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:

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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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Clear Wort, Full Kegs, Can’t Lose

Right now I’m in the midst of a beer-centric couple of months. This upcoming Thursday is the New England Homebrew Jamboree, which I may have mentioned before, and as such, I have a bunch of full kegs and fermenters at the “brewery.” I figured since I have the long weekend, and no plans/space to brew for a while, it would be a good time to drop an update.

What’s Kegged

Right now I have about a keg and a quarter of the homebrew club’s Barrel-Aged Robust Porter w/Maker’s Mark. One keg I’ve been slowly drinking down myself, and the other is full and heading to the Jamboree on Thurday. The BARP is a really interesting beer. It looks like a standard porter – opaque black with a dark tan/brown head – but the smell and taste let you know something is different. The Maker’s Mark doesn’t come through very much, but there is a distinct sour note that melds well with robust porter’s natural roastiness and sweetness. It’s also deceptively drinkable at over 9% ABV. This was definitely a winner.

Ah, my pride and joy: Symphony of Decay, maple pumpkin ale. Truth be told, this year’s version is different from the previous iterations due largely to missed targets on brew day. I’m still getting used to my new-ish equipment, and brewing on a day with 100% humidity probably through off the boil-off calculations. This is all to say I missed my target gravity by 0.015 (which is a lot for the uninitiated). Some of that has to do with the extra wort leftover, and some from mashing in about 4*F higher than target. Thankfully the wonderful San Diego Superyeast attenuated the beer below my target final gravity, ending with a 5% ABV beer. Much more sessionable than the standard 7.2%. So how did it turn out? Well, it’s not the champion it was last year. There’s a strong aroma of pumpkin spice (nutmeg, ginger, cinnamon) and just a hint of biscuit as well. It looks a little… dirtier than I was amazing for, but the amount of pumpkin that goes into this beer is probably to blame for that despite a Whirlfloc addition and some cold crashing with gelatin. It is a nice dark orange color, though. My big qualm is in the flavor. It tastes unripened for lack of a better descriptor. There’s a kind of green apple sweetness to it that seems out of place. It’s not too strong, but it does take away from the pumpkin flavor and base amber style. It’s not cloyingly sweet, so maybe this is something that will gradually age out of it. It becomes less noticeable as the beer warms, but something definitely went off the mark here. Not a drain pour or even a bad beer,  but SoD has a reputation to uphold and I don’t think this beer is a contender for the crown this year.

Lastly, there’s my  latest pet project: The Hustler, New England style IPA. The last batch I brought to a homebrew event – Beans and Brew – and it was well-received. It was close to what I had set out to brew, but didn’t quite have the bitter punch I was hoping for. It was suggested that I start screwing around with my water treatment, but I wasn’t quite ready to take that on for this batch. This beer finished under my target gravity, but part of that was due to my forgetfulness (I neglected to add Turbinado sugar until after the boil/cooling). It doesn’t account for the entirety of the difference, but it makes up for a lot of it (again this was another humid brew day, I’m not good at calculating my losses, etc.). Again, my yeast worked overtime and attenuated the beer past target resulting in a 6.2% beer (target: 7.3%). Anyways, it came out GREAT. You could snort cocaine, and the smell of this beer would still be the best thing going up your nose. Mango, papaya, fruit juice, oranges, fucking probably a ton of those tropical fruits that I’ve never heard of before, too. The flavor follows along the same notes as well with a very mellow bitterness. I’m starting to really believe that the Conan yeast strain eats away at perceived bitterness. I increased the IBUs to a (theoretical) 148 from 86, and it still doesn’t taste quite bitter enough to me. But it’s still a pretty wonderful IPA nonetheless.

What’s Fermenting

The (infamous) Matt Brown Marzen(/Oktoberfest)  is into its second week of lagering. I expect it to be ready when I return from the Great American Beer Fest at the end of this month. My initial taste of it, prior to fermenting had it more bitter than I remember, but I’m hoping the long lagering period (31-32 days) will let that mellow out a bit.

