Great Lakes Brewing News August/September 2015 : Page 1

Best if Read by Aug/Sept 2015 Volume 19 Number 4 It’s Okay to JUDGE HOMEBREW COMPETITIONS ILLUSTRATION BY: HANS GRANHEIM By Meagan Wilson n a brilliant Saturday morning in mid-April, somewhere between thirty and forty beer enthusi-asts gathered at the Fairport Brewing Company’s produc-tion facility. Their mission? The 37th annual homebrewing competition of the Upstate New York Homebrewers Association. UNYHA is one of the nation’s oldest American Homebrewers Association (AHA) clubs, and their competition tends to attract a large number of entries. So it’s to be expected that most of those evaluating the nearly 300 homebrews were ranked judges in the Beer Judging Certificate Program, all with a fair amount of prior experience. Most, but not all—two complete nov-ices were also helping to judge the beers that day. Their qualifications: a few years of homebrewing, more time as craft beer drink-ers, and a shared penchant for analyzing and describing their own and others’ brews. Both first-time judges had signed up to help with the competition, expecting to be assigned Bryan Kreiter and Pepper Stebbins at Next Door Brewing Company. PHOTO BY BOB PAOLINO IN By Bob "Now go have a beer" Paolino See Judge p. 4 INSIDE Event Calendar .....................3 Beer Beacon .........................8 Homebrew ............................. 10 Beers To Us! .......................25 Map/Directory................ 18-23 State by State News Pennsylvania . 12 Ohio ............... 13 Michigan ........ 14 SW Michigan . 15 SE Michigan .. 16 Indiana .......... 24 Illinois ........... 26 Chicago ......... 26 Wisconsin ..... 28 N Wisconsin .. 29 Minnesota ...... 30 Ontario .......... 32 New York ....... 34 many parts of Wisconsin, local taverns have often been thought of as an extension of the family living room. In Madison's eastside Schenk-Atwood neighborhood, one brewpub wants to be your next door neighbor. Next Door Brewing Company opened in August 2013 in a long vacant former appliance service shop on Atwood Avenue, with the aim of brewing beer and serving it with locally sourced food served in a set-ting of conversation and community. As it approaches its second anniversary, Next Door has established itself as a friendly place in the neighborhood to relax and enjoy an expanding lineup of beers. PHOTOS COURTESY OF NEXT DOOR BREWING See Next Door p. 6

It's Okay To Judge

Meagan Wilson

On a brilliant Saturday morning in mid- April, somewhere between thirty and forty beer enthusiasts gathered at the Fairport Brewing Company’s production facility. Their mission? The 37th annual homebrewing competition of the Upstate New York Homebrewers Association.

UNYHA is one of the nation’s oldest American Homebrewers Association (AHA) clubs, and their competition tends to attract a large number of entries. So it’s to be expected that most of those evaluating the nearly 300 homebrews were ranked judges in the Beer Judging Certificate Program, all with a fair amount of prior experience.

Most, but not all—two complete novices were also helping to judge the beers that day. Their qualifications: a few years of homebrewing, more time as craft beer drinkers, and a shared penchant for analyzing and describing their own and others’ brews. Both first-time judges had signed up to help with the competition, expecting to be assigned stewarding duties—the most usual track for those who are new to competitions, as it requires little prior knowledge and can be a great learning opportunity. But instead, to their surprise, they wound up working beside more experienced judges to evaluate and score the contest entries.

Aroma, appearance, flavor, mouthfeel, and overall impression—these are the five descriptive sections on a BJCP score sheet. Each beer is evaluated according to the appropriate entry in the BJCP Style Guide, and assigned a score for the five attributes mentioned above. Then the five scores are tallied to reach a single number, usually between thirteen and fifty.

If the idea of evaluating and scoring someone else’s homebrew seems intimidating, you’re hardly alone. BJCP judge Thomas Ocque, who organized the UNYHA competition this year, explained that as a novice judge, “I too was very reluctant to judge and provide written feedback to some stranger… [but] I have to tell you that…[it] really helped me understand the sensory experiences of beer further.”

