Brian Giebel: The Amateur Professional

Brian Giebel the Amateur Professional

We met up with self-proclaimed “professional amateur” brewer Brian Giebel early one morning at the BrickHouse Brewery, while staff was busy zesting limes for an upcoming brew day of Lima Libre. Meanwhile, Flying Dutchman IPA, a beer Giebel collaborated on, is on tap right alongside the other BrickHouse staples. Though Giebel is still technically a homebrewer, this isn’t the first time his beer has been served at a Long Island brewery.

Giebel, who holds a Ph.D in chemistry, has homebrewing down to a science. The result has been several award winning beers, some of which have been produced commercially. His beers are a true labor of love; Giebel checks the fermentation temperature up to five times a day. “I obsess over them like children,” he says.

His success led him to approach Arthur Zimmerman, head brewer of BrickHouse, for some hands on experience on a larger scale. “They were more than willing to take me on,” says Giebel. He helped them out with general tasks but never got involved in recipe development until they wanted to talk about his Belgian beers.

So Zimmerman and Giebel sat down, along with brewer Paul Komsic, and set out to revamp BrickHouse’s Flying Dutchman IPA. “The cool thing about working with them is we constantly bounce ideas off each other,” says Giebel. The three formulated a recipe. Giebel suggested Sorachi Ace hops to add a peppery note to the beer.

Brewing on a larger scale still feels familiar to Giebel. One big difference is “more precise temperature controls.” In addition to Flying Dutchman, Giebel will have another beer on the Long Island scene shortly.

Muscat Love is a grape triple that Giebel produced with Great South Bay Brewery after winning a monthly homebrew competition. They were so pleased with the beer it is being entered into the Great American Beer Festival “Pro-Am” competition, which is an award for the best collaboration beer between a professional and amateur.

“It’s a real positive feeling to know people enjoy my beer,” says Giebel. “It really makes you think about doing something in the future.”

A limited amount of Flying Dutchman IPA is currently on tap at BrickHouse Brewery and Muscat Love will be on tap at Great South Bay by mid August.

This article originally appeared on Edible Long Island.

Port Jeff Brewing Company & Bobby Rodriguez Imperial Force Ready to Debut

Humble Cups Holding Blends of Imperial Force

Humble Plastic Cups Holding Blends of Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Force

Edit: To quote Mike Philbrick there was an “operator error” on our original article. Imperial Force will be released on draught December 26 at 7 pm at the Country Corner in East Seauket and in bottles around the new year.

 

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Rain fell at the 2013 Brewers East End Revival Brew-Off award ceremony. The day began sunny and with chaotic activity taking place in and around the location, a small American Legion Hall in Saint James, New York. As modest as the space and event were, lots of planning had been devoted to assuring this iteration of the annual event was well organized and run to the Beer Judge Certification Program standards. Additionally, steps were taken to include food, drink, fun and prizes for volunteers who would be sacrificing one of their Saturdays in May by helping to set up, pour beer and organize results. Through sheer lack of interest from other club members, Beer Loves Company’s very own Kevin ended up as the “Competition Coordinator” which meant by proxy Alicia was on the job too. Though trying, the day would prove enjoyable for us, A+K, as we saw homebrewers and attendees both discuss brewing and cheer each other on when awards were handed out to those who had crafted fine ales, lagers, ciders or meads.

The prize most coveted by the homebrewers who enter their beer to be judged is the Brewer’s Cup. You may be asking, “Why?” Simple: the amateur winning beer is given the honor of being brewed professionally by a local brewery. To win this award means a hobbyist, very often an aspiring brewer, is given the chance to see a recipe which they developed scaled up in size, produced and released for sale and distribution. That homebrewer can then go into a local bar, bevy or the brewery itself and order their Brewer’s Cup beer on tap, a dream for most who take up the pastime. This prize was the very thing which made Kevin volunteer and Alicia tolerate it so well. We both were excited to contact a local brewer who would attend the event, judge the beers and eventually create the winning recipe at their facility.

