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

Intro

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:

66eb96e6-7645-4c89-b6ee-c7814568630a

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…

Cheers!


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Extreme Beer Fest and Boston Beer Week (?) Recap

So last week – the week of St. Patrick’s Day/Evacuation Day – is usually Boston Beer Week in my hometown. Apparently this year there was no set schedule, events or anything. However, Boston being Boston and St. Patrick’s Day being the great Irish drinking (that’s redundant) holiday that it is, last week was – unofficially – Boston Beer Week.

Monday

The week started for me at Stoddard’s Fine Food and Ales. Stoddard’s is my favorite bar in downtown (it’s on Temple St. in Downtown Crossing). The food, the service, and the beers (of course) are always fantastic. The bar manager, my buddy Jamie, has curated probably the best beer list in the Greater Boston Area outside of my personal beer fridge. Stoddard’s was hosting a DigBoston sponsored #NoGreenBeer event. I swung by for lunch – corned beef and cabbage, naturally – and was lucky enough to run into Jeff from Dig, my buddy Jeff from Stone, Chris from Notch, and Kay from Craft Beer Cellar Braintree. The excellent company and conversation kept me there past my allotted lunch break, but I did manage to return after work for a few drinks before dinner.

Tuesday

Serendipitously, my week of working in town coincided with the first anniversary of Trillium Brewing Co. in the Fort Point section of South Boston, a short but very cold walk from my office. Tuesday was the release of Trillium’s second-ever bottled offering, Wild Trillium. Wild is a wild fermented version of their flagship beer, Trillium Farmhouse Ale. The beer spent over 9 months aging in a single oak barrel with Trillium’s house blend of wild microbes. I managed to snag two bottles of Wild after work, and after a cold wait in line.

Wednesday

The fine folks at Backlash Beer Co. have been producing some excellent double IPAs as part of their “Uprising!” series. The series was initially set for 3 releases, but the popularity of the first 3 led them to release Chaos, a DIPA with Citra, Simcoe, Amarillo, Mosaic, and Galaxy. The Chaos release party was at East End Grille in Somerville. Chaos is good, man. My self-imposed limit of two went by the wayside a little too easily. More good times, as I got to hang out with Helder and finally got to meet Twitter-friend Jesse, as well as some other fine folks.

Thursday

Thursday was supposed to be the Pre-Party for Extreme Beer Fest at the Tip Tap Room. And it was… just not for me. Suffering from a case of too much beer, too much work and not enough rest or solid food, I opted to take her easy on Thursday night. Judging from the pictures this was an unfortunate decision. A lot of the folks previously mentioned were all in attendance. I’m bummed I missed out.

Friday

Friday was a night scheduled for taking it easy. With Extreme Beer Fest looming on Saturday, the last thing I wanted to do was roll in with a hangover. I did, however, dispatch my better half to Trillium to pick up their just released first anniversary beer, MettleMettle is a double IPA clocking in at 8% ABV. I knocked back a few glasses before turning in, in anticipation of…

Saturday – EXTREME BEER FEST

EBF is one of my favorite beer fests. Smaller in scale than American Craft Beer Fest, EBF focuses on high-ABV and/or odd-flavored brews. It is essentially a celebration of the kind of beers that craft beer gets made fun of for brewing. I was especially excited because two Florida breweries – Cigar City and Funky Buddha – that don’t distribute to MA were there pouring some of their more interesting creations. Cigar City’s Margarita Gose was a delicious, refreshing and quirky take on a beer style that is only recently in vogue after being on the brink of extinction (gose). Marshal Zhukov’s was Cigar City’s Russian Imperial Stout that was absolutely delicious. But Funky Buddha stole the show with their No Crusts, a peanut butter and jelly sammich beer (!); Maple Bacon Coffee Porter; and their French Toast (!!!) Double Brown Ale. I’ve tried beers like Voodoo Maple Bacon Donut and other funky concoctions, but the tastes of these beers… incredible. They simultaneous tasted exactly like their inspirations while still tasting like beers. I was blown-away by Funky Buddha.