My latest (and possibly craziest) recipe went into the fermenter on Friday: the Headless Horseman, pumpkin milk stout. There’s a few pumpkin milk stout recipes out there, but I wan’t to try something a little different. I removed the traditional highly-kilned grains from the malt bill to keep the beer’s orange color, and replaced the base 2-row malt with Maris Otter to balance out the sweetness with a little biscuity breadiness. I have no idea what to expect from this beer, but I may try to put it on nitro. If it’s a winner, it’ll be my likely entry into the Mash Holes Pumpkin Beer Competition in October. If not, well I’ve still got the Pumpkin Pie Porter up my sleeve.

 

So that’s it for updates for now, I’ll see you on the other side of the Jamboree, survival permitting.

It’s JAMBO Season

Holy fucking shit. It’s the most wonderful time of the year, kids. That’s right, it’s JAMBO season!

WTF is JAMBO Season?

So, my homebrew club – Metro South Homebrew League a.k.a. MASH HOLES – has officially been in existence for a little over two years. Our biggest participatory event of our inaugural year was the New England Homebrew Jamboree in Tamworth, NH. In the grand scheme of things, the NE Jamboree (or “Jambo”) is pretty small potatoes; it is a gathering of homebrew clubs from around New England for a weekend of camping/debauchery. It is also a shit-ton of fun. The MASH HOLES made a bit of a name for ourselves last year – as MASH HOLES are wont to do – and this year we’re rolling twice as deep, with plans to drink twice as much and party twice as hard (sanity permitting).

Cool story, bro. Why should I care?

A fine question, assuming I cared about you, part of my psyche asking these questions. This – like 99.9% of this blog – is about me. I am ungodly excited for this year’s Jambo, and have been brewing up a storm in antici…pation.

anticipation

Today, I started kegging the only three time (three time, three time) brewed beer here at Anti-Hero Brewing: Symphony of Decay. And while I have my reservations about the 2015 vintage after an initial tasting, only time will tell how it stands up against its predecessors. SoD will be making the trip up to the Jambo, along with its personal tap handle, created from the club’s annual Pumpkin trophy:

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Symphony will be joining the well-received Hustler (NE-style IPA) at Jambo, as well as the club barrel-aged robust porter with Maker’s Mark. So I’ll be rolling three kegs deep. If you’re in the New Hampshire/New England area, and are interested in attending here’s the Jambo website. I’ll be the guy with the douchey undercut at the MASH HOLES tent, making fun of people and (if history serves) accidentally cutting myself with a Leatherman and taking 11am naps.

Beyond Thunderdome Jambo

But the hits just keep on coming, Internet friends. This week and next, I’m planning to fit in two more brew sessions. Odds are both of them will be pumpkin-based beers. Right now I’m debating the styles; my Pumpkin Pie Porter (P3) is most likely going to one of them and the other will either be my planned Pumpkin Saison or a recipe I just came up with yesterday: a Pumpkin Milk Stout. I’m leaning towards the milk stout at the moment because I think there’s a lot of potential for something unique there. I’m also debating adding vanilla bean to it to round out the flavor, but we’ll see.

The next brew day is scheduled for Thursday or Friday of this week, so I’ll probably be making up my mind shortly.

Other News

I almost forgot to mention that I purchased another chest freezer/fermentation chamber this week. I’ll soon be able to have four simultaneous fermentations, which will let me continuously churn out new brews. I’m excited.

 

Anywho, that’s my updates for this week. If you’ve got an opinion of pumpkin saison vs. pumpkin milk stout, feel free to leave a comment. Also – as always – if there’s something you’d like me write about, feel free to mention that as well.

Later.

deadpool-enjoys-beer

Gone Clubbin’

Short post tonight.

I mentioned a few posts ago that I’d have news regarding a new homebrew club. I am happy to report that I am a proud member of the Metro South Homebrew League (aka the “MaSH Holes”) based south of Boston, MA.

We had our kick-off meeting on May 7th and our follow-up last night (May 21st). We’ve elected our officers and are getting ready to make it official with the American Homebrewers Association (AHA). It’s been a pretty exciting first few weeks, and I’m fight the urge to get over-zealous about it. I brought the Matt Brown Marzen and the Bandito IPA to the meetings and both were (surprisingly) well-received. Our group has a great mix of experienced and inexperienced brewers as well as extract/all-grain/brew-in-a-bag.

We also started talking about doing something for the New England Homebrew Jamboree, but we’ll have to see how things work out with that. I’m absolutely thrilled about all this. I’ve already started mapping out my next homebrew purchases (oh God, so expensive). I couldn’t be more excited.