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Congratulations to Louis Thiery, winner of the 2016 BrewUnited Challenge! All score sheets are available in your admin area. If anything is missing, please use the contact link, and we will resolve it ASAP.

Announcing the Divisional Round Winners of the 2015 BrewUnited Challenge!

Posted by homebrewdad on 10/30/2015 at 11:55:16 AM

When I first tossed around the idea of this competition, there were some naysayers. I was warned that organizing a competition would be a lot of work, that it would be difficult, that it would be a pain. Then, as the idea evolved into the eventual form - and even after we first announced - the pushback, if anything, got stronger. Why use this format? Why be so restrictive? Why use these grains? Why not allow other hops? Why go with these styles? Didn't I understand that flaked wheat was a stupid, devilish requirement, that it was impossible to make a decent IPA - let alone a drinkable Kolsch - with even a single grain of C60, that there was no way that someone could produce anything but a drain pour of a Strong Scotch Ale in such a timeframe, that you just can't make style X, Y, or Z without ingredient A or with the inclusion of ingredient B?

But I really believed in the concept of forcing brewers to rely on skill and technique to overcome a restrictive set of ingredients in the pursuit of brewing great beer - even if it took them out of their comfort zones to do so. I'll admit, I took a lot of pleasure in discovering that I was far from alone in finding this to be a fun concept; we ended up with sponsored prize donations of over four thousand, seven hundred dollars in retail value, and we exceeded our registration limit of three hundred beers in less than a month.

In fact, everything just seemed to keep coming up aces... right up until this past weekend, when the judging started.

Our good friend, Matthew Chrispen chronicled some of the trials and tribulations that he faced as the Site Director of our Balanced judging location in Austin, Texas. Aside from the enormous amount of organization and busywork that is simply inherent in...
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Whew, didn't know our name AND handle/email were going to be posted.

posted by suprchunk on 10/30/2015 at 12:14:48 PM

Most comps post winner names. If anyone wants to be recognized with just one or the other, please contact me - I'm happy to oblige.

posted by homebrewdad on 10/30/2015 at 12:18:58 PM

Must have been DQ'd , I was sure I had that kolsch locked down :)

posted by dahlberg123 on 10/30/2015 at 12:24:38 PM

No DQs among beers that would have otherwise placed. I'm not sure I ended up having to DQ anybody.

posted by homebrewdad on 10/30/2015 at 12:26:52 PM

This was my first BJCP contest... Excited to get my score!

posted by atom on 10/30/2015 at 12:33:16 PM

Okay folks - usernames dropped.

posted by homebrewdad on 10/30/2015 at 12:33:50 PM

I'm super pumped to have even placed! Thank you all very much for all of the work you have done on this. When do you think we will get to see the scores/feedback? Will we be able to see all of the scores or just our own?

posted by rdc4687 on 10/30/2015 at 12:34:53 PM

Awesome, wish I would have placed in the overall Division. Still stoked I placed, thank you putting this on and can't wait until next year. I like the limited ingredients it really makes you think about your recipe and how you brew it.

posted by mmiller1444 on 10/30/2015 at 12:39:42 PM

A big thank you to everyone involved in running the competition. This was only my second competition so i am super excited to have placed. I really liked the format and can't wait to see what you come up with for next year!

posted by jdsoccer88 on 10/30/2015 at 01:17:54 PM

Can't wait to see my scores. Felt I nailed the brown porter for what I had to do to brew to style. To have not scored at least a 30 is surprising to me.

posted by jkrochune on 10/30/2015 at 01:24:04 PM

Nice job everyone....I like the addition of the name of the beers. Note to self...should have entered a third beer. I knew the categories I choose would be tough to get to BOS, but stoked to get 2 first places.

posted by madcowbrewing on 10/30/2015 at 01:38:09 PM

Thanks a bunch everyone for all of the hard work it took to put on not only a competition, but a truly unique experience.

posted by drewsk on 10/30/2015 at 01:38:52 PM

Thanks to everybody for entering. Scores will be up soon, judging sheets next week. Don't be a stranger - come see us in the forums!

posted by homebrewdad on 10/30/2015 at 01:45:27 PM

When will we be able to review our score sheets?

