Monday, May 31, 2010

Tasting The Foreign Export Stout

With the Memorial Day weekend upon us, Tom and I had the opportunity to get the families together for a family function in Upstate New York. It was unfortunate that the ‘gathering’ did not take place at either of our homes (else this post would be describing a collaborative brewing session instead), but it was a perfect time to crack open a couple of bottles we’ve previously brewed and talk about them – even if our wives rolled their eyes at the notion.

The Mad Fermentationist’s Foreign Export Stout that was brewed back in April was certainly on the top of the tasting list. Inspired by Mike’s very positive review last week, there was quite a bit of anticipation for the beer. Joined by Tom’s brother-in-law Jonathan, a fledgling mead-maker, the three of us poured the 12 oz brown long neck bottle into snifter glasses to see what the jet-black liquid held in store.

Aroma: A mild, smooth nose of coffee and dark chocolate revealed itself right off the get-go. A slight hint of English yeast ester was braided in with it and maybe some hints of fig or dark fruit.

Appearance: A midnight black beer that completely blocks out all light trying to pass through it. It possesses a thin, deep-tan head of tiny bubbles, which sparsely layered the surface of the beer and the sides of the glass.

Flavor: A balanced, yet strong black coffee flavor combined with roast character comes though initially at the first taste. Dark chocolate (similar to unsweetened dark cocoa) begins to mix in with the coffee. The mid-palate reveals a berry esters hidden in the dark with a slight underlying minerality. A subdued, sweet, pleasing alcohol presence is barely noticable at the end of the mid-palate and continues to provide warmth into the aftertaste. The beer finishes very smooth with the impression of being dry. A lingering roast and dark chocolate character remains in the aftertaste.

Mouthfeel: A smooth, creamy, moderate to moderate-full mouthfeel. A pleasing low carbonation level supports the character of the beer without getting in the way.

Overall Impression: A very smooth, easily drinkable, full bodied, dry stout with a blended flavor or coffee and dark chocolate that hides its alcohol well – even being as young as it is (only 1 month in the bottle), the beer is one of the smoother stouts we've tasted. Everything seems melted together into a unified flavor as opposed to a collection of several individual components.



“There is nothing in the world like the first taste of beer.”
-John Steinbeck

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Tasting Notes: Brother Barleywine - a Lug Wrench Collaborative Beer

Similar to the prior set of tasting notes, theses notes have been sitting idel in my notebook for longer than they should.  So, while several months have past since we tasted it in May, I wanted to get them up on the blog for archival purposes.

During Thanksgiving 2009, Tom and I were able to brew an English Barleywine together when we travelled down to Virginia to visit Tom for the holiday.  The beer, which was named 'Brother Barleywine', was a big beer (10+% ABV) so we knew it would need some age before it hit its prime.  Below are the notes we tasted the beer when it was 6 months old.

*  *  *

Aroma: The aroma reveals the beers boozy nature with plenty of alcohol in the nose.  A hint of moderate caramel was also detected.

Appearance: The beer posesses a ruby-red, dark honey color that was very plesant.  Super clear.  There is only a slight head upon pouring or swirling the beer, but it never lasts long and quickly disappears.

Flavor: Complex caramel notes with a hint of a cider character, which is followed up by smooth alcohol and a boozy presence.  The beer has a little noticable English hop bitterness and has a drier finish than we had expected.  It is balanced for what it is with a lingering hop bitterness in the aftertaste.

Mouthfeel: The beer is a lot thinner than we had planned, without much structure to it.  A little disappointing.

Overall: The alcohol is present, but not assertive.  Good sipping beer.  The dryness lets the beer keep is drinability without being cloying.  There is a residual build-up of flavor/richness with the beer, almost to the point of palate fatique.

*  *  *

While the beer took a turn from what we had expected it to be, we are both very curious to see how it will be in 6-12 months from now when it reaches maturity.



"It was as natural as eating and to me as necessary, and I would not have thought of eating a meal without drinking beer."
-Ernest Hemingway

Tasting Notes: Dragon's Breath - a Lug Wrench Collaborative Beer

These notes have been sitting in my notebook for a month or two and I finally got up the energy to type them up so they can be archived on the blog with the rest of the Collaborative Beer information. 

