7th Annual Extreme Homebrew Challenge

On June 2nd I was lucky enough to participate in the 7th Annual Extreme Homebrew Challenge at Jose Pistola’s in Philadelphia sponsored by Home Sweet Homebrew (a great little homebrew shop in Philly that has been there since 1986).  I was invited to the competition based on my placing of my BlackEyePA at the Philadelphia HOPS BOPS homebrew competition last year also sponsored by Home Sweet Homebrew.

HammerGloryThe event was hosted by Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head and George Hummel & Nancy Rigberg of Home Sweet Homebrew. The winner of the entire event would have his/her beer brewed by Sam at Dogfish Head to be entered into the ProAM competition at the next GABF (Great American Beer Festival). The photo here shows me holding the Philly Beer Week Hammer of Glory with George and Nancy!

The great part about this competition was that I (along with my wife, Lauren) was able to pour my beers for the general public who was there so I could get some real feedback from a whole bunch of different people other than family and friends (not that I don’t appreciate their input)!

XHC-beersThroughout the 3 hour event we probably went through about 40 bottles of the three styles that I had brought. There was “The Fox Says..Yum” which was a Belgian Amber, “Shot in the Dark” a Coffee Porter, and “Black EyePA” a Cascadian Dark Ale. It was great talking to the people and answering questions about how much hops were in this one or what types of malt was used in that one.

When people paid their admission they were given 2 tickets to vote for who’s beers they liked the best. At the end of the night I was the lucky recipient of 3rd place for who had the most votes for their favorite brewer/beers! I was also very happy to find out that I’ve already been invited back as at least a People’s Choice contender, though I’ll need to place again in the HOPS BOPS competition to qualify for the Dogfish Head again. I think I’ll need to make a more extreme brew this time because, after all, it is Sam from Dogfish Head who does the choosing :-)

Besides getting 3rd place in the People’s Choice, I think the highlight of the night was when people kept coming over to my table and asking for the Black EyePA without really looking at what the beers were called. Somebody was spreading the word about that one (my favorite of the three) so I’m very glad that everybody seemed to enjoy it and the others as well.


Stay tuned for another post or two regarding what else we did while at Philly Beer Week this year!


2014 Etown Beans and Brews Competition

logoThe results are in for my first competition of the year.  I entered 3 brews into the First Annual Etown
Beans and Brews Competition and they scored quite well on the whole, though they didn’t place individual categories so I only know how well I did via the scoresheets. I’m looking forward to seeing how some of them do at the Mount Hope Brewfest coming up in May.

Second Breakfast Oatmeal Stout
I think this is the 3rd or 4th time I’ve made this particular recipe and it has definitely been dialed in the way I like it. I scored a 38 and 41 (out of 50) on this one which is one of the highest scores I’ve ever received!

Shot in the Dark – Coffee Porter
This is the first time I’ve brewed this one and am quite happy with the results. It scored two 40s which I think is the best I have every received! I’m not a big fan of coffee myself, though everybody that has tried it has really liked it so there isn’t too much to change for future renditions.

The Fox Says… Yum – Belgian Pale Ale
This was my favorite of the lot, though I believe due to the way the submissions were worked out it didn’t score as well. This recipe was designed to be similar to Ommegang “Rare Vos” (hence the name), and although it is one of the commercial examples in the BPA category, the competition didn’t have a place to mention any more about the beers other than the category and names. I only got a 30 and a 33 for this one which still isn’t too bad, but I’m hoping the next one will be better.

I was only able to submit 2 to the Mount Hope Brewfest which will have both Second Breakfast and The Fox Says. I’m hoping the extra information that I was able to attach to the Belgian Pale Ale will help it be more to style, though if I get a score similar to the one did again for the oatmeal stout then I will be one happy guy. Cheers!



What’s on tap? February 2014

The brewday for these 4 beers sure was a cold one. I got up at 6 am when the temps were hovering around 0 degrees and worked from 6:30 am to about 5:00 pm. At the end of the day I had completed 4 batches, though with a couple problems due to the cold (hoses freezing, taking FOREVER for boils to start, etc.). Here are the fruits of that labor!