posted by mscg4u on 10/30/2015 at 06:21:53 PM

I'd love to see other people's recipes. Any chance of that?

posted by Joppo43 on 10/31/2015 at 02:53:51 AM

Tags for this post: beer, competition, brewing, challenge, winner, winners, prizes

Project & Blog Status Update

Posted by zVulture on 10/15/2015 at 12:38:40 PM


Hey all, I have been busy the past two weeks as I have been working on upgrading the biggest piece of my brewing home. Hitting the limits in how much I can do in a condo, timing couldn't have been better for me to move up to a full house. Beyond trying to handle cleaning and organizing, I have also been brewing for multiple competitions as well as the barrel project which I will be posting details on along with a short blerb for each in this post.

Gingerbread Milk Stout

One beer for three competitions, though only one with awards, seems like a good bit of efficiency to me. I had two 'holiday/winter' beer competitions as well as one 'dark beer' competition. Combining them together I went on to modify my Milk Stout recipe to something less common than Pumpkin or Apple Pie. So I came up with the idea of Gingerbread as it seemed the spices would go well with the roast and malt flavors. This is done fermenting so the post will be up sooner than later.

Citrus IPA

Part of the Reddit competition I am doing two beers for, the first one is an American IPA. While having access to a stupid amount of both amazing and terrible IPA's from living in San Diego, I wanted to try my hand at it in order to learn more about hops and other yeasts I haven't touched. This is my second go at an IPA,...
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Tags for this post: Dunkelweizen, Barrel, IPA, Milk Stout, Holiday


Posted by Stonehands on 10/06/2015 at 09:37:37 PM

Oktoberfest. The mere word conjures up visions of oompah bands, lederhosen, autumn fare, but most of all - BEER. Not just any beer though, festbier. An elusive beer style, tough to find in the states in the fall, impossible to find any other season. I write this as the 2015 Munich Oktoberfest is just wrapping up. I'm sure work is underway to take down the tents already, as the scent of roasted nuts and steckerlfisch still hangs in the air. The passing of Oktoberfest generally means that finding (fresh) examples of this beer will slowly start to be impossible. 

I've been fortunate enough to attend a few of the fests over the last decade - a trip well worth the price of the admission just for the beer. What many don't realize is that at Oktoberfest, you are limited to the "Big Six" Breweries - Augustiner, Hacker Pschorr, Hofbrau, Lowenbrau, Paulaner, and Spaten. Each tent serves one of these beers, made by breweries within the city limits of Munich. All of the beers are similar style, but different in their own ways. I've argued over the beers, on which is the best. Everyone has an opinion. I've had a festbier or two from other breweries - Weihenstephan comes to mind - that make excellent examples of the style, the Six are traditional though. 

The Big Six

This year I had to stay home, but my usual group of friends - they've been going every year
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Tags for this post: Oktoberfest, festbier, beer, German, lager

A Dark Journey Through Hefeweizen - Part 5

Posted by zVulture on 9/16/2015 at 10:22:26 PM


Part 5 - Open Fermentation

Continued from Part 1 - The Dunkelweizen Clone, Part 2 - Mastering the Yeast, Part 3 - Decocting Mashing, and Part 4 - Yeast Blending.

There always seems another thing to go out and try between the myths and methods behind brewing. Even with just focusing on Hefeweizen yeast I have managed to get through more than 12 brew sessions experimenting. Living in Southern California, everything has to be potent and powerful when it comes to flavors. A balanced beer isn't all that popular no matter how challenging it was to make it. So I go to find a path to focus just on Ester production and this time with Open Fermantion and Fermenter Shape.

Picking out a Fermenter

It was one thing to want something and another to pull it off. Stopping by a homebrew shop there was little actual options for fermentation vessels. Checking online didn't result in anything better as everything seemed to be the usual cylinder. Creativity knows no bounds though as I broadened my search to just plastic PET containers. Lo' and behold I come across my projects savior, The Gamma 2 Vittles Vault Plus! I had planned on picking some of these up for grain storage when I got more space so for $20 I couldn't pass up this as an option. The lid is air tight so I could drill and use an airlock if

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Tags for this post: dunkelweizen, hefeweizen, open fermentation, adventