Searching for the line between "hobby" and "obsession"

Joining homebrew clubs

I’m hitting a bit of a wall…

I’ve read a lot about brewing, watched hours of video online and done enough research to become bored with doing that type of research. I’m realizing I need to talk this brewing stuff out with other homebrewers. None of my close friends brew, so I can’t really talk to them about the hobby in excruciating detail and I’m pretty sure I’m driving my wife batshit talking about this all of the time. Yes, I’m in desperate need of brewing friends.

NBA's single hop IPA tasting session

I’ve joined two homebrew clubs: the well-established, award-winning St. Paul Home Brewers Club and the fledgling Nordeast Brewers Alliance. I’m excited about both clubs, as I perceive they’ll offer different benefits at each end of the spectrum. NBA seems like it will give me the opportunity to get involved with a close-knit group of brewers and help shape the direction of the club, while SPHBC could provide an easy path into the world of homebrew competitions, something I’m pretty interested in.

My first SPHBC meeting isn’t until March 1st (at the Happy Gnome), but I got to attend my first NBA meeting at Pracna on Main last weekend. There were about 15 people there, double the attendance of their January meeting. I wasn’t the only new face. I corresponded with a few of the members beforehand and found out it was cool to bring some of my brews so I could get feedback from the group. I brought two bottles of Sammy’s Golden Porter, Cliffred Lager and Off-leash Coffee Stout. I had a few of them guess which of the three was an extract-based brew vs. all-grain. Two guessed the red lager was extract, while one (a guy who works at Northern Brewer) guessed correctly that Sammy’s Golden Porter was the extract batch.

It turns out, the bottles of the red lager I brought hadn’t fully re-attenuated after I’d added in the bottling sugar for carbonation (though they were plenty carbonated…). One of the guys suggested I leave them upstairs in warmer temps for more than the two weeks I had thus far, just to get rid of that sweetness. I’m bummed the red lager didn’t taste like it did before I bottled it (which was a very dry, sparingly hopped lager profile), but based on what they were saying, it sounds like it’ll re-attenuate and that profile will come back into line over time. I’m not going to drink any more of these until… April at the earliest. Probably best to try and save them for summer anyway.

Everyone seemed to approve of the coffee stout. Some even said it could use more coffee flavor. There was plenty in the aroma but they commented that it tasted much like any other stout. That seems odd to me, in that I essentially brewed a pot of coffee and threw it into secondary. Maybe I could steep some of the beans in a muslin bag during the boil and use the rest to brew a pot and add it to secondary? Hit up both avenues for getting coffee into the beer? I’m worried that could give it too much of a coffee flavor, though… Honestly I kind of like it where it is.

In tasting my extract porter and a few other extract batches people brought to the meeting, I really started to understand the stereotypical “extract twang” some brewers reference with this method. Made me pretty disinterested in brewing an extract ever again.

Though the club is still in its infancy, the organizers seem to be making a concerted effort to get the club going by tackling a 2011 agenda of events. They suggested everyone try to brew a session beer for the next meeting. I had just purchased supplies for my next brew day minutes before showing up at the meeting, so I won’t be able to participate, but it’s cool that they look to theme-brew, compare and discuss. I think it will help everyone in the club be able to talk about beer more intelligently by having all this analysis to draw back on. Another example of this was in January where they took the same malt bill and brewed IPAs with a different variety of hop in each batch, then did a tasting of all the batches to compare the differences in hop flavor. Cool idea!

I’ve been in contact with some people from SPHBC about helping them start and maintain a blog. I think that will be something that could bring them increased visibility online if we’re able to get buy-in and participation from the group. I’ll know more about how this will play out after the meeting in March. Lots of excitement ahead for both clubs!


3 responses

  1. hey buddy,
    glad to hear there are homebrew clubs in your neck of the woods, up here there is nothing, although plans are underway to create a homebrewer’s guild, which would be cool. I made a couple coffee stouts this past year, one with steeped beans added to the secondary and one steeped and added to the primary. The primary one came out intensely coffee flavoured, some of my Tim Hortons friends (local coffee and doughnut shop) love it, but if I did it again I would definitely go back to the secondary method, it was just way more mellow and drinkable. Looking forward to hearing about future brews,

    February 26, 2011 at 3:29 pm

  2. Ah, thanks for the coffee stout advice BB. So, enough coffee flavor comes out just by steeping the beans? You don’t have to grind them first? I’ve never done that before.

    You know, I have to actually thank you for inadvertently introducing the Dank Brewer (and Nordeast Homebrewer’s Alliance co-founder), Nick, to my blog through yours, which has now got me involved in their club. Go interwebs!

    So, with a guild, how is that different than a club? Yeah, Minneapolis is no Portland, Denver, Asheville or even Seattle as far as the brew scene is concerned, but we’re working our way up there. We’re fortunate to have two big homebrew supply shops right here in the Twin Cities that distribute throughout the Midwest and beyond, so we’re a bit of a homebrewing hub for the region. That, along with a growing handful of micro-breweries, breeds a lot of local interest in the hobby which I swear I’m hearing about more and more in the local media all the time. Culturally speaking, Minneapolis is essentially a big city on training wheels. Maybe we’ll graduate to the big leagues some day, and our beer scene will definitely be leading the way in that charge if/when that’s the case.

    February 27, 2011 at 12:56 pm

    • I just crushed the beans up roughly with a woodsplitter but didnt grind them. (thus the name woodsplitter stout)
      Glad to hear you met up with Nick through my blog, the web is a crazy place. Not sure what the exact difference between a club and guild are, a guild just sounds cooler I reckon. Anyways, I should run, Im in the middle of brewing a barleywine, have a good one.

      February 28, 2011 at 5:05 pm

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