Pale-Coffee-OatmealFrom left to right: “The Fox Says.. Yum”, “Shot in the Dark”, “Second Breakfast Oatmeal Stout”
The bottle is the yet-to-be-named Abbey Ale. That won’t be conditioned for a couple weeks, but I didn’t want to leave it out of the picture.

The Fox Says… Yum!
This beer was created similar to Ommegang Rare Vos. “Rare Vos” in Flemish means “Sly Fox,” and since my daughter loves singing that song that gets stuck in your head, its only natural to name it The Fox Says… Yum! This brew is now one of my favorites I have ever made. WIth only 3 fermentables and a single hop, it is probably one of the simplest as well; that is until we get to the additions. I added bitter orange peel, grains of paradise, and coriander seed to make this authentic Belgian pale taste great. I also carbed it up just a bit higher than usual, though nothing over the top.

Shot in the Dark
I’m not a fan of coffee, and this just walks the line of a beer that I can really enjoy, but my wife likes it so Happy Wife, Happy Life. It is a basic brown porter recipe with 4 ounces of cold brewed espresso added at kegging time. The coffee smacks pretty well, though the alcohol balance lets me enjoy it while still saying I don’t like coffee :-) .. This is also pretty tasty and if the coffee flavor fades over time I have some more that I can always add into the keg to kick it back up a bit.

Second Breakfast Oatmeal Stout
This is the 3rd time I believe I have made this one. It seems on right par with how it should be, I don’t believe I have made any major changes to the recipe. It has a nice medium body with the oats and dark grains shining through. This may be just a hint thin tasting, though that may have something to do with the temps on brewday. Overall though a tasty brew!

Abbey Ale
This batch is the one I am the most excited about. My current favorite commercial beer is Ommegang’s Abbey Ale, so hopefully this will do that one justice. I used some simple fermentables that I would think they would be using, and then some similar ingredients throughout the boil including candi sugar, coriander, orange peel, and licorice root. I probably have 2 more weeks until I am able to sample it though.

So far I have registered the first 2 for a competition in the next couple months. I’m hoping the Abbey Ale is good enough to try as well!


BYO Article – Yeast Vial Tap Handles

Tap-HandlesBYO_1_14-110x150I am lucky enough to have my reader project article published in the current Jan/Feb issue of Brew Your Own (BYO) Magazine! It is all about my White Labs Yeast Vial Tap Handles and how I made/use them in my keezer. If you get a chance pick up a copy to read all about it. Its on the left side just a handful of pages from the front and its almost a full page!

When my 5 year old daughter saw it when we got it in the mail she exclaimed “Hey, that’s our basement!” I hope to also do a brewer profile in the future highlighting my other creations for homebrewing.


What’s on tap?


While this is by far the lightest lineup I’ve ever had in my keezer at one time, I like how all of these turned out. Here are the styles, from left to right:

Raspberry Wheat
This recipe is the same as I made last year with blueberry flavoring, but with raspberry flavoring. It is a simple and clean wheat recipe that is great on its own, but the added kick that the raspberry flavoring gives it makes it just that much better.

Out of Your Gourd Pumpkin Ale
I think I’ve finally gotten this recipe down exactly how I like it after 3 years of attempts. The aroma is perfect for what this style should be, just some hints of flavoring and a very slight hop character. The pumpkin spices are just strong enough to shine above the hops and malt but not so much that it is overly pumpkin-like.

Double Down Pale Ale
This one is an interesting one for me. It is a new recipe that I created to utilize 100% of my own homegrown hops. My first year of growing and only my Columbus hops grew enough to harvest for brewing. Columbus hops are usually quite strong, but I had no clue how high the alpha acids are for this first year. I used about 4 ounces in the boil and another 2 ounces dry hopping but the resulting beer is nowhere near an IPA (which was what I was going for). There is a slight hop presence though the residual sweetness in the beer makes it a whole different style. I’m looking forward to trying this recipe again next year to see the change in the hop acid strength.