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Hundreds of Beers & Thousands of Beer Lovers, Take 1

The week of NHC is finally here. My countdown to this event began all the way back on Memorial Day weekend with The Bruery’s 3rd Anniversary celebration. The anniversary, while important to everybody at The Bruery, was especially so for me because it served as my introduction to beer festivals. As a virgin fest-goer I learned some important lessons (Lesson 1: If you want to sample beers all day, you must drink water and increase your caloric intake beyond nachos and their accompanying “cheese.” (Lesson 2: Do not expect decent vegetarian fare at a beer festival)) and I was saved from liver failure only because I was working for the first two thirds of the celebration. I found that helping may actually be more fun than simply attending, which has me very excited to steward the NHC finals this Thursday. Most of my day was spent pouring at the VIP tent; a task made more daunting due to the length of the VIP line and The Bruery’s track record of letting down many of these same acolytes at their last large event (a train-wreck that has led to the renaming of all subsequent reserve society parties: they are now “Clusterforks”). However, we came prepared and the red-flag-raising queue cycled through in less time than it took many a surprised Very Important Person to finish 3 ounces of highly sought-after booze.

Pouring and sampling these drinks taught yet another lesson: the people who pay hundreds of dollars for      fill in with any number of “whale” beers      are out of their goddamn minds. Yes, these beers are wonderful (the most illuminating of the VIP pours was the difference between Stone’s ’07 and ’08 Imperial Russian Stout; I was astounded at how a beer can mellow so perceptibly even after three years of cellaring). But I have to believe that those who inflate their value to such an absurd degree must come away disappointed. The aura of expectation that surrounds these select beers does more harm than good, as far as I can tell. The only griping patrons I encountered were those who came too late to get Chocolate Rain or Black Tuesday. But for every lauded Imperial Russian Stout (why are they all Stouts? It’s because any stout can be made more special with some time in a bourbon barrel, right?) there are a number of beers of equal greater quality and lesser stature to be had.

So now, after The Bruery 3 experience, I have a new top reason to be excited about NHC. There are no over-hyped beers amongst homebrewers. Almost everybody is unknown and word-of-mouth only has a few hours to develop after a beer starts pouring. This means every sample is a chance to be surprised. Oh yeah, and on top of the homebrews there are the presentations, NHC finals, nighttime soirées and the banquet dinner. There’s even a vegetarian option.

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NHC

It’s official: I’m going to the National Homebrewers Conference. They even have a vegetarian option for the final dinner. Niiiice.

This weekend I transfer one entry into secondary and attempt to brew a last minute IPA, just for shits and giggles. That should put me with entries in Stout, Spice/Herb/Vegetable, Scottish Ale and APA — very excited to get my first score sheets back!

Next article should be up in a day or two: it’s on preparing for the interview with your prospective brewery.

Our Story So Far…

February 6, 2011 Leave a comment

So there’s a bit of backstory that needs to be told in order to get this blog up to speed. I intend to keep it nice and short.

I first encountered homebrewing back in college. My friend Paul made his own beer and kept in on tap in our friends’ dormroom closet. This bent a number of dorm rules and the authorities soon intervened, but my interest had already been piqued. In the fall of 2008 I found some used brewing equipment for forty bucks on Craig’s List and I was officially on my way. I brewed off and on for the next two years; mostly extract with steeping. It was a transient period for me so I repeatedly found myself needing to start collecting equipment all over again. One notable batch of mead was left to fend for itself in Hawai’i while I moved back to the East Coast to tour with a band. This sort of thing doesn’t make for good beer.

Things started to settle down and six months ago I decided I was ready to get serious about trying to brew professionally. Though I was a bit of an off-an-on brewer I had always loved the process. I’d like to think that I made some good beers and the more I learned, the more I wanted to learn. I love that brewing is both art and science; it’s your prerogative to take it as far as you’d like in either of those directions.

I had just come out to San Diego — again with the band — and started brewing more frequently. I joined the local homebrew club and started trolling sites like ProBrewer for job possibilities. In December I saw a job posting for a Packaging Team Member at The Bruery in Orange County and applied. During my interview with them I realized that I should be volunteering at a local brewery if I could find one that needed the help. At the time I was living out in East County so I knocked on the door of Manzanita Brewing Company, a small-batch brewery that had just opened in July 2010. I started volunteering with them on brewdays, a couple weeks went by, and then came the call from The Bruery. I had the job.

Since I do two very different sets of activities at each brewery I have continued volunteering at Manzanita while working at The Bruery. So that’s the current state of affairs: M-F I work at The Bruery filling & washing kegs, bottling, and other assorted tasks; on the weekends I volunteer with Manzanita assisting with Brewer and Cellarman’s duties. I work all the time, but I love it. I’m learning something new everyday and am going to attempt to share that knowledge with all of you.

Cheers,

Matt

What’s This All About, Anyway?

February 4, 2011 Leave a comment

I am writing this blog for all the homebrewers out there who aim to make brewing their profession. American homebrewing has become huge in the past few decades. Driven by the enthusiasm of those small-batch scientists, craft beer has earned an ever-increasing market share since the 1980’s. There are a lot of brewers out there, young and old, who either dream of or plan on brewing professionally some day. I count myself among them and I hope that this site will become a resource for those budding keepers of the yeast. My plan is to give insight into my own personal experiences working in the brewing industry, along with research and commentary on related issues, book reviews, festival and brewing education reviews, etc. All things beer, all the time.

It would be great if this blog spawned serious discussions with others, but even if it is a solitary exercise I feel it will be useful. This is a place to collect thoughts and lessons learned, and to remind myself of what I still need to know.

Best read with a brew in hand.