Back in the summer of 2009, Tom and I brewed a clone of New Holland's Dragon's Milk, which we named 'Dragon's Breath'.  During a family function in May 2010, T and I were able to open a bottle together and note down our thoughts on how the beer has held up.  Below are the notes we took from that tasting.

*  *  *

Aroma: Sweet character with a hint of bourbon, vanilla, cinnamon, and a slight toasted nut aroma.  In addition, we were able to detect light toasted coconut (most likely from the oak character).

Appearance: The beer is dark, almost to the point of being black with garnet highlights when held up to the light.  Once pourred, the a light tan head of tight bubbles presents itself.

Flavor: Initially, the beer gives a complex brown/sugar/dark surgar/molassas flavor without the sweetness.  Vanilla and bourbon flavor follow behind with some sweet alcohol riding along with it.  There is a roast character that rounds out the flavor.  A maple flavor is detected in the aftertaste.

Mouthfeel:  Moderate to full bodies, robust with a fair amount of structural tanins.  There is a warming alcohol, but it is tucked into the beer well.

Overall:  So far the bbeer has aged very well, blending the flavors together.  No oxidation noted.  With the full body and warming alcohol, the beer is probably best as a cold weather sipper.  There is residual sweetness/flavor in the aftertast, but it has enough dryness to prevent any cloying.

*  *  *

The beer turned out a lot better than we had hoped and many of the more harsh notes we detected during the early tastings have fallen away.  Can't wait to try this beer in several months as it continues to develop.



"Many battles have been fought and won by soldiers nourished on beer."

-Frederick the Great

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Nanobrewery Interviews: Lefty’s Brewing Co.

While most of us have just toyed with the thought of starting up a nanobrewery, others have taken the plunge. To find out who these people are and what makes them do what they do, Tom and I embarked on a series of interviews with regional nanobreweries to get their stories.

Lefty's Brewing Co.
Bernardston, Massachusetts

Next in our series of nanobrewery interviews, Lug Wrench got the opportunity to speak with Bill Goldfarb, founder of Lefty’s Brewing Co. in Massachusetts. Lefty’s kicked off his nanobrewery just this year (Jan 2010) with a 2 barrel brewhouse and 16 barrel cellar. Bill, a homebrewer for over 8 years, distributes his beer within 30 miles of the brewery in Franklin County, MA.

* * *

Lug Wrench (LW): What inspired you to start-up Lefty’s Brewing Co.?

Bill (BG): I have been a home brewer for years and brewing for a living has always been a dream of mine. Being a commercial roofer since I was 18, I did not want to grow old on the roof.

LW: Where did the Lefty's Brewing Co. name come from?

BF: My name in the roofing community (my prior trade) was Lefty.

LW: How did you gather the required capital to start Lefty’s?

BG: Life savings as well as a small loan from my grandfather. The beauty of a nano-brewery is that it does not take a lot of capital to start up as long as you are creative with how you do things. You don't need all the bells and whistles with a small operation.

LW: How have you involved the community in your brewery? Do you interact with local homebrew clubs?

BG: The community is involved in the brewery through tours and retail sales out of the brewery. This allows the surrounding community to see where and how the beer is made, as well as give input and opinions. I also send the spent grain to local farmers as feed for their cattle. Currently, I don’t have any official affiliation with any local homebrew clubs, other than just informal conversations.

LW: With regards to selling your beer, what has been the biggest challenge you have faced in getting draft accounts or shelf space?

BF: I have had no challenges getting draft accounts or shelf space. Every draft account and package store carrying my product has come to me. Currently Lefty's has a waiting list for wholesale accounts. I believe that the positive response is due to the appreciation for local business in my area.

LW: If you were speaking to an individual who is considering the prospect of opening their own nanobrewery, what advice would you give them?

BF: That the paperwork and prep time for a nano-brewing operation will take much longer than expected. Be prepared to keep working your current job while getting the operation set up. It will be a long time until you can actually fire up the kettle for the first time. The biggest hurdles that I encountered opening the business were local, state and federal licensing.