Ocque likened judging beer to buying a used sports car: First, you would inspect the car for any obvious scratches, dents or dulling paint. Next, you would look inside the car and smell it. Did someone spill coffee all over the seat? Maybe there is a sour odor from someone leaving an old forgotten lunch… Lastly, let's see how this car does with a quick drive. Does it sound good when running, any vibrations, odd noises or handling issues? You see, one does not need to be a mechanic to fully understand and pick out flaws in a used sports car.

How it’s Done

For some, giving a written description of their “sensory experience” is the most daunting aspect of judging. For others, assigning numerical scores is more challenging. The key is to do your best, but also to relax and have fun with it. “Filling out the sheets seems like a lot, but by your second flight you really start to get into the swing of it,” says judge Benjamin Wilson, describing his first judging experience at the UNYHA competition,

The very word “judging” carries negative or intimidating connotations for many people; it might seem harsh or rude to drink a beer with the specific intent of finding all its flaws. But that’s not quite how it is. BJCP judges do note flaws, but they also pay attention to the things that are right, as well as the areas that could use improvement. And that is precisely what the entrants in homebrew competitions want. Well, yes, they generally hope their entries will win ribbons, but from a craft standpoint, the constructive criticism is far more valuable. Homebrewers go to a great deal of effort, and pay good money (for the UNYHA competition it was $7 for each 2-bottle entry) to get responses from judges that will help them to brew better. As Ocque pointed out, “There is not a perfect beer anywhere. Providing feedback is what judging is all about.”

Get With the Program

Founded in 1985, and later incorporated in New York state, the Beer Judging Certificate Program is an international organization that certifies and ranks judges for beer, cider and mead “through an examination and monitoring process, sanction competitions, and provide[s] educational resources for current and future judges” (bjcp.org). You can become a member by passing the two-part BJCP Exam: an online knowledge test, and a tasting exam. However, becoming an official, ranked BJCP judge is not a prerequisite to judge at homebrewing competitions.As Ocque commented, “Taking the BJCP test is good to help understand beer better, but it is not the end all for being a judge. I judged for at least five years before I took the test.”

The Love of Beer

In some settings, newcomers are treated with impatience, or even disdain. Not so in the beer community. Whether they’ve been brewing for thirty years, or are just discovering craft brews, most beer aficionados are extremely friendly and welcoming; they want to share their love of beer. If possible, this is even truer of those involved in homebrew competitions. When asked about his experience judging at the UNYHA event, Wilson said, “Your first time judging is an intimidating experience [but] every judge I worked with was friendly and inviting. I learned a significant amount from my first competition.”

Most of this open, inviting attitude is due to the nature of the hobby itself, but the relative scarcity of judges could also be a factor. An AHA survey from 2013 reveals that there are around 1.2 million homebrewers in the United States, and according to BJCP data, there are 5,667 [BJCP] competitions in the country, but only 4,377 active judges in the United States. That’s less than one judge per competition. Most judges participate in several events per year, but as Dan Cassetta, a Nationally ranked BJCP judge noted: “Homebrew competition organizers always seem to be scrambling to get an adequate amount of judges.”

Naturally, the majority of BJCP judges seem to be homebrewers, and nearly everyone interviewed—including first-time steward Christian Wolff—mentioned increasing their own brewing knowledge as a major benefit of volunteering at homebrew competitions.

But what if you are interested in learning more about beer, perhaps evaluating and critiquing it, but do not brew, or do not feel ready to offer feedback to other brewers?Tim Belczak, another ranked BJCP judge and the organizer for this year’s Erie County Fair Homebrew Competition, offered this advice: “If you’re interested in learning more about what separates a well-made homebrew from a faulty one, volunteering in a competition has fantastic benefits... [and] stewards don’t need any experience. While doing some light paperwork, they can sample the entries along with the judges and listen to their discussions.”