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Three years prior to us taking the reigns as Competition Coordinator, Brooklyn native Bobby Rodriguez visited the Great American Beer Festival in Colorado along with several other Long Island beer (and malt) enthusiasts. G.A.B.F. is the premiere beer-centric event held in the United States. Hundreds of breweries make the pilgrimage to Colorado every year to pour samples for the thousands of thirsty attendees and to take part in a well organized competition. One of the more talked about G.A.B.F. medals is the Pro-Am in which breweries throughout the country choose, through sanctioned competition, a homebrewer to work with on a recipe that is then made and sold commercially. B.E.E.R.’s Brewer’s Cup is the local answer to this prize.

As Rodriguez and friends experienced the wonders of G.A.B.F. one beer caught his attention: Avery Brewing Company’s Meph Addict. As if a bourbon barrel aged Imperial Porter was not enough to tweak the minds of beer geeks, the extremely limited release Meph Addict has coffee added to it as well. Tasting this ale put the gears in Rodriguez’s mind in motion. When he returned to Long Island a recipe was formulated as an homage to the flavors of Meph Addict. Even though Rodriguez was at the time new to homebrewing his mind was set and he went to work. After tasting the finished product however he decided it “wasn’t ready,” so his dark inky brew sat a year in bourbon barrels and longer in kegs before it was served. “As this is a strong sipping beer it can be aged for several years,”said Rodriguez and indeed he left his beer to slumber for a three years before finally sharing it with people and entering it in the 17th Annual Brew-Off. We were lucky enough to sample this Herculean homebrew prior to and at the event. This was a complex and rich brew made to be savored and sipped. Quite impressive stuff for a homebrewer to achieve.

Rodriguez Accepts the Brewer's Cup as Philbrick Looks on

Then Homebrewer Bobby Rodriguez Accepts the Brewer’s Cup as PJBC Owner Mike Philbrick Watches

Port Jeff Brewing Company was just over a year old when we approached owner Mike Philbrick with the idea that he should brew the 2013 Brewer’s Cup. He is someone who is easy to get along with and does not to shy away from a challenge. Philbrick began as a homebrewer and member of B.E.E.R. He then attended the Siebel Institute of Technology in Chicago before he started his brewery in Port Jefferson, New York. We both enjoy the company’s Porter, an ale we feel is the flagship, and were ecstatic when he accepted our offer to judge and brew the winner at his downtown location. He also decided to compete in the chili competition held in conjunction with the festivities, keeping many balls in the air.

The Brewer’s Cup is one of the final events to be judged at each annual Brew-Off. This is because the best beer brewed by a card carrying Brewers East End Revival member from each BJCP category is put forth for sampling by the brewery representative before a decision is made. Judging all of these categories takes an entire morning and afternoon with sessions often occurring the night before. Inside the cozy American Legion hall Mike Philbrick sat and tasted several beers before narrowing his choices down to two: a Flanders Red or a barrel aged Imperial Porter. Continuing to take the road less traveled Phlibrick discarded beers which he thought, while good and easier to brew commercially, were not “the best”. He knew full well that whichever choice he made his young brewery was in for a challenge.

Rain had not begun to fall until the awards ceremony was about to start. The competitors, judges and staff along with their family and friends were forced to huddle together under a small pop-up tent village. With each passing category and award handed out anticipation built for the announcement of the Brewer’s Cup winner. Under one tent Philbrick chatted with current members of his former club while Rodriguez was making the rounds giving notes to those who let him sample their beer and heading back and forth to pick up ribbons he received for placing in several categories. It seemed as the drops were falling hardest the winner was announced and Rodriguez proudly walked forward to accept his prize from Port Jeff Brewing Company’s brewmaster. The two were now together on a journey that had begun years ago at GABF and at the time neither knew it would be another year and a half before the finale would be reached.

If you have met Bobby Rodriguez you will have noticed one thing about him: he is opinionated. As such there was a back and forth discussion about how his homebrew recipe would be scaled up into what would eventually become known as Imperial Force. Both Rodriguez, Philbrick and then head brewer Jeff Noakes were aiming to be as faithful to the recipe Bobby shared, which was not exactly what he brewed, as possible. “We changed a couple things based on what I know about the system plus a few things that he thought should be tweaked a bit too,” is how Philbrick describes the recipe formulation process. With the hops, malts and yeast selected they now needed to find a slice of time in their busy schedules when they could all get together and produce it. As the organizers of the competition and of course writers and beer drinkers too we were eager for the brew day to come.

