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Humboldt Homebrew Festival 2013 Live Blog

6 Apr

12:30 Setting up!

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1:00 Brewers hour begins.

1:11 Fazios stuff is dank.

1:18 Wild Golden Ale on Black Currant Aged On Oak. WGAOBCAOO for short.

2:11 Doors open!

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2:25 Competition is tight this year. Phenomenal beers. Everyone trying to outdo the next guy.

2:36 No that pitcher of homebrew is not a dump bucket.

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3:13 The quality of beers this year has surpassed previous years. Currently enjoying Ari Friedman’s 4 year old Kriek. Absolutely amazing.

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3:28 Everyone is taking about Jamie’s Bourbon Barrel Aged Stout on Nitro and Ari’s WGAOBCAOO.

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4:22 More beer this year but about the same amount of attendees.

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4:34 I’m calling it a day. Epic event.

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Beginner Homebrewing

29 Mar

“How hard is it to brew?”  That’s a question I’ve been asked I don’t know how many times.   My canned answer is “Its like making soup.  You follow a recipe.”  Of course, there is more to it than that.  Much of it is what you do after the brewing is done.  Sanitation and fermentation are the other areas to really focus on and don’t need a whole lot of instruction, but I will touch upon them.

Brewing and the art of beer making can be very intensive and ever-evolving.  You can go nuts if you want to.  Below is a jumping off point to give you an idea on what it takes to start.  Nobody starts out with a “Pliny The Elder” quality beer on their first batch.  Like anything, you have to learn to crawl before you can walk.

To start out, you will need equipment.  The easiest way to get this is through an “equipment kit” that has all the gadgets and fermenters and a few supplies to get you off the ground.  Most kits come with (but vary):

  • 7.8 Gallon Primary Fermenting Bucket
  • Bottling Spigot
  • 6 Gallon Glass Carboy with Rubber Stopper
  • 3-Piece Airlock (for Fermenting Bucket)
  • Adhesive Thermometer (for Fermenting Bucket)
  • Hydrometer
  • Siphon Kit
  • Twin Lever Capper
  • Beer Bottle Brush
  • Tubing
  • Bottling Bucket
  • Spoon

You will also need a stainless steel kettle that is at least 7-7.5 gallons.  Some people start out with smaller kettles.  Its good to start out with this size from the beginning if you can.  You will probably eventually upgrade anyway.  You want a bigger pot so you don’t have to make a condensed wort.  Homebrewed beer recipes are usually made to 5 gallons.  Most equipment, especially starter equipment is scaled for 5 gallon batches.  So why not start with a 5 gallon kettle?  Well, you can, but its better to do a full volume boil rather than a partial boil and topping it off with water in the fermenter.  Often times, you will see beginner instructions teach this method.  You need a bigger kettle so you can boil a full 6-6.5 gallons of wort.  After evaporation and trub loss, you should land around 5 gallons.  Doing it the other way, you often end up with 3-3.5 gallons of wort and you are “topping off” with clean water in your fermenter.  In doing this, you will have a caramelized flavor (extract twang) and your hop utilization will be off.

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Beer has four basic ingredients: malt, hops, water and yeast.  “Malt” for beginners is going to come in the form of malt extract, either liquid or dry.  When you graduate to intermediate and advanced brewing, this malt will be in the form of grain.  The extract has taken the step of mashing out of the equation.  Most extract recipes also include “steeping grains”, which are usually crystal or roasted grains.  This gives the extract brew some extra dimension in the form of body, color and flavor.  Now lets look at each ingredient separately:

  • Malt:   This will be providing all the fermentable sugars that the yeast is going to feed upon.  All alcohol gets its fermentable sugar from some source or another.  Beer just happens to come from malted barley.
  • Hops:   These are actually flowers from a vine and provide the bitterness and some aroma in the beer.  Adding hops to the boiling wort (and sometimes before and after the wort is boiled) at different times imparts bitterness, flavor and aroma.
  • Water:   Beer is mostly water and can often be a signature to a beer.  It is often the reason why styles emerge out of certain geographic areas.  For example, the soft water of the Pilzen region in the Czech Republic is ideal for pale lagers and that is what the region is known for.  But it wouldn’t do well for English bitters, who’s water tends to be harder and the beer styles that have emerged from there are tailored to that type of water.
  • Yeast:   These are the critters that eat the sugar.  The by-product of this is C02 and alcohol.  When the yeast gets to work, they warm things up a bit and multiply.