* * *

If you want to find out more about Bill or Lefty's, check out their website or better yet, if you are in the area, stop by the brewery. 
"I drink when I have occasion, and sometimes when I have no occasion"
-Miguel de Cervantes

Monday, May 24, 2010

Poll: How Many Times Per Month Do You Visit A Brewpub?

Similar to what has been done for our prior blog polls, this article takes a moment to memorialize our recent poll’s results. Based on the question: “How many times per month do you visit a Brewpub?”, the following figure illustrates the responses from the readers who participated.

Total Votes: 14

I’ll admit to teetering between two different viewpoints from these results. From the ‘glass half full’ point of view, all but a few of participates are regular patrons their local brewing establishments – kudos to those that do. But from a more ‘glass half empty’ and pessimistic view, I wonder whether this is good enough. If our readers (a.k.a "beer fanatics") are only visiting their local brewpubs one or two times a month, are we contributing enough to the brewpub's customer base? Are we doing what we can to ensure the local brewing scene will still be around tomorrow and the next day? Can we do better?

Give it some thought and if your local brewpubs are producing good products, consider incrementing your support.  Sustain and grow the local breweries and brewpubs in your area. Without our support, those businesses may very well fold.

Thanks to all those that participated. Please take a moment and participate in our next pool, which should already be up.



“Nothing ever tasted better than a cold beer on a beautiful afternoon with nothing to look forward to than more of the same.”
-Hugh Hood

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Optimal Fermentation Temperature Ranges by Yeast Strain (White Labs)

Below is the third Yeast Strain Chart in the series, which visually compares the preferrable fermentation temperatures of each yeast strain in the White Labs homebrewer product line.  As mentioned in the first Yeast Strain Chart posting, this project intends to visually compare the critical parameters of each yeast strain to one another.

Click on the thumbnail below to get a higher resolution image of the chart.

In addition to the above, check out the other yeast strain charts (all the links will be updated when the charts are posted):
If you'd like higher resolution PDFs of this or any of the charts, just shoot me an email.  I'm more than happy to share them.



"Beer, if drunk in moderation, softens the temper, cheers the spirit and promotes health."
-Thomas Jefferson

Monday, May 17, 2010

Wort Pump in a Toolbox #4 – Connections

The last post in our series on building a wort pump featured how to place the pump into the toolbox.  This next post describes the connections used to attach the pump to the kettle and whirlpool chiller.  The main purpose of the pump during the brew day is in chilling and moving the wort from the kettle to the fermenter.  A future post will focus on the specific pump uses during the brew day, but rest assured, it is necessary to connect the pump to different items during the session.

There are several important factors to be considered when planning connections for your wort pump:
  • The pump connectors should be easy to change.
  • The hoses must be able to withstand boiling wort temperatures.
  • The hoses should be semi-transparent, so it is easy to see if they are full.
  • The connections must assist the pump become immersed in wort before it is turned on, as it does not self-prime.
  • The hoses and connections should enable easy cleaning.
  • The pump should effectively assist in the quick cooling of wort.
After considering these factors, I elected to use brass quick disconnects (QD) attached to high-temperature silicone hoses.  The QDs allow a permanent male connection to attach to the actual equipment (kettle ball valve, pump in and output, etc.), while the open female end attaches to the hose.  This allows the hose to be open for air drying after cleaning.  The silicone hoses are semi-transparent, so it is easy to see if they are full.  The hoses are also flexible, which allows the user to squeeze and shake them to knock air bubbles out of the line, which helps maintain prime.

The connections I use for the pump, in order of flow, include:

  • QD to hose out of kettle.
  • Hose to QD to in port of pump.
  • QD to hose out of pump ball valve that can throttle the pump’s flow.
  • Hose to QD that connects to the whirlpool chiller.
  • Long hose that connects to pump disconnect that runs to fermenter.

The pump attaches to a “J” shaped copper tube attached to my immersion chiller.  This design is based on the popular Jamil Zainacheff whirlpool chiller, which is now featured through MoreBeer.  The copper return tube directs the flow along the outside of the pot, which creates a whirlpool action.  This constantly moves wort by the cooling coils, which greatly enhances cooling, as well as funneling hops and break material to the center of the pot.