Worthwhile Fun

It is common for stewards to pursue judge certification, but by no means required. There was at least one steward at the Erie County Fair Homebrew Competition who was not herself a homebrewer, and who showed no interest in formally judging the beer, either. She only sampled the beers that piqued her interest, and in between small bits of paperwork and helping to pour flights for the judges, she read a book.

Stewards play a significant role in homebrew competitions, and the judges would be in real trouble without their help. This is especially true toward the end of a tasting flight, when the judges will likely have appraised ten to twelve beers—even two-ounce samples can add up—and their math starts to get a bit wonky.

On the surface, judging or stewarding at a homebrew competition may seem like a serious endeavor, and it is, to the extent that judges need to be as fair as possible, and do their best to provide the brewers with adequate feedback. But as Cassetta noted when discussing the process of studying for the BJCP exam, it “…is work but it is fun work... you drink beer.”

Read the full article at http://archive.brewingnews.com/article/It%27s+Okay+To+Judge/2240206/268451/article.html.

Meet The Beer

Bob

In many parts of Wisconsin, local taverns have often been thought of as an extension of the family living room. In Madison's eastside Schenk- Atwood neighborhood, one brewpub wants to be your next door neighbor.

Next Door Brewing Company opened in August 2013 in a long vacant former appliance service shop on Atwood Avenue, with the aim of brewing beer and serving it with locally sourced food served in a setting of conversation and community. As it approaches its second anniversary, Next Door has established itself as a friendly place in the neighborhood to relax and enjoy an expanding lineup of beers.

The Plan

The brewpub was the result of a partnership between Pepper Stebbins and Keith Symonds. Symonds, a math teacher who also had professional brewing experience in Connecticut and downstate New York, among other places, had been exploring the possibility of opening a brewery since moving to Madison. Stebbins, a Madison native with enough of an interest in beer to have regularly brought cases from Wisconsin with him to school in Kentucky, has a background in marketing and sales and lived in the Amazon region of Brazil for 12 years before returning to Madison. Stebbins and Symonds met when Stebbins was a bartender at Great Dane-Hilldale, and was also a co-founder of the local Hop Head Beer Tour company. With Symonds' brewing experience and Stebbins' front of the house experience, the two of them came up with a business plan, and decided on a three-barrel brewhouse and a restaurant focused mainly on "small plates," with a few more substantial entree offerings.

The Pub

The pub is laid out in three somewhat distinct areas, which gives patrons a choice of seating arrangements and opportunities for interaction with friends and neighbors they already know, and those they are about to meet areas include a standard bar area with bar seating and small high-top tables, a small traditional style dining area, and a central area with large high-top tables to accommodate Either large groups or as communal tables. Although the pub is equipped with televisions, they are often hidden behind cabinet doors so as not to be a distraction from live interaction— the door are opened up and Tvs turned on mainly for special events like the World Cup and the obligatory concession in Madison to UW Badgers football, hockey, and basketball games. All of this is bounded by painted cinder block walls to encourage a feeling that you could be in your next door neighbor's basement, and to reinforce the idea that the brewery is indeed Next Door. Various events add to that neighborly vibe, such as Monday night's "Vinyl Tap," which features Happy Hour all evening, and something else: customers are encouraged to bring in an album (actual vinyl records, not Cds or mp3s!) To play for an extra dollar off pints.

At first, not all of this neighborliness was entirely welcome in the minds of some people. The area is an emerging restaurant and entertainment district that already had several bars and restaurants, including some craft beer establishments such as One Barrel Brewing Company (which we hope to feature in a future issue), Alchemy Cafe, Glass Nickel Pizza, and Harmony Bar, and at the time of the licensing hearing, a handful of vocal residents complained that the area did not need another bar and that a brewery would have an adverse impact on the neighborhood. Madison Police Department, however, had no concerns about the application, and in the pub's first two years of operation, by most accounts Next Door has been a very good neighbor.

As the original Head Brewer, Symonds started with three full-time beers and a large number of rotating seasonals and one-offs— perhaps in the neighborhood of about 80 different beers in the first year of operation. Symonds remains a partner in the business, but was replaced in May 2014 by then assistant brewer Bryan Kreiter. Symonds remains active in brewing as a consultant for other new breweries, including a couple close to home in Dane County.