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Now that we have everything in place, we can brew.  Keep in mind, lots of step by step instructions very just a little bit and this will be no different.  Most follow a basic process so don’t let the different nuances bother you.

Collect your 6.5 gallons of water and heat it to about 160 degrees.  Then add your steeping grains in the steeping bag and hold that temperature for about 10-15 minutes.  At the end of that time, remove the steeping bag and let it drain.  Resist the urge to squeeze it.  This will just extract some unwanted tannins.

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Turn up your heat and bring the water close to a boil.  Turn off the flame then add your malt extract.  If you add the extract with the flame on, it could scorch on the bottom of the kettle.  Turn your flame back on and bring to a boil.  Once you are at a boil, that begins your 60 minute countdown timer.  Your recipe most likely has hop additions with times noted beside it.  If your recipe has a 60 minute addition, add them now.  These hops will be providing the bitterness.  Hops added later will be geared more towards aroma.  Some beers like stouts and wheats have a bitterness addition only.  These beers aren’t known for hop aroma.

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An hour has passed, and you have added all the hops according to your recipe.  Time to chill the beer down as fast as you can.  The moment you turn off the flame, everything that touches the wort needs to be sanitized.  Most beginners start out with an ice bath to chill the beer down.  That method can take a few hours.  Its ok, but you want to get the wort down to 65 degrees as soon as you can so you can add the yeast.  Its important to get the fermenting process happening as soon as possible.  The quicker alcohol is present, the less chance of infection.   Don’t let that scare you.  Basically, get the good bugs going before the bad bugs take hold.  Chilling can be done by using a copper immersion chiller that you run cold water through.  And sanitizing the chiller is as easy as dropping it in the wort with about 15 minutes left in the boil.  Pause the timer until it comes back to a boil.

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Now that the wort is chilled to about 65 degrees, you can transfer the wort to a sanitized fermenter.  Making this process as vigorous as possible is good.  Aerating the wort is important for shorter lag times (time between pitching the yeast and fermentation starting).  If you put the wort in a glass fermenter, this may actually knock off a couple of more degrees.

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Add your yeast, affix a stopper and airlock and you have just made beer.

Most ales will need to ferment for about 10 days.  In the correct environment, most of the fermentation is going to be done in the first few days but you really want it to sit undisturbed for about 10-14 days.  But disclaimer here: Fermentation doesn’t have a timer.  Let your hydrometer tell you when its done.  Lagers have a much more intensive fermentation schedule and I won’t even get into that in a beginner focused blog post.

Of course, there are a tons of variations in processes, methods, ingredients etc., and it does get much more advanced if you want it to be.  This is a basic rundown of what you can expect on your first brew day.  Everyone evolves their own style and that’s the great thing about homebrew.  If you want a good example of the wonderful variety of the world of homebrew, you should consider attending the 2013 Humboldt Homebrewers Festival, April 6th at the Arcata Community Center.

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Racking From a Carboy Into a Keg Under Pressure

26 Feb

Oxidation.  Typically, that’s an unwanted effect in your finished beer.  This is true for most beers, especially in lighter style beers, but in sweeter, heavier and higher alcohol beers it can have a sherry like element that is desirable and is most prominent in old ales.  One award winning homebrew I tasted was a porter that was just old, but time and conditioning had transformed it into a beer falling squarely into the old ale style guidelines.  This is something that is achieved simply by aging the beer properly but if you crack open your latest homebrew and taste paper or cardboard, you have introduced a significant amount of oxygen into your beer post-fermentation.  One time while trying to diagnose a faulty beer over the phone, I inquired about the brewers process and he stated he “poured” the fermented beer from one bucket to the next.  That was all I needed to hear and I knew exactly what the problem was.  Read this paragraph understanding that oxidation can be good and bad, but mostly bad and it depends on how you go about getting an oxidized beer.

Lets stop for a minute and talk about the difference between oxidation and aeration.

