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

NBA March Meeting Madness!

Great times at the Nordeast Brewers Alliance (NBA) meeting at Pracna on Main Saturday afternoon. It seemed like almost half of the 20 or so people in attendance were new faces. It’s cool to be a part of this club as it’s just getting off the ground, as I feel like we all have the opportunity to offer feedback and make it our own.

Club organizer Nathan passionately explains why Coors has a more distinct hop profile than Bud, hence his self-identifying as a "Coors Man."

The majority of the meeting covered plans and events for the future (psyched for the BBQ brew day in July!), discussion of solidifying our online presence, a tutorial on yeast starters, a tasting session focused on the style of beer we were encouraged to brew at the last meeting and a historical look at the style members will be brewing for the April meeting, Amber ale.

I picked up two good techniques in conversation that I’m excited to start employing right away:

  1. If I boil and cool some water (a quart?) just before transferring a batch from primary to secondary, I can take that cooled sterile water and drop it on the yeast cake in primary to shield the yeast for about a week until I’m ready to do another batch, then syphon the water off the yeast cake and pitch the new wort over the cake. Bingo, you’ve got a huge fucking yeast starter right there with minimal extra work. I like it.
  2. I’ve had some trouble getting consistent carbonation between bottles in the past. A new member who has been brewing for 8 years or so (Nick – not Dank Brewer Nick) suggested putting the boiled/cooled bottling sugar-water into the secondary fermenter a few hours before syphoning to the bottling bucket. This will give the sugar more time and opportunity to disperse amongst the fermented beer. You can’t put the sugar in too far ahead of bottling though, as the yeast remaining will seek out those sugars and go to town – which is what you want, but you don’t want that to happen until the beer is bottled

Mutt Lite

Brew of the month for March: Mild or Bitter
Each month, members focus on brewing a certain style, specific ingredient or technique so the group can sample the beers and have discussion around  the similarities and differences at the next meeting. For yesterday’s meeting, we were encouraged to brew a mild or a bitter. I brought a few bottles of the Mutt Lite parti gyle I did on the saison brew day at the beginning of February. Mutt Lite comes in under 4% ABV, so it definitely fits in the mild style. I opened the first bottles of that (thankfully smaller) batch this past week. Hmm…. yuck? I’m getting lemon grass flavors from the 1/2 oz. of Challenger (7%) I used to hop it due to a serious lack of malt (OG was in the mid 1.030’s, I believe). Also picked up some cider-y flavors from it at the meeting last night. I may be scarred for life on parti gyles here, or at least until I invest in much better equipment. It’s just not worth it. I almost see that beer as simply taking up valuable space in my bottles right now.

There were some good mild and bitter examples being sampled at the meeting, a few Belgians and one primarily Simcoe IPA (with a little Saaz). I don’t think I’ve ever had a brew that featured Simcoe like that, but man now I see why everyone is going crazy with the current Simcoe shortage. Them hops is tasty! Didn’t hurt that that brew was well-done.

I tried one commercial beer at the meeting from the bar (for free, thanks Bree and Pracna!), Lake Superior’s Kayak Kolsch. I don’t think I’ve had a Kolsch in the last few years, and wow was I missing out. I’d forgotten what a great light refreshing summer beer this is (Fake it ’til you make it, Minneapolis! Think spring!). Definitely a good alternative to a wheat beer or a saison. I was thinking of devoting two brew days to wheat beers after we return from Europe in June, but I may do a Kolsch for one of those instead. I seem to remember reading or hearing something about this style being hard to make though. Maybe I’m mistaken. I’ll have to do some research.

This club is getting off to a good start. Glad to be a part of it.

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