Selecting appropriate connections are very important to proper use of a wort pump.  It is important to remember that the pump will be moving boiling liquids around on brew day, liquids that have the potential to do serious injury if not managed properly.  Along this thought, the final post in the series will cover the actual use of the pump during a brew day.  As a point of reference, the other posts in this series include:



Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Green Dragon Project – A Splendid Homebrewer Collaboration

My hat is off to the Oregon Brew Crew (OBC), a forward-thinking homebrew club up in Portland, OR. The OBC, in association with the Green Dragon Bistro & Brewpub, collaborated and created the Green Dragon Project, which allows the brewpub and the club to brew beer together. If you’re a member of a homebrew club, take notes and ask yourself 'what's to stop my club from doing something similar?'.

The Green Dragon Project is a joint venture in operation since 2009 between a brewpub (Green Dragon Bistro) and a homebrew club (OBC), where members of the homebrew club get a chance to brew “personal recipes for public consumption”. Using the brewpub’s 1 barrel system, the club chooses, sources, and brews their own unique beers that are sold commercially on tap at the Green Dragon. The goal of the project is further improve the relationship between commercial craft brewers, their customers, and the homebrewing community.

The story of the first collaborative Green Dragon Project beer can be found here.

A committee from the homebrew club (aptly named the Green Dragon Project Committee) is tasked with organizing OBC's participation and brewing at the Bistro two or three times a month.  What restrictions or limitations the Bistro places on the OBC is unclear, but the beer obviously must be commercially viable. There are likely practical considerations (such as fermenter space, available grain and hop contracts, etc.) that must be considered. Working within these boundaries must provide the OBC homebrewers with a unique perspective on what decisions face commercial brewers at small scales. Regardless, the committee is responsible for selecting who amongst the club’s membership gets to brew and with what recipe, as well as procuring the required ingredients.

I have not been able to find out any information about the financial arrangement of the collaboration (who’s pays for ingredients, how revenue from the Project’s beers are divided up, etc.), but it is clear to me that this collaboration truly represents how homebrewers and professional brewers can interact and be successful at it.  It makes sense creatively, as the Bistro gaining access to a wealth of recipe concepts from OBC.  As for OBC, what homebrewer wouldn't want to see the beer they designed flowing out taps at a commercial establishment.  If OBC can make it happen, what’s to stop other homebrew clubs from doing the same in their own communities?

Of particular note, the Green Dragon Project made the local Oregon news recently when Rogue Ales donated $5,000 to OBC in recognition for growing the Green Dragon’s 1 bbl brewery into Oregon’s 94th largest brewery. Kudos to both OBC and Rogue.



“People who don’t drink are afraid of revealing themselves”
-Humphrey Bogart

Monday, May 10, 2010

White Birch Brewing Co. Interview (Part 2)

While most of us have just toyed with the thought of starting up a nanobrewery, others have taken the plunge. To find out who these people are and what makes them do what they do, Tom and I embarked on a series of interviews with regional nanobreweries to get their stories.

White Birch Brewing Co. (Part 2 of 2)
Hooksett, New Hampshire

As a follow-up to the first half of our Q-n-A with Bill Herlicka, founder of White Birch Brewing Co., this post presents the conclusion of our White Birch interview.  Bill started brewery production at White Birch in June 2009 and self-distributes to “enthusiast” beer stores around New Hampshire (and hopefully Massachusetts soon).

*   *   *

Lug Wrench (LW): What are your plans for growing White Birch Brewing Co. in the future?

Bill (BH): My plans to grow White Birch are to focus on a slow sustained growth. I make a very different beer than most breweries and I like the idea of finding my audience in a managable way. I love having the flexibility to make a wide range of styles and don't want to give that up by jumping into an expensive 10 or 15 barrel system where I can only afford a few fermenters. As people enjoy my beer and want to see it in more places I'll keep doing my best to add new stores and new markets while working to keep the stores I have today stocked with our flagship, seasonal and new beers.

LW:  What are the biggest hurdles you see for White Birch?

