Humbled by our very first all-grain experience we took a few weeks off to recover and brewed a quick partial mash to help rebuild our confidence. During that time we were invited by a friend to join a small local brew club to share, learn, and just “nerd out” about all things related to beer and homebrewing. It was a fun and educational experience. If you’ve never been to one we’d highly recommend it. It was during this meeting that we were introduced to one of the best parts of a homebrew club; the brewing competition.
One thing to keep in mind about Jesse, Dennis, and myself is that we can get pretty darn competitive. Maybe not “trash the board when losing a game of Monopoly” competitive. However, you’d be surprised how intense things get when we’re betting $1 per hole on a par three golf course. It’s not about the prize, it’s about the pride that comes with the victory. So if there was ever a way for us to elevate our brewing prowess, putting a challenge in front of us was definitely the way to do it.
The rules were pretty straight forward; brew any kind of style you want, but it must include at least 5% rye malt. Living on the west coast we figured there were going to be a ton of Pale Ales and IPA’s entered (we were right by the way) so we wanted to try something a little different. During our research we came across a recipe for a Rye Porter which peaked our interest. The three of us love darker English style beers so we developed our recipe and began prepping for brew day.
With the highly coveted prize of bragging rights on the line we were able to shake off our first all-grain experience and approached this brew with laser precision. You can call it skill if you want, but we’re convinced that something else wan, beer, s going on that night because weird things were happening. PH reading? Perfect! Pre-boil Gravity? Perfect! Original gravity after boil? Nailed it! Even our final gravity before bottling was dead on. Everything, literally everything, was bang on. It was an exciting, but weird experience. So far this was the best brew day we’d ever had and, after the first tastes, it turns out it was the best beer we’d ever made. Things were looking good for our first contest submission.
If you’re not familiar with how most beer competitions are scored, feel free to visit the BJCP’s (Beer Judge Certification Program) website. It’s based on a set of guidelines for each beer style describing what the beer should and should not be. In the end your beer is given a score between 1 and 50. Usually a score between 30-40 is considered very good. Anything over 40 is regarded as a world class example of that style. We were all nervous leading up to competition night and, unfortunately for me, I was unable to attend the event (stupid family vacation!). After a few days of vacation, and a great dinner, Brandi and I were winding down for the night when I received a text from Jesse “Awesome event. Porter went over very well. Didn’t win, but it scored a 34!”. This was followed by a few explicits, fist pumps, and big smiles. Not too shabby for our second all-grain ever.
After such a glowing review and constructive feedback, we’ve since tweaked our recipe and it is now quickly becoming our “signature beer”. It also pushed us into asking our selves a question. If we could develop 1 or 2 more exceptional beers, could we make this a business? If so, what would those other beers be?
Stay tuned for those answers and more in our next post!