Aeration is something that should be done to your wort pre-fermentation and before you pitch your yeast.  The act of boiling your wort has pretty much devoid it of oxygen and your yeast needs oxygen to quickly begin their job, build healthy cell walls and reproduce.  Somehow, you need to reintroduce oxygen into your wort.  This can be done by capping and shaking your fermenter or directly injecting filtered air from some kind of air pump (aquarium pumps are pretty popular for this) or filtered oxygen.  Both are best dissolved through an aeration stone into the wort.  Aeration results in shorter lag times between pitching the yeast and the first signs of fermentation.  I actually end up aerating my wort twice, once by creating a whirlpool in my kettle to isolate cold break and then once more with pure oxygen.  This could be overkill.  I’ve never had it tested in a lab but my beer turns out pretty good so I’ll keep doing it.

Oxidation occurs post-fermentation, usually due to sloppy racking and splashing the beer.  Think of oxidation as rust on metal.  This can also bring on spoilage.  Have you ever poured beer from a keg that has been dispensed from a hand pump?  The keg is being pressurized by atmospheric air.  That’s okay for a day or two, but beyond that, the beer will taste spoiled.

Therefore, transferring your beer under CO2 pressure into vessels purged of oxygen is one more way to improve the quality of your beer.

Probably the biggest downfall of this is process is the use of CO2.  Its not always cheap.  And if you only have a small 5 pound tank you know how fast you can deplete it.

Also, before you attempt this, you must understand that carboys are not designed to hold pressure.  I say again, carboys are not designed to hold pressure.   DO THIS AT YOUR OWN RISK AND TAKE ALL SAFETY PRECAUTIONS!!!  Your results may vary.  I want you to be completely aware of this because all carboys are not made the same.  Some are thicker than others, may be heavier or not be as good of quality than others.  Some are different shapes are made in Mexico, Italy and China and they all have a different process and standards in their manufacture.  This process must be done at a low rate of pounds per square inch (P.S.I.) that is set by your regulator.  (All of that can be read as “don’t sue me if something goes wrong” — you have been warned.)

First of all, the most PSI I have used is 2.  I’ve heard of people doing 3 to 5 PSI and the transfer process is faster.  I’m a little too scared to go above 2 PSI and beyond that with my system its a waste of CO2 anyway.  I’ll talk more on that later.   So know your PSI limitations before you attempt this.

The necessary equipment is as follows (aside from your normal corny keg draft dispensing equipment):

  • Racking cane with sediment tip
  • At least 3 feet of 3/8 I.D. tubing (or whatever O.D. your racking cane is)
  • Carboy cap
  • 1/4″ MFL to 1/4″ barbed fitting
  • 1/4″ FFL swivel nut to 3/8″ barbed fitting
  • Hose clamps or zip ties
  • Beverage out QD for your keg (you should already have this if you are kegging)

Note: barbed fittings may vary based on your tubing size.

Assemble the carboy cap and 1/4″ MFL to 1/4″ barbed fitting as follows:

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I like a zip tie for this because I feel by having a loose connection here and by not clamping down the carboy cap onto the carboy, it sort of makes for a built in pressure relief system.  When I have this operating, I can hear pressure escaping.  Its wasted CO2 for sure, but I like it for safety reasons as well.

Next, insert your racking cane into the carboy cap.  Connect your tubing and flare fitting so you can connect to a corny keg quick disconnect.

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Attach your appropriate QD and fix the entire assembly into the carboy so its ready to rack.  Purge your keg with CO2.  Do this a few times and bleed off the pressure to make sure all the air that’s in the keg has been replaced by CO2.  Fill it one last time with CO2 a little bit.  When you get ready to connect to your keg, open the pressure relief valve and turn it (or flip it for some) so it remains open.  Connect to your beverage out post on your keg.  Although this is the outlet, you will be putting the beer in through the dip tube.  By now, everything is assembled and connected and ready to add CO2 pressure.  It would be wise to have your pressure set beforehand instead of accidentally blasting it with some sort of dispensing pressure meant for kegs.  Remember, aim for 2 PSI MAX!

Your CO2 system is attached to your carboy via the carboy cap.  The racking cane is attached to your keg OUT post.  Your keg is purged with CO2 and pressure relief valve open.  You are ready to add pressure.

I still get a bit nervous pressurizing a carboy.  In reality, the really stout ones can probably take quite a bit of pressure but in the back of my mind, I’m prepared for it to shatter and spend the next hour mopping up beer off my garage floor with a gigantic glass shard protruding from my torso.  Please, please, be careful if you try this and don’t jack up the PSI unless you are prepared for a catastrophe.