Rodriguez and Noakes Prepare to Pitch Yeast

Bobby Rodriguez and Former PJBC Head Brewer Jeff Noakes Prepare to Pitch Yeast

Finally a date was chosen when Imperial Force was to be brewed. Being friendly with both Rodriguez and Philbrick we were invited down to the brewery, an offer we gladly accepted. We arrived bright and early but not before Noakes had his grist (ground grain) ready to go into the mash tun (kettle where water is added to the grain for sugar extraction). Rodriguez was a later arrival and dove right in alongside Noakes to check how the brew was coming along. There is a lot of preparation which goes into making a beer but the actual brewing process itself is periods of intense action followed by lulls of waiting for the right temperature or a period of time to pass before moving on to the next step. It leaves ample time to chat while standing amongst the large imposing equipment surrounded by the aroma of steeping grain.

A brew based on something like Meph Addict is audacious. The bold scope of this beer meant that the mash tun was maxed out with grain and after the wort (sugary water which is fermented into beer) was pumped in to the boil kettle Rodriguez had quite a time shoveling all of it out into garbage bags for disposal. Here we again enter the story as Kevin had a little part to play in the brewing of this beer by pitching in with the mash tun clean up too. At the same time the mash tun was being emptied out the wort came to a boil. Hops were added to the kettle and each brewer took turns along the way reading the gravity of the beer with a refractometer. Everything was chugging along as planned. After the boil the beer was cooled and transferred to a fermentation tank into which yeast was pitched. Rodriguez commented on his experience by saying, “It showed me how similar I was brewing at home compared to a larger commercial brewery,” an observation which would inspire him to found the recently licensed Po Boy Brewing Company.

In the time between the hands on professional brew day and Rodriguez opening Po Boy the beer was given a name: Imperial Force. This is a name that reflects not only it’s strength but also the driving effort behind brining it from thought to reality. Oh, and of course there is a nod to Star Wars thrown in for good measure. While christened, the beer was not yet ready to see release. In a small brewery fermentation space comes at a premium and Imperial Force was forced to march to the next stage in it’s lifecycle. The burly brew was moved while still fermenting from the stainless steel tank in which it was born to 4 fifty-three gallon Heaven Hill whiskey barrels. These barrels were “second run” which means that previously aside from being used to age bourbon they also housed beer ; in this case Port Jeff Brewing Company Porter.

A portion of the Imperial Force batch was pulled for a cameo appearance in a “virgin” or non-barrel aged form at the PJBC second anniversary party. This iteration was finished with some help from champagne yeast and force carbonation. Rodriguez was in attendance at the celebration and was happy with the way the beer was progressing but agreed with Philbrick’s sentiment, “This really is a beer that time helps.” We were happy to taste the Imperial Porter that day and Kevin made sure to tell his mash tun emptying tale to anyone who would listen. Following this brief moment in the sun all things Imperial Force went silent. Safely the rest of the Force was tucked away, slumbering and getting to know it’s new whiskey infused surroundings just waiting for the right time to reemerge.

Rodriguez Serves Philbrick a Sample of "Virgin" Imperial Force

Bobby Rodriguez Serves Mike Philbrick a Sample of “Virgin” Imperial Force at PJBC’s Second Anniversary Party

Finally in July 2014 there was a disturbance in the Force. Philbrick, like any other head chef, tastes his creation along the way to make sure everything is processing nicely. “The first three or four times we tried it I wasn’t impressed,” he says of the brews character. Again it was left alone to mingle with the oak and whiskey which enrobed it but the sampling continued. In May a taste was pulled and head brewer Matt Gundrum thought it was not there yet saying, “It was missing something,” with Philbrick adding that it didn’t seem quite right. This behemoth still was in it’s infancy and had yet to reveal it’s true nature.