BH: The biggest hurdles I see facing White Birch Brewing is maintaining quality and growth. I started brewing in a 2500 square foot warehouse space and I’m quickly filling it to the roof with fermenters, oak barrels and supplies to keep the process going. Growth is great and necessary, but moving to larger space means a lot of big expenses and attention which will challenge me while trying to keep the day to day operations going.

LW: If you were speaking to an individual who is considering the prospect of opening their own nanobrewery, what advice would you give them?

BH: Ignore the term nanobrewery. Decide on your vision of brewing and purse that. There are far easier ways to earn a living that a brewery. You have to want to do this and know it’s a lot of hard work. Don’t try to create someone else’s vision of a brewery. Labels, assumptions of how “normal” breweries start and even what to start with don’t matter. Do what you love and do it with passion. You’ll find your audience.

LW: What’s the most interesting thing that has happened to you since you started the brewery?

BH: I’d have to say a big one for me was doing the BeerAdvocate Belgian Beer fest in Boston and having people excited to meet me as the new brewer. What I really find rewarding though is having the flexibility to make anything I want and then getting to share that with enthusiasts and hear their thoughts. There’s nothing like meeting someone new at a tasting and seeing that smile on their face as they try and enjoy a new beer.

LW: Is there anything else you think readers might enjoy learning about you or White Birch?

BH: I brew beers I enjoy. I don’t worry about style guidelines in terms of trying to meet a style. When I make something with a style in mind, I’m making my interpretation of that style, not a clone of a ‘best of style’ or worrying about hitting style parameters. Other beers I make are because I enjoy their taste and there is no style intended.. I’m a big fan of the “specialty other” category if I have to pick one to define my beers. Oh, and please let me know what you think of what I’m making. I’m always happy to trade emails or chat at a tasting.

* * *

Part 1 of our interview with Bill Herlicka can be found here.

If you want to find out more about Bill or White Birch Brewing Co, check out the Yankee Brew News cover story on the brewery, or listen to Bill speak on the April 11th Sunday Session internet radio show produced by The Brewing Network.



"Beer ... a high and mighty liquor."
-Julius Caesar

Friday, May 7, 2010

The Session #39: Collaborations – The Mad Fermentationist and Lug Wrench Brewing

Welcome to The Session – a collaboration of bloggers writing on a common beer-related topic. For the month of May, Mario Rubio over at Brewed for Thought chose Collaborations as the collective topic to explore.  A round-up of all the blog posts can be found here.  You can read more about Beer Blogging Friday (“The Session”) over at the Brookston Beer Bulletin.

Collaborations are certainly a hot topic these days, permeating breweries and other peripheral beer communities – The Session being a prime example.  For beer bloggers, the concept of collaborating ... about blogging ... about beer ... many times ends up being an exercise in abstraction. What really gets accomplished?  What's the output?

A few months back, Tom and I were kicking around ideas of how to structure a blogging collaboration where we actually “do something” as opposed to just talking/writing.  The thought was to develop a collaborative gig which forces us to step away from the keyboard and go create something tangible.  Armed with the concept and a few ideas, we reached out to Mike Tonsmeire over at The Mad Fermentationist - a beer blog that both Tom and I admire.  While Mike was chest-deep in other projects, the “do something” notion must have resonated with him and a collaboration was born.

But what to collaborate on?  After several emails, we settled on Lug Wrench picking from Mike’s vast collection of recipes, brewing one or two beers on our system(s), and having all of us (Mike, Tom, and I) evaluate the result. How did our version compare against the original? How did the recipe hold up in another brewer’s hands? Mike further trumped the collaboration by offering to ship samples of his original beer (if it was available) for inspiration and side-by-side comparison.  The plan was set.

While the Pannepot clone was at the top the list, Tom and I delayed that brew until the next time we are able to brew together.  The inaugural beer would be the Foreign Export Stout – a recipe modeled after Pelican Pub & Brewery’s Tsunami Stout, which uses no crystal malts, focusing on base malt, roasted grains, and some flaked barely to tie it all together.  Mike's original batch unfortunately fell victim to an infection resulting in the whole batch being dumped.  As such, we're all interested to see how it would turn out.  

