Brooklyn Wort (summer 2011 edition) was last Saturday. Here’s a quick recap, which I’ll call the epilogue for 13 Weekends, since I’ve been talking about this damn thing all summer.
Brewers & Tasters!
I was a little nervous. We were running late getting to the brew shop to get the beer from the basement, the car was late, the traffic down to Sycamore was awful, and I’d never done this before. But we made it with plenty of time to get the beer on ice and chilled. We reviewed the sheet of competitors and joked that next to the beer style they should have listed each brewery’s square footage, to give a better sense of the degree of difficulty.
There were two tastings, each lasting about 2½ or 3 hours (I kind of lost track of time). I was set up outside, in the shade in the back garden. This was probably the best spot to be, although it still got pretty hot. Maggie helped me serve during the first tasting. I tried to get her to accept some credit for the beer, but she kept denying any involvement.
Incidentally, on the topic of women serving homebrew, there were exactly zero female homebrewers competing in the event. 25 dudes. However, I met a number of them throughout the day, so I know they exist. Hopefully this particular competition was just somehow, coincidentally all male.
I got there not really knowing what I was going to say about my beer. By about the 4th pour, I had the stump speech down. Nearly everyone there was a super aficionado, so I didn’t really have to explain what a saison was, or what to taste for (but I did anyway). The fellow homebrewers gave themselves away by asking which specific strain of saison yeast I used.
ME: “French Saison actually!”
HOMEBREWER: “Amazing yeast, it’ll attenuate a turd!”*
Maggie peeled off after the first session to trade off on child care duties with our friends Doug and Amanda, who had tickets to the evening session. As the evening went on, multiple people sought out my table saying they had “heard good things” from the front of the bar about my beer, which was just… whoa. As Michael Scott said, my heart was very full at that moment.
The day was full of rewarding conversations, whether about my beer or someone else’s or homebrewing in general. My only regret was that, in all of the hubbub, I wasn’t able to taste everyone’s beer. I got to try half of them, maybe a few more. I was floored by the quality. Not a bad beer in the bunch. My two personal favorites were an impeccably balanced imperial brown and a 12% barleywine fermented with three different yeasts, one of them wild. Both won awards.
I didn’t win any awards—my scores averaged in the “very good” bracket, and the consensus from the judges was that more carbonation and more funkiness were the keys to a better beer. Hard to argue with either comment. As soon as I’m ready to try a saison again, I’m dying to try the Saison Brasserie yeast blend, a tip I got from someone kind enough to call my beer “revelatory.”
I just tasted the first hydrometer sample from my malty, 8.5% winter warmer/biere de garde mashup that I plan to condition until Christmas and give as a gift. 1.014 after 11 days in the fermenter, with definite brown sugar and biscuit flavor, and a sharp alcohol aroma that will fade with time.
* Actual conversation