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(Please note, the void in the tubing is not ideal and is against what you are trying to accomplish.  I took this photo and stopped the process so the tubing was filled with beer and then transferred.)

With my CO2 system being fixed the way it is having the gas lines going through the wall of the kegerator, I’m forced to do this with the door open if I want to have gravity assist the transfer effort.  I tried that method and also having the keg level with the carboy and I didn’t notice a difference in time to rack.  So the big benefit for me is I’m able to close my kegerator and let the magic happen.  If the carboy explodes, then I will have a mess but the danger is contained.

In summary, please be careful.  I can’t stress enough that things can go wrong and you need to understand I’m in no way saying you should do this or follow my direction.  I do it and it works for me.  Your mileage may vary.  Also, understand that you are going to be wasting CO2 you will never see again.  But in all honesty, I waste 10 times more CO2 pushing cleanser and sanitizer through my draft lines.  My next project is to figure out draft line cleaning with compressed air, so at the end of the day for me, I will be ahead of the game for saving CO2.

As a homebrewer, you can achieve everything that craft breweries achieve.  You just have to think in the small scale and work within the boundaries and equipment you have.  Almost every craft brewery started in the home with people doing things like this.  And I can tell you with absolute certainty, most of the brewing innovation these days is happening in the home.  Don’t be afraid to dream big and brew small.

Malting Company of Ireland

15 Dec

For years, I’ve been searching for an Irish grown malt. I never really cared for English malt because it was too bready and biscuit like for my taste. In fact, I’m not a fan of English ingredients entirely, so if you know where to get Irish grown hops, let me know. Occasionally I would do a Google search, get two or three pages deep, click onto a few leads and get nowhere when it came to availability in America. I conducted one such search in late summer 2012 and finally saw two names on one page that stopped me dead in my tracks. Malting Company of Ireland and Brewers Supply Group were staring at me in the same sentence on a global commodities distribution website. Brewers Supply Group is my malt supplier.

I immediately sent an email to my supplier. “Yes,” was the reply, “we have the stout and lager malt available in our California warehouse.” I got the spec sheets and the stout malt was a light lovibond and it didn’t look like there were any problems with using this malt in a lighter colored beer. In fact, this malt, by the numbers, is very similar to Golden Promise. The low protein and high extract had me dreaming of making IPA stand for “Irish Pale Ale”.

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Click to enlarge

The sack of malt came in with a delivery and I took it home. Due to the madness of moving Humboldt Beer Works, I didn’t get a chance to brew with this malt until Veterans Day. The week before, I ran into Peter Hoey of Brewers Supply Group, formerly of Bison Brewing and we ended up going to Strange Brew together that day. He said this was some of the best malt he has ever seen and was hoping to brew with it soon.

I had originally planned on doing a pale ale, but after speaking with Peter, I changed my mind to a SMaSH beer, single malt, single hop. Since this was such a new (perhaps, unproven) malt, I wanted to see what it could do on its own without interference from color or roasted malts. Also, since I’m such a fan of Anchor Steam, my go-to dual purpose hop is Northern Brewer.

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Deciding my recipe was done. 100% Malting Company of Ireland Stout Malt, Northern Brewer hops all around to 25 IBUs and of course, Irish Ale yeast. I adjusted my recipe to give me an OG of 1.052 and proceeded with my brew day as normal.

I should have known something was wrong –or right– when I took my pre-boil gravity reading and it was 1.052. My pre-boil was my target original gravity. I needed this measurement to figure out my efficiency. Assuming 35 points of extract –which is fairly average for base malts– I had achieved 95% efficiency. If this malts point value is closer to Golden Promise, my efficiency only drops by 1%. I was so stunned I took two different samples and my results were the same.

Regardless, I extracted a lot of fermentable sugars out of the grain.

My original gravity ended up at 1.058. I fermented with Wyeast 1084 at 62 degrees. The beer finished at 1.009. I was hoping for something more session strength and landed at 6.4% ABV. I did not secondary.