The tandem went back to the barrel in July and the page had turned, the beer was delivering on the homebrew version’s promise. The difference was staggering according to Philbrick who thought, “Like whoa! This is a good barrel aged beer now.” They felt that Imperial Force was ready and could be packaged and sold but it was the wrong season to do so. To Philbrick an Imperial Porter is a beer which would not interest most people looking to grab a brew for the boat or the beach. This decision proved a positive one as the over the next few months the samples they tasted continued to improve. The brew developed and matured with the brewmaster noting, “As time continues to tick by it just gets better.”

Eventually the pair decided to move the beer from it’s oaken home and to carbonate it for bottling. Once it was migrated and carbonated the beer was again tasted and blended. We had the chance to stop by the brewery one day for a tasting of several barrel aged beers, one of which was Imperial Force. Upon it passing our lips we felt the full impact of all the hard work, thought and effort which went into producing it. Notes of toasted oak, roasted grain and warming bourbon moved around our mouths. “There is a great amount of oak in it and a good amount of vanilla in it,” added Philbrick when jointly sampling the brew. To see the end of the journey for Imperial Force which had begun life as a nugget of an idea years ago in Colorado finally approach us on the horizon was as wonderful to imagine as it was to taste the Port Jeff Brewing Company version.

The Force finally strong within this Imperial Porter, it has been bottled and is ready to see release. There will be just over five hundred bottles available exclusively from Port Jefferson Brewing Company with some on draft for sampling (no growler fills). When asked for his thoughts on this epic Rodriguez offered, “I hope people realize at the time that I made the Imperial Force I was still a fairly new home brewer.” He continued, “It was quite difficult but obviously not impossible to make such a complex beer at home,” which he sees as an inspiration to brash homebrewing cowboys out there. While Imperial Force was made by PJBC in conjunction with Rodriguez before he was a professional brewer they do not see brewing it again. “We are not going to brew it again. It’s Bobby’s beer and hopefully he does,” says Philbrick. To that, Rodriguez replies, “What I just might do is make a very small batch of about one barrel and store it easily at the location and forget about it for 2 years just like I did at home.” We think that’s a great idea.

Philbrick Samples Blends of Imperial Force

Owner/Brewmaster Mike Philbrick Samples Blends of Imperial Force

Like Luke Skywalker you do not know the power of the dark side until you have sipped this warming winter winner. Something of this magnitude begs to be shared with friends over good conversation. Mike Philbrick said something genuine which struck us, “The beer geek in me says buy two,” speaking to the craft fans desire to sample a beer while “fresh” then let time work some mysterious forms of alchemy on a bottle’s contents only to pop the top in a year or more and savor the flavors cellaring have imparted to the brew. With the small part we played in this tale and a heap of curiosity we plan on procuring several bottles of this porter as it marches forth from Philbirck’s Port Jefferson brewery around New Years and suggest you do the same. Imperial Force will also be on tap December 26 at the Country Corner in East Setuaket starting at 7 pm. Be sure to comment and let us know what you think.

Imperial Force Label

Imperial Force Label

Chris Kelley's Basil in the Rye Brewed at Great South Bay Brewery

“You literally can’t pack anymore flavor into this” are homebrewer Chris Kelley’s sentiments about Basil in the Rye, a beer he brewed in collaboration with Great South Bay Brewery. As the winner of homebrew club Long Island Beer & Malt Enthusiasts monthly competition he was able to craft his recipe on a micro-sized, professional scale. Why micro-sized? Because every batch of LIBME collaboration beer is brewed on Great South Bay Brewery’s 1 barrel pilot system. With such small quantities, all beers in the series are limited releases only available in the GSB tasting room in Bayshore, New York. Rarer yet is having the chance to try the original homebrew up against the finished commercial product; something Chris Kelley and Great South Bay’s head brewer Greg Maisch did with Basil in the Rye.

Basil in the Rye

“I’m digging it, digging it” says Maisch of Kelley’s homebrew. Previously having issues with capturing aroma in his beers, Kelley found this batch to have “big citrus and you get the aroma of basil as well”. The winning recipe was exciting for both brewers to work on, each eager to see what “little twist basil brings” to the finished beer. When tasting the batch brewed at GSB, Kelley found it “balanced” with more basil and spice than was present in his DIY version. Maisch said it “tastes like summer and hanging out in the backyard”. In short, Kelley feels they “nailed it” and we’d have to agree.