Closer to home, Tree House Brewing out of Brimfield, MA had two phenomenal beers, Double Shot (a coffee stout) and Juice Machine (a DIPA), that tasted fantastic if a little safe for the EBF. I’d heard great things about Tree House and have been dying to try some of their beers. I was not disappointed.

Lost Abbey also knocked my socks off with some fantastic offerings: Angel’s Share Grand CruCuvee de TommeSpontaneous Cheer, and Frambroise de Amorosa. And Kane Brewing got my attention, as well. I’d never heard of Kane before EBF, but not only was their A Night to End All Dawns an incredibly delicious beer, but it was my favorite name at the fest (beating out Sam Adams’ Kosmic Mother Funk (delicious) and Off Color’s Rats In the Ashes (meh)).

A few friends and I pre-gamed with a bottle of Maine Beer Co’s new Dinner, which was phenomenal and a can of Heady Topper, that I’m said to say was tainted. For a day that started with a bad can of Heady, it ended wonderfully.

On a final EBF note, I got to see my buddy Jeff from college, who helping Stone Jeff pour (Stone had Crime and Punishment, punishingly hot chili beers) and got to meet Lee from Craft Beer Cellar, as well. We closed the night with pretzels and beers at Harpoon’s Beer Hall (those pretzels, man) before cabbing it home.

Beer Review: Trillium Brewing’s New Roots

I got a really awesome beer review for you today. Straight outta Southie, ked. Last Friday I stopped by Trillium Brewing Company in the Fort Point neighborhood of South Boston, MA and picked up their newest brew: New Roots. For those of you who aren’t in the know about Trillium, they are a super-small, mom and pop operation that is making some terrific beers; a lot of them one-offs. Being located in South Boston means they are one of only three breweries operating in the Boston city limits (Harpoon and Sam Adams being the other two).

This New Roots brew is so limited and so new, I’m only the 26nd person to check into it on Untappd, and some dude named Scott checked into it 3 times. Typical Scott. All I really know about this beer is that it was only a pilot batch, brewed with hops grown by the head brewer, JC Tetreault. It is a hoppy farmhouse ale at 6.3% ABV.

Trillium New Roots 3

BeerAdvocate: N/A, N/A
RateBeer: N/A, N/A
Untappd: 3.64

Appearance: A hazy orangish color with a just-off-white head. My head was pretty thin on account of it sitting for a week, but it had nice small bubbles, and it still leaves some decent lacing. The haze doesn’t make it the prettiest beer, but it looks its part.

Smell: I get a citrusy smell with this one along with some clove and a bit of a peppery aroma as well. It’s not hoppy smelling in that dank, resinous way that  you think of a West Coast IPA. The aroma is pleasant but subdued. As it warms I get a little more hop aroma and a bit more earthiness, as well as more cloves and a hint of banana bread.

Taste: This is a nice flavor. There’s some of the citrus (a lemon or orange flavor, maybe even a hint of mango), some of the clove and a nice bite of pepper. There’s some hop bitterness which comes more into play as the beer warms. That bitterness is balanced well with a sweetness that is usually described as “bubblegum,” but I think this is a little less blunt than the usual bubblegum taste. Maybe a little hint of banana or banana bread as well. There’s definitely also a wheat character to the taste, and some earthiness as well that really gives the farmhouse impression.

Mouthfeel: A nice creamy mouthfeel, just a small tingle of hops and spice lingering on the lips and tongue. Body is light-medium. Very quaffable.

Final Verdict: 4.5 out of 5. Buy it. Oops, you can’t.

Sorry, friends/now enemies, but this beer is officially no more. Like I said, this was only a pilot batch and 64oz of it went home with me (and presumably a similar amount with Scott). I really enjoyed this beer; it’s a nice, easy drinker with a smooth, creamy body. There’s enough flavors and nuance to keep it interesting without my tastebuds wondering what the hell is going on. I’d probably like a bit more aroma and maybe a bit more hop-bite, but overall is this a super, well-balanced beer. It’s a shame you probably won’t get to try it.

Trillium New Roots 1