I kegged up the beer and finally poured a draft. What I tasted was a well rounded, full mouthfeel beer. Despite finishing on the dry side, you could not tell. This beer was still malty and didn’t taste dry at all. I didn’t achieve good clarity, but I wasn’t trying either. I happened to run out of Whirlfloc so I used no finings, I didn’t cold crash and I didn’t secondary. It produced a wonderful, pillowy head and was all around delicious.

In the foreseeable future, I don’t plan on using any other malt. I’m going to continue on with my pale ale idea, but now I’m beginning to think this malt would make a fantastic barleywine. So I’m considering both in a partigyle batch. Almost every style of ale with this malt is begging to be tested out.

Malting Company of Ireland makes lager, stout, ale and distillers malt. The stout malt is available at Humboldt Beer Works now.

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Take That 1887! Humboldt Regeneration CSB Update

9 Aug

For hundreds, if not thousands of years, beer was the only safe thing to drink.  Almost everyone drank beer in one form or another but they didn’t know why it didn’t make one sick and water did.  The beer was being boiled and that simple step killed the pathogens in the water that made us sick.   It wasn’t until the mid 1800’s when we fist began understanding microbiology.  Pasteurization is just one more gift that beer gave to civilization.  Slowly, water became safer and the number of breweries declined.

This graph was released recently by the Brewers Association and went a little “viral” in beer circles.  As a beer lover, it should bring you joy.

In your face, 1887.  2012 rules.

Prohibition had its impact as represented on the graph.  As a sidebar, one could suggest that based on the graph, prohibition had no long term impact on the number of breweries in the US.  It appears if you connect the dots between 1920 and 1933, the downward trend would have remained constant.

Then enter the dark days of 1978.  I was three years old, so it didn’t bother me too much.  If you lived in the bay area as a craft beer fan back then, you may have survived insanity with Anchor and New Albion — maybe Yuengling got you by in the east and Shiner in Texas.  1978 also saw the “legalization” of homebrewing, so I’m going to credit that to the rebirth of American beer.   Yes, the word “legalization” just got quotes.  Due to a clerical error or omission in the 21st Amendment, home wine making was legalized and home beer making was left out.  I think I’m suggesting that if the lawmakers in 1933 didn’t have their heads placed up their — you know whats, American Craft Beer would have hit its stride years ago.  But then the west coast hop bomb craze may have hit in the 60’s!  We are here now, so hooray beer!

Nationally, 725 breweries were being planned this time last year.  Compare that to 1,252 today and you can see this crazy train isn’t stopping.  One of those 725 from last year was our own Humboldt Regeneration.

“Wait a minute……” you say, and begin counting the Humboldt breweries with your fingers.  “Let’s see here, Mad River, Redwood Curtain, Eel River……..”  Lo and behold, your Humboldt brewery count just went to your second hand.  Six Humboldt breweries now exist.  Six.  That’s one more than five.

Hopefully you have read the previous HumBrewNation post about Humboldt Regeneration CSB and its goal to make a 100% Humboldt ingredient beer.  Since then, HRCSB has become a bona-fide, card carrying, beer making, tap room having brewery.   Brewmaster Jacob Pressey is set to launch his growler exchange program on August 27th.  You can get Humboldt farm fresh beer with a one month share for just over $4 a pint.  Thats $66 for a once a week growler fill for a month.  3 month and 6 month versions are also available.  HRCSB is still working towards that 100% Humboldt ingredient goal and it won’t get there without you.  Get yourself down to the brewery located at 2320 Central Avenue Unit F in McKinleyville on August 27th to help him make this a success.  You don’t have to wait to taste it, you can go enjoy the beers now in the tasting room Sunday through Tuesday, 10:30-6:30.  Jacob is cranking out brews on a 1 bbl nano-brewery system using ingredients grown on a small farm in Alton.  I think we would all like to see it become a microbrewery supporting acres and acres of sustainable farming.  That is something everyone can get behind.  Get all the info about Humboldt Regeneration on their website.

Get ready to count out those breweries on your hands again.  Rumors of #7 are swirling………….

Pints For (insert your cause)

7 Jun

I’ve long held the theory that beer is a common denominator for people all over the world. It brings us together. It transcends politics, religion, race, social status, creed or gender. Dear reader, I may not have a single thing in common with you except for love of craft beer, and that is why you are reading this blog. We may be polar opposites on an issue –and not like each other for it– but we can sit at a table, sip the same beer, respect each others opinions about it and repeat the process or part company on better terms. I daresay beer could solve all our problems.