Chris Kelley Tasting Basil in the Rye
On deck in the series is Mexicali Blues, the winner of the Long Island Beer & Malt Enthusiasts “Chopped” competition. Members of this team selected a stout as their base beer with vanilla and Mexican chilis as the additions and it resulted in a winning brew. We were on hand for the brew day last week and the beer is currently fermenting away, so look for it on Beer Loves Company and in the Great South Bay tasting room soon.

 

Long Island Beer & Malt Enthusiasts Homebrew Competition Winners Brewed by Great South Bay Brewery

Chris Kelley, member of local homebrewing club Long Island Beer & Malt Enthusiasts (LIBME) had an idea: organize and host a “Chopped” style brew day. Ten teams participated, each having a head brewer and 1-2 assistants, and they were randomly assigned a style of beer and two ingredients. Additions ranged from wood to peaches to habanero peppers, with Kelley and team drawing a Rye IPA base with orange peel and basil.

He was “super psyched” by the prospect of citrus and hops because “they go together wonderfully”. The basil however had Kelley thinking, “What the heck am I going to do with that?”. Discovering orange and basil paired together in an Italian dish, he and his team wrote a recipe and brewed their beer. Kelley said, “It’s quite amazing the depth of flavor basil gives to hops”, finding the ingredients married well. He was pleasantly surprised with the result and the fresh IPA found its way into LIBME’s monthly homebrew competition, a collaborative effort with Great South Bay Brewery.

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The idea for an LIBME and GSB partnership came about during the Great American Beer Festival last year. The highlight for owner Rick Sobotka and COO Phil Ebel was the Pro-Am competition, which recognizes the best joint effort between a homebrewer and professional brewery. After taking a bronze medal for their Splashing Pumpkin, the Pro-Am winner was announced. Ebel recalled, “the guy that was sitting behind us won and he jumped up and screamed. It was one of those things that you’re just like, man, that’s a great feeling.” Both long time members of LIBME, they approached president Todd Long and education committee head Andrew Luberto, who previously ran a SMASH Brew Day at GSB, with the prospect.

Long was immediately receptive to the idea of working together, saying of GSB, “They’ve always supported the club and we’ve always supported them”. After meeting and seeing the benefit for all participants, the program began to take shape. Some stipulations were put in place, like no sour beers, barley wines or Russian imperial stouts, simply because they take too long to ferment. LIBME uses BJCP guidelines to judge all their competitions and to maintain quality control, the beers will only be brewed at GSB if they score higher than a 35. Provided it meets that standard, the winner of each month’s LIBME competition is now produced at Great South Bay Brewery and served in their tasting room. Sobotka is pleased with the results so far saying,

“Honestly I still feel like a homebrewer. I miss the days of casual brewing with friends and have regained a lot of enjoyment by offering this program.”

Luberto added, “I love the experimental nature of it” and appreciates the freedom homebrewers bring to a professional setting.

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Fittingly enough, last month’s winner was Kelley. He was invited to GSB for the brew day and assisted head brewer Greg Maisch with recreating the recipe on their small batch system. The one barrel pilot system was built in late 2009 at their other location in Bay Shore and resurrected it for this collaboration. Greg also started as a homebrewer with the philosophy, “If I could buy it I could make it”. He has been having a lot of fun working with the homebrewers and seeing the different techniques they bring to the brewing process. “This gives local homebrewers a goal to work towards”, Kelley said after the long day of brewing. His basil and orange Rye IPA is being released at Great South Bay Brewery Father’s Day weekend and will be available while supplies last. If it is anything like the homebrew batch we tried, it won’t be around for long.

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Chopped brew day photos courtesy of Chris Kelley.

Arbor Wine & Beer Supplies Homebrewing Contest at Fatty McGee's – 12/7/2013

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This past December we were honored to be the judges for the first annual Arbor Wine & Beer Making Supplies Homebrewing Contest held at Fatty McGee’s in East Isilp, NY. The event had a great turn out and there were some truly excellent beers entered into the competition. Family and friends came down to support the brewers and in a variation on the usual beer competition theme each brewer brought growlers of their brew to share with the attendees prior to judging wrapping up. While we were a bit nervous in the weeks leading up to the event once everything got rolling and we saw people enjoying themselves it was clear that we had been part of something unique.