Kreiter is an Iowa native with family ties to Wisconsin. He spent 10 years in Florida and Mississippi working for The Nature Conservancy after completing his degree in Wildlife Ecology from Iowa State. While living in the South, Kreiter began homebrewing and got involved with a small brewery in Mississippi. After moving to Madison in 2013, he took the Siebel Institute's short course and started working as assistant brewer in October 2013.

The Beer

Since taking over as head brewer, Kreiter has worked on expanding the full-time beer lineup from three to six, while still leaving room for creativity and experimentation with the other five taps. If one could use only two words to describe the change in character of the beers, those words might be "hop forward."Two of the original three regular beers tended toward restraint, although the seasonals and experimental beer exhibited considerable variety. In contrast, one of Kreiter's first beers while still assistant brewer was Hammerhead, a 7.5%, 80 IBU Belgian-style IPA. The current regular lineup includes Luminous, a 68 IBU American IPA; Rockets Red, a 50IBU dryhopped red ale, and Iron Brigade, a 52 IBU American/West Coast stout. And even though Eastside Pale Ale (soon to be renamed) is only mildly bitter, at 6% v/v, it's relatively big for an APA and has a huge Mosaic hop aroma from dry hopping.

But not all the beers at Next Door are "in your face" hoppy beers. Bascom Blonde is the obligatory light-bodied, lightly hopped American Blonde, and Four Lakes Saison is a refreshing and relatively light-bodied beer. Sevex, a strong ale that was one of Symonds' original three beers, continues to make an appearance in the beer lineup. Seasonal beers range from a gose to a big double IPA for summer. Later in the year, look for a sour blonde, then "Nextoberfest" (their ale variant on an Oktoberfest), and an Imperial rye stout, as a few examples.

One thing that has continued in the transition between brewers and beer lineups is the effort to brew with Wisconsin ingredients.90% of the malt used in the brewhouse in from Briess, and about 15-20% of the hops are sourced through Gorst Valley. Kreiter noted, "If I can get the hop [variety] in Wisconsin, I will."

The Good Neighbor

Another way Next Door seeks to be a good neighbor is using beer as a means for community involvement. In NDBC's two years in business, they have done collaboration beers with other breweries and restaurants, many of which have been featured in Madison Craft Beer Weeks. But that collaboration extends beyond just the brewing community. So far Next Door has brewed beers as fund-raisers for about two-dozen local nonprofits, including the Audubon Society, Humane Society, Gilda's Club, League of Conservation Voters, Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, Sustain Dane, Juvenile Diabetes foundation, and others. The nonprofit and the brewer decide upon a style, and NDBC hosts a launch party with the nonprofit, during which the organization receives $1 per pint sold and has the opportunity to run a raffle, silent auction, or other type of fundraising activity at the party.

Beer remains the focus at Next Door, but the kitchen has expanded its offerings a little bit beyond the initial focus on small bites and a couple different burgers. Among the popular items are the ribs, beer mac-and-cheese, and pork belly sliders. Next Door has also added a Sunday brunch. For dessert, be sure to try the beer pie, with spent grain and graham crackers in the crust, beer in the custard, and one of the dark beers with the chocolate. The kitchen seeks to source food locally, including the meats, produce, pastas, and coffee.

What's coming up for Next Door?Although the three-barrel brewhouse, with 36 barrels of fermentation capacity, has its limits for production, NDBC is in the process of finding a distributor and plans to distribute two of the beers from the regular lineup plus a seasonal by October. They are also close to signing with a brewery to produce some of the bigger selling beers on contract. When the brewpub first opened, NDBC did have some production at House of Brews, but has not had any brewed there since December 2013. Even with this upcoming reach beyond the immediate neighborhood, however, Next Door intends to remain that place in the community to welcome you in, like a neighbor next door, with good beer, food, and conversation.

Read the full article at http://archive.brewingnews.com/article/Meet+The+Beer/2240208/268451/article.html.

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