This week saw two charity events hosted by Mad River Brewing Company’s tap room. Craft beer providers do this type of thing all the time for various causes. These two just happened to take place close together and I attended both, so this topic is on my mind. (read: I am a MRB fanboy, just trying not to make it so obvious) June 2nd was “Pints for Tracy”, and June 6th was “Pints for Non-Profits” benefiting the local chapter of Engineers Without Boarders in their efforts at Camoapa, Nicaragua. Each get $1 donated by the brewery for every pint sold but they are two very different causes. One, a small group, the other, a very large group. One effort staying local, the other effort thousands of miles away. But who cares? People everywhere need help for various reasons. Charity should be a regular part of our lives. Where am I going with this? Enjoying craft beer for a cause should be a very easy thing to do!

Tracy Collins is a humble man. An every day man. He has a heart of gold, which is what gave him a bit of trouble in May. I’m not going to get any farther into his situation because that’s not respectful to him and not what this blog post is about. But Tracy and his family were dealt an unexpected crisis away from home and their friends and community rallied together for support.

Knowing what Tracy had gone through, I was absolutely astonished to see him there. I asked him how he was doing. “Still pretty sore”, he acknowledged. Then he commented on the event, stating it was overwhelming. See, humble. You don’t have to be superman for people to look up to you. Perhaps he knows that now.

From left to right, Wendy Collins, John Onstine and Tracy Collins.

There was the typical “Let me know if there is anything I can do for you” being offered and those go a long way. The thing that brought the community together, the thing that got people to stop what they were doing, the thing that was easy for them, was craft beer. I know this for a cold, hard fact because my own wife was there drinking a beer and she hates beer. It was a pink beer, though –Flor De Jamaica– so baby steps. (I’m expecting a plague of locusts and frogs falling from the sky any day now) In attendance were people very young and very old, people of different walks of life, people who may not have liked the band and people who don’t even know Tracy. And that’s what made it a beautiful thing.

Tracy is a member of the Humboldt Homebrewers and a volunteer with the Blue Lake Fire Department. Blue Lake itself is a pretty tight knit community and the fire department is at its core. This effort was headed up by the BLVFD and a group of the firefighters spouses. Being Blue Lake, and being a volunteer organization, this came together naturally. Although its not set in stone as of yet, I believe there is another craft beer related benefit in the works for the Collins family. Tracy was key in the Humboldt Homebrewers holiday party held at BLVFD. I knew I liked Tracy a whole heck of a lot when he spent most of his time entertaining the kids in attendance and showing them the fire trucks rather than enjoying the festivities.

June 6th received a visit by the folks from Engineers Without Borders.  This group was the local chapter of a much larger organization and they are also responsible for the Humboldt Homebrew Festival held in April.  As mentioned before, their work is focused on a city in Nicaragua which is the sister city to Arcata.  Their most recent efforts are on improving the water supply.  After their first trip, they showed the Humboldt Homebrewers a presentation highlighting what they did and what their ongoing project is.  The thing that strikes you the most is we take clean and readily available water for granted.  The people of Camoapa must bring large jugs of water in by truck.

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Pints for Non-Profits events seem to be happening every week at various breweries and craft beer providers.  Most breweries don’t hesitate to donate beer to charity events.   Yes, its a tax write-off for them, but they do it because it is a small community here.  If Humboltians weren’t community minded, we wouldn’t get anything accomplished.  So enjoy your “craft beer for a cause” as often as you can!

P.S. Just prior to publishing this post, I received a press release from Mad River Brewing Co.  This is beer karma for sure.

Mad River Brewing Company Wins Bronze Medal in International Beer Competition

Blue Lake, CA • 6/5/12 — Mad River Brewing Company recently claimed a bronze medal at the 2012 World
Beer Cup®, a global beer competition presented by the Brewers Association (BA) that evaluates beers from
around the world and recognizes the most outstanding brewers and their beers.  Awards in the competition’s 95 beer-style categories were presented May 5, 2012 during the World Beer Cup Gala Awards Dinner at the Town and Country Resort in San Diego, California.