Lug Wrench’s attempt at the Foreign Export Stout was brewed back on April 10th with the recipe and notes are provided below.  After 18 days of primary fermentation, the jet-black nectar came out of the fermentor ready to be bottled.  Possessing a tremendously pleasant dark chocolate nose (think high-end boutique chocolate), the beer was still a bit 'green', requiring some more conditioning time to mellow and meld together.  However, the initial taste (albeit, warm and uncarbonated) revealed a complex dark malt character with a lot of potential.  Only time will tell.

At the time of this post going live, I've been able to ward off the temptation of cracking open a bottle and sneaking a taste.  Look for the first tasting results sometime at the end of May, when the three of us will be able to make a determination about how the beer came out.  I'm particularly interested to get Mike's thoughts and feedback from the bottles being mailed to him - did our version of his recipe live up to his original expectations?  Would a recipe tweak be warranted based on the results?  Was it worth all the effort?

With regards to our collaboration concept, I won’t speak for Mike, but from the Lug Wrench perspective the “do something” project has been worthwhile.  The cooperative effort sparked a considerable amount of healthy communication and we’ve got something tangible in the end.  The odds are very favorable of another Mad Fermentationist recipe being brewed and discussed again here in the future.

The Mad Fermentationist’s Foreign Export Stout - Our Take

Recipe Specifics
Batch Size (Gal): 5.5
Total Grain (Lbs): 14.51
OG: 1.068
FG: 1.020
SRM: 36.7
IBU: 67.5 (Rager)
ABV: 6.3%
Brewhouse Efficiency: 75 %
Wort Boil Time: 60 Minutes

12.0 lbs. Maris Otter Pale Malt
1.00 lbs. Flaked Barley
0.75 lbs. Roasted Barley
0.38 lbs. Black Patent Malt
0.38 lbs. Chocolate Malt

All hops are pellet hops
1.75 oz Northern Brewer (8.9% AA) at 60 minutes
0.80 oz Williamette (4.8% AA) at 20 minutes
0.80 oz Williamette (4.8% AA) at 10 minutes

1.0 Tab Whirlfloc at 15 minutes
2 tsp Yeast Nutrient (Fermax)at 15 minutes
28 drops of Foam Control in the boil

WLP005 – British Ale Yeast (2L starter from slurry)

Mash Schedule
60 min at 152-3° F

Brewed on 4/10/2010 by JW

No additions were added to the water.

Aeration accomplished via an aquarium pump and sanitary filter for ~30 minutes.

4/11/10 – Pitched entire yeast starter at 3am with fermentation temperature set at 61 degrees F. Added 7 drops of foam control into fermenter to prevent excessive blow off. Kicked off visible fermentation activity in < 12 hours.

4/14/10 – As activity showed signs of slowing, the fermentation temperature was ramped up 2 degrees/day until 66 degrees F to help finish the beer out.

4/25/10 – No real fermentation activity visible. Ramped fermentation temperature up to 68 degrees F in preparation for bottling.

4/28/10 – Racked beer onto priming sugar (~2.2 volumes CO2) and bottled. The beer is still a bit edgy/rough at bottling, so some conditioning time in the bottle is needed.

5/24/10 - After recieving several bottles, Mike (a.k.a. Mad Fermentationist) was able taste the results and give us feedback on the beer.  His comments, posted on his blog, can be found here.

5/30/10 - We had the opportunity to taste the beer allowing us to scribe these tasting notes.

* * *


-The Wallace Brothers

“This is grain, which any fool can eat, but for which the Lord intended a more divine means of consumption…Beer.”
-Friar Tuck

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

White Birch Brewing Co. Interview (Part 1)

Let’s face it – the concept of starting up a nanobrewery is an idea many of us in homebrewing have entertained at one time or another. While most of us have just toyed with the thought, others have taken the plunge and put their money where their mouths are. To find out who these people are and what makes them do what they do, Tom and I embarked on a series of interviews with regional nanobreweries to get their stories.

White Birch Brewing Co. (Part 1 of 2)
Hooksett, New Hampshire

To kick off the nanobrewery interviews, Lug Wrench got the opportunity to speak with Bill Herlicka, founder of White Birch Brewing Co. Bill, a homebrewer for over 16 years and counting, started brewery production at White Birch less than a year ago in June 2009. Brewed primarily on two 26 gallon systems, White Birch beer is self-distributed to “enthusiast” beer stores around New Hampshire (and hopefully Massachusetts soon).   Below is the first part of our two part Q and A interview with Bill.