How did we find ourselves behind a table drinking lots of homebrews and passing judgment on them? It’s all about who you know or rather who knows you. We met the owners of Arbor Wine & Beer Making Supplies Rachel Acevedo and Laura Arbacas about one year ago. This was around the time they had purchased Arbor from the previous owner. Both women are avid brewers, winemakers and craftspeople and as proprietors of Arbor aim to share this passion with their customers. To accomplish this they have made their store a welcoming place for the local brewing community and brewing novices to shop. They were big supporters of the 17th Annual Brewer’s East End Revival Brew-Off which we coordinated.

Laura and Rachel knowing of us from the Brew-Off and this very site you are now reading felt comfortable coming to us when they decided to put together their own contest. They were hoping that we would be interested in helping them do a bit of organizing and if we were wiling to act as judges. We happily accepted, looking forward to providing guidance for our friends as needed. Several concepts were already in place. A few tweaks were required here and there and some original thoughts were tossed in to round everything out. One large problem that Laura and Rachel had already found the answer to was the issue of space.

Arbor is not large but it is also by no means small. However it would have been very cramped to stuff in homebrewers and friends among the aisles of carboys, malts, and various odds and ends. Since they both grew up locally and have frequented local bars they thought partnering up to host the event would be the way to go. Rachel and Laura chose to work with Fatty McGee’s in East Islip, NY. The people of Fatty’s could not have been nicer in helping when they could. They made sure signs were made up (which announced us as judges) and that there would be specials going on during the festivities.

Having worked out the basics and the space long secured it was time to fine tune a few points. After a little back and forth it was decided that we would judge the beers in two separate categories, Truest to Style and Most Unique. These two categories gave the entrants a chance to try and recreate a style or to go out on a limb and create something different. During the judging process BJCP score sheets and guidelines were used, for the most part. The brews in the Truest to Style category fell more easily in line with the BJCP judging criteria while those entered into Most Unique lent themselves to interpretation.

The night of the event we showed up early to get acquainted with the surroundings. Fatty’s is a bar that warmly embraces it’s local feel in a giant buffalo wing sauce coated bear hug. A neighborhood feel permeates the joint and is in a sense literally nailed to the walls in the form of local sports team memorabilia. Having both a main bar area with a few high top tables and a back room housing booths (as well as a Simpsons pinball machine and an electronic beer pong game) there was ample room for the competition and Fatty’s regulars alike. The night of the event we were told Fatty’s wings are legendary and while Alicia does like a nice wing, that evening we were there for one thing: to judge homebrew.

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Each contestant in the competition brought with them two growlers of their beer. This was the idea of Rachel and Laura. They hoped that by having each competitor bring a gallon of their brew not only would everyone be able to try the beer they would be competing against but their friends would get to as well. Sharing the beers among the gathered group formed a connection between the brewers. It allowed them to open up and discuss their successes and failures instead of giving each other the stink eye from across the room. A green light was given to everyone to talk about what we were all there for, the beer. Besides, if an icy glare or a back handed compliment was in order each brewer had their entourage in tow to dole out the punishment.

Judging beer while the brewers along with their family and friends drink and glance over at you, often, can be intimidating. With only 10 total entries in the competition (five in each category) we were not under fire for very long. Each beer was considered, carefully, while being graded using the BJCP guidelines as a starting point. After a beer was scored we’d take a moment to discuss what we each thought before coming to an agreement on a final score. There were no bad beers in the competition. We were served a few that had flaws but the potential was there if the brewer reexamined what may have gone awry. Several of the beers were very good, fully formed ideas that were well executed. Here are the winners of the first annual Arbor Wine & Beer Making Supplies Homebrewing Contest as judged by yours truly.

The winners in the category of Truest to Style:

1) James Scala – English Pale Ale
2) Chris Chimeri – Amber Ale
3) Jason Rice American Pale Ale

The winners in the category of Most Unique:

1) Ken Heiss – Mint Chocolate Stout
2) John Prada – Strawberry Blonde Ale
3) Dan Fischer – Gingerbread Winter Warmer

Both first place finishers made wonderful beers. James made an EPA that had a nice toasty note which blended well with the caramel malt base. Ken’s Mint Chocolate Stout was exactly what you would want from a chocolate stout and the mint was implemented very well in this beer. We reached out to James and Ken and asked if they would like to do a quick interview for BLC. Luckily both agreed and what follows are pictures of and interviews with these first place finishers. Congratulations gentlemen (that is an ATHF link btw).

