them)
  • Enough dry yeast for about 10 batches of beer
  • A metric buttload of stickers which now adorn my keezer
  • Five pairs of sunglasses
  • Bottle openers, pens, pins, a bandana
  • And a trucker hat I won from correctly identifying raw hops

I also got to try beers from Bell’sDevil’s Backbone, Sam Adams (who brought so sour stuff), and a myriad of homebrewers. Free stuff and free beer? Win-win. I also got to meet brewing legends like John Palmer and John Blichmann

Frodo and Gandalf, I mean, me and John Palmer

Frodo and Gandalf, I mean, me and John Palmer

Me with John Blichmann (with two N's)

Me with John Blichmann (with two N’s)

Thursday closed with the Key Note address from Sam Calgione of Dogfish Head. Sam’s a relatively engaging speaker, but I’d been on my feet all day drinking free beer and at about the 20 minute mark of his address, I took a little snooze.

Thursday night was Kick-Off Party featuring Maryland brewers and homebrewers. This was basically the pre-game to Friday night. Speaking of which

Friday – Late to Bed, Early to Rise

The first seminars start at 9am which is a borderline war crime. For those of you who have never been to Homebrew Con, the main attraction are the various seminars on topics related to brewing. Here’s a list of the seminars that I remember attending (a lot of them serve beer, so this list is incomplete):

  • The Chemistry of Mashing – this was a 9am college chemistry class
  • Unlocking the Genetic Code of Brewing Strains – this was a 10:15am college biology class
  • How to Fail at Starting a Brewery
  • Going Pro a Pint at a Time
  • High Gravity Brewing: Hitting a Target Gravity with Precision and Quality
  • Homebrew Bloggers Roundtable – where I learned I’m a shitty blogger
  • Modern Perspectives on Traditional Methods
  • Successful Strategies fro Raising Financial Resources for Your Homebrew Club
  • Growing Up: Building a Lasting Homebrew Club
  • More Than a Hobby: Developing Club Leadership for Long-Term Success
Pipe Dreaming

Pipe Dreaming

As you can tell from the titles, homebrewers are a verbose bunch. Most of the seminars were great and super-informative; some weren’t for me and I’ll have a better idea next year of which ones I should attend. It’s weird to think that you go on vacation to sit in a conference room and listen to a lecture, but if you add beer to your next work conference, I guarantee people will be more interested in attending.

Friday night we hit Max’s Taphouse for dinner. Max’s is one of the best beer bars I’ve ever been to, period. Great atmosphere, great beer list, great service (assuming you don’t lollygag at the bar). Can’t say enough good things, but we’ll return to Max’s later, because the main event is up next…

Friday Night – Club Night

So big and bad, Friday night gets its own header. Yes, Club Night. Where homebrewers from all over the country set up shop to foist their beer upon your unsuspecting liver. If you’ve ever been to a beer festival, it is very similar to that, but with amateur brewers who go all out. What’s all out look like?

El Prez, getting sideways in front of Barely Legal

El Prez, getting sideways in front of Barely Legal

Chris, Chip from Chop & Brew, me, and JD with some photobombers

Chris, Chip from Chop & Brew, me, and JD with some photobombers

Jim from my LHBS, dressed to the nines

Jim from my LHBS, dressed to the nines

Chris, JD, Scott, and me with the well-dressed gents of love2brew

Chris, JD, Scott, and me with the well-dressed gents of love2brew

No caption can do this photo justice

No caption can do this photo justice

That’s not including the pirate ship/mobile tap setup; getting served a beer by former Homebrewer of the Year Annie Johnson; so many of the other awesome costumes and booths; and – oh yeah – the beer. Homebrewed beer is a wonderful thing, because you’re never 100% sure what you’re going to get. It could be the best tasting beer in the world or the worst. But you don’t know until you try and try I did.

Saturday – Holy Shit, I’m Still Alive

Ahh, Saturday. The bitter sweet end of Homebrew Con. Despite the end being imminent, this was probably my favorite day of the whole convention. I started off with my only day struggling to get out of bed and ended up at the Homebrew Bloggers Roundtable, featuring Derek Springer, Ed Coffey, Marshall Schottand Matt Humbard and hosted by Chip Walton. I got to find out what a shit-ass blogger I am, which was fun. I also snapped this great photo of Marshall having a bit of a struggle:


It was an informative panel for a guy who blogs (hey! that’s me!), and a chance to learn from some dudes who do it better than most. What’s better is I didn’t even have to leave the room for Marshall and Malcolm Frazer’s talk on Modern Perspectives on Traditional Methods, aka the Brulosophy seminar. The boys gave a great talk about the methods they use for their experiments exBEERiments, and served the room a 20-minute mash, 20-minute boil hoppy Helles lager that was pretty damn solid, and had none of the flaws you’d expect for fucking around with the beer as they do. I introduced myself to the guys afterwards, because I’m a huge fanboy of their blog but more about that later.

The rest of the day I spent largely with the President of our club, JD, bouncing around to different seminars on how to improve your homebrew club. We picked up a lot of great ideas that I’m anxious to start implementing with the Mash Holes. 2017 is going to be a big year for us, I can already tell. If you’re in the Boston/South Shore area and looking for a homebrew club, hit us up at: metrosouthhomebrewleague at gmail dot com

The day closed with the Awards Banquet, which we were lucky enough to sneak pay to get into. But that’s about where the luck ran out. I cook for myself, so I’ve choked down a lot of bad meals in my time, but this was painful. If the pork chops were any drier you could’ve used them as a wallet. The beers were from Flying Dog, Weyerbacher, and some other local breweries (not Heavy Seas) and they were atrocious. The dessert was stale Cracker Jack and pretzels. I was pretty bullshit about the whole thing.

I think the dinner finally did in the rest of the Mash Hole tribe, but as President of Vice it is my sworn duty to keep the party going (usually well past reason). So when I got a text from Marshall that there was a group at Max’s, I dragged my ass out of the hotel bed and off to meet for “a few beers.”

Conclusion – After the Show, It’s the After-Party

Max’s was fucking hopping when I got there. Among the guest list were:

I got to talk and drink with all these great dudes and a few others whose names escape me due to the copious amount of alcohol I’d been consuming since noon on Wednesday. I literally sat down one-on-one with John Palmer – the man whose book How to Brew literally taught me how to brew – and talk beer and brewing with him. That’s like talking writing with George RR Martin or some equivalent analogy. I talked the ears off the JaDed boys, to the point where I’m now an affiliate of theirs, probably so they’d get me to shut up. I got so drunk I gave what I thought was $5 to a homeless guy, but was actually $20 and then had some street hot dogs before taking one of the most epic homebrew photos of all time:

Fucking Epic

What a fucking trip.

Next year’s Homebrew Con is set for Minneapolis, aka the Windy Apple, and I’m already making plans. My liver and body are still recovering from the onslaught of this year, but I’m hoping that next year will be bigger and better. Maybe there will even be a Mash Holes table for club night? We’ll see…


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