Mad River Brewing Company was awarded a bronze in the Golden and Blonde Ale beer style category for its
flagship Steelhead Extra Pale Ale, a bright golden hued ale of medium body with a spicy floral hop character
and mild bitterness.

“Our brewing team works around the clock crafting our fine ales. It is a great honor for all of our crew to have our
Steelhead Extra Pale Ale recognized as among the best in the world, at the top competition in the world.”” said Dylan Schatz, Brew Master at Mad River Brewing Company.

World Beer Cup winners were selected by an international panel of 211 beer judges from 27 countries. The competition—referred to as the “Olympics of Beer Competition”—saw an impressive field of 3,921 entries from 799 breweries in 54 countries. The 2012 competition drew the largest, most international field of entrants in the history of the World Beer Cup.

Big Brew Day at Mad River Brewing Company

6 May

The fist week of May had some really oddball weather in Blue Lake. It was bi-polar from day to day. But Saturday it was absolutely perfect weather. The beer gods smiled upon us. May 5th wasn’t just Cinco De Mayo, it was National Homebrew Day and there was a celebration to be had in the form of Big Brew. 6 hearty souls producing four beers and 35 gallons hauled their gear to Mad River Brewing Company and set up their breweries next to the beer garden. These were some of the members of the Humboldt Homebrewers; a rag tag group of zymurgists from all walks of life. Three rules were employed at the start of the Humboldt Homebrewers, and are still used today:

  • No discussion of politics or religion.
  • Pay beer karma forward.
  • Always respect other brewers, regardless of skill level. Everyone has something to teach and learn.

Pete rocked the Coleman for his signature ginger beer, John and Stephen made yet another…brown ale (c’mon, expand guys!), the Humboldt Beer Terroirists made an explosive effort in their saison on the “Ring of Fire” 3-tiered system, and yours truly made a Belgian pale ale. Hot water and cool tunes were graciously provided by the brewery and tap room.

This year saw half the brews of 2011 but gained much more public interest. All day, folks entered the beer garden, walked straight through to the exit on the other side, and made their way to the festivities. They first stopped by the informational table featuring 11 grains to sample, took a beginners informational magazine and observed the equipment starter kit that would be required to brew their own beer. One by one, they made their way down the different breweries, snacked on chips and BBQ, sipped their Mad River beer, asked about a thousand questions and saw the many steps of brewing a beer.

The day wound down with chilling wort and filling carboys and your author, who up to this point was being responsible with the occasional Steelhead XP, finished the day with an “Old School”, which is a Shaun Cordes blend of 3/4 Jamaica Red and 1/4 DIPA.

I regrettably rushed out of the Peaceable Hamlet of Blue Lake to get back to the shop before closing. I could slowly feel my sunburn setting in. After a long winters night, it was a feel good burn and much needed UV. It was kind of like eating some really good hot wings invoking a fifth sense into their enjoyment. It was an absolute perfect day; great weather, great beer, great brewing, great food and friends and when I got home, I had the pleasure of reading that my beloved Steelhead Extra Pale Ale won a bronze medal in the Golden Ale category at the 2012 World Beer Cup. Big Brew Day could not have been any better.

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2012 Humboldt Homebrew Festival Live Blog

7 Apr

1:24 PM Everyone is setting up. I’m helping out where I can. Getting thirsty!

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1:41 PM First taste, Shaun Cordes’ Maggie Mae IPA

2:03 PM Doors open!

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2:17 PM First taste from THE Jere Cox, who brought 9 kegs! First is La Palsner de Sour, sour pils on cherries!

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2:40 PM Just in time, Humboldt Homebrewers club T-shirts are in!

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3:06 PM Making connections and filling up!

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3:41 PM We take this seriously. It’s not about getting drunk, but coming together for the love of beer!

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3:59 PM Best keg accessory of the day.

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4:22 PM Cydneys Date Sour is fantastic!

4:34 PM Not sure which band this is but they are killing it!

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4:41 PM Wow, brewers from Crescent City, Willits, and Healdsberg! Very cool!

4:54 PM there are a lot of high quality beer at this event. Mad skillz.

5:44 PM Bottle comp results….

5:50 PM Jamie with the ESB!

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6:08 PM yours truly, 1st place cider

6:09 BOS Justin Wittaker with sweet stout!!!! Healdsburg!

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6:17 And with that, I’m done. What a fantastic event!