WINNER TRUEST TO STYLE – JAMES SCALA

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You walk into a bar, what do you order?
When out I always try to find something I have heard about/wanted to try but have not tried yet. After that I will have something new but definitely local.

What (or who) got you into brewing and how long have you been doing it?
I have been brewing for only 1 1/2 yrs. after my wife suggested I give it a try. I had plenty of unused garage space to set up in and it has quickly gone from simple extract to all grain, converted keg setup w/ grain mill, multiple fridges w/ temp. control, kegerators etc. Whenever I learn of something that can improve my beer, I try to incorporate it into my process.

What is the best beer you have ever made? What is the worst beer you have ever made?:
I made a Black IPA over the summer that came out fantastic, I have had more requests for that brew than any of my others. The worst was my first attempt at oatmeal stout, every bottle was a gusher. Dumped the whole batch.

Name a beer style you love then one you hate.:
Love anything but wheat beers. Hate wheat beers.

What do you currently have brewing and/or what are you excited to brew in the future?: Currently have Centennial IPA, and American Amber Ale on tap. I have been tweeking amber ale for a few batches in a row. Next up will be Black IPA, I have not made it since the summer. Looking forward to that one.

WINNER MOST UNIQUE – KEN HEISS

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You walk into a bar, what do you order?
Something new or seasonal…I like to be sure I am getting something fresh.

What (or who) got you into brewing and how long have you been doing it?
A good friend of mine received a brew sack for Christmas in 1997. It was a 5 gallon bladder with a cap. It fermented for a month and then we relieved the bladder. The sack provided a brutal and violent drinking session/hangover…one to never forget. I embarked on my personal brewing discovery in 2007 with a homebrew ipa kit I bought at Kedco.

What is the best beer you have ever made? What is the worst beer you have ever made?:
BEST: All Citra Double IPA
WORST: West coast style hoppy red ale…got infected with acetobacter.

Name a beer style you love then one you hate.:
I love IPA and Pale ales…they have always been my fa vorite. I can’t say I hate any beer by style. I seem to find something I like in all styles, although I do find Belgians to be one of my least favorite.

What do you currently have brewing and/or what are you excited to brew in the future?:
Last batch I made was a Lagunitas Brown Suggah clone. Next brew I’m looking forward to making is a Black (chocolate) Pumpkin. I like to call it a “Blumpkin”.

(Note: a blumpkin is an adult themed act. Careful when Googling it.)

All of the competitors should be commended for having the bravery to bring in their products and have them publicly judged. It takes courage to put your creation in front of the world. It truly was an honor to help put this event together and to be the judges. We want to thank Rachel and Laura for giving us this opportunity, Fatty McGee’s and it’s staff for hosting and a big thank you to all of the brewers. Without them there would not have been a contest at all. We look forward to seeing these brewers and new ones at more homebrewing competitions in the future.

The Brewers Collective Winter Homebrew Contest

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This Sunday, January 19, The Brewers Collective will be holding their winter homebrew contest at Hoptron Brewtique in Patchogue, New York. The event will run from 3-7 pm and is open to the public with no entry fee. The only requirement is you have to be ready to taste and judge some winter themed homebrew, produced by various members of The Brewers Collective (and friends).

Speaking of friends of the collective, we will be pouring a stout-saison hybrid that we recently brewed in an attempt to merge two of our favorite styles in one glass. Fittingly enough, we named it A + K. We’ll be detailing the brewing process later this week, giving you a chance to follow the beer from brew kettle to your glass.

The Brewers Collective always manage to bring a diverse, flavorful array of beers to festivals and events, so there should be some stiff, friendly competition going on. If you’ve never tried any of their beers you owe it to yourself to stop by and if you have tried them then we probably don’t have to twist your arm much. Be sure to try our A + K hybrid as well and say hello.

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