*   *   *

Lug Wrench (LW): What inspired you to start-up White Birch Brewing Co.?

Bill (BH): I’ve worked many jobs, but always had a passion for brewing. While watching my prior employer head down the same path of poor performance, loss of client confidence and clients I knew my job was going to be impacted. While discussing this with my wife, she said we’re young – you love to brew beer – why not see if you can open a brewery. Do what you love instead of another job. Thus began the earnest research and business planning to figure out how to start up my brewery.

LW: How did you gather the required capital to start White Birch?

BH: I used savings and current sales to fund startup costs and growth costs.

LW: Where did the White Birch name come from?

BH: My wife and I sat down and worked on names. We each had our lists. Mine were awful, she had some good ideas. We decided on White Birch Brewing because we love the white birch trees on our property and we felt it conveyed a sense of New England.

LW: How have you involved the community in your brewery? Do you interact with local homebrew clubs?

BH: I have stayed a part of my homebrew club – Brew Free or Die. In fact, some of my earliest beers were made in carboys that I borrowed from generous friends in the club. These days I do tastings in stores that sell my beer to help get the message out about good beer and what I’m doing at White Birch Brewing.

LW: With regards to selling your beer, what has been the biggest challenge you have faced in getting draft accounts or shelf space?

BH: Managing growth has been the biggest challenge. I’m very thankful that here in NH I seem to have struck a chord with beer drinkers and have had some great support in the areas I sell. As much as I’d like to grow faster and be in more stores, I’ve had to grow at a pace I can manage. Often this means I risk running out of beer at a store or I can only give one case of the new style to a store even though that store might want more.

* * *

Part 2 of our interview with Bill Herlicka can be found here.

If you want to find out more about Bill or White Birch Brewing Co, check out the Yankee Brew News cover story on the brewery, or listen to Bill speak on the April 11th Sunday Session internet radio show produced by The Brewing Network.



“… in life, there’s always room for beer.”
-Tom Ciccateri

Monday, May 3, 2010

National Homebrew Competition - First Round Results

The National Homebrew Competition (NHC) is the “world’s largest international beer competition recognizing the most outstanding homebrewed beer, mead, and cider produced by amateur(s)”.  The NHC has been conducted by the American Homebrewers Association every year since 1979, when 34 entries competed in the inaugural event in Boulder, Colorado.  Last year, 5,166 beers were entered by 1,310 homebrewers competing for 84 medals and other prizes.

Given the size of the event, it is divided into two rounds.  The first round is conducted on a regional basis, with homebrewers sending entries to 10 regional contests, which includes Canada.  The figure below shows the layout of the regions and where the actual competitions were held.

2010 NHC Regions and Competition Locations

The top three entries in each of the 28 Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) style categories advance onto the second and final round.  The finals are held in conjunction with the National Homebrewers Conference, which for this year, is being held in Minneapolis from June 17-19.  The second round judging is typically performed by some of the best beer judges in the world who evaluate the top ~30 beers in each category and award the respective winners.  In addition to style awards, the one homebrewer who wins the most medals in the NHC is presented with the coveted Ninkasi Award, which includes a number of prizes and fabulous bragging rights.  The 2009 Ninkasi winner was Gordon Strong, who also happens to be the current president of the BJCP board.  Gordon is a repeat winner, who had 16 entries go onto the 2009 second round resulting in seven medals.  With the 2010 first round already completed, Gordon again has 16 entries passing on to this year’s finals.  Will anyone be able to unseat him?

Here at Lug Wrench Brewing, we submitted two entries to the NHC.  Tom sent in a black raspberry and blueberry standard melomel (fruit mead) that scored a 35 out of 50 points, but the judges thought it a bit too acidic and alcoholic.  He also sent in a dry English cider that scored 32 out of 50 points, with the general feedback that it had too much “farmhouse” character and not enough apple essence.  Let us know how you did?

For complete information on the 2010 NHC, see the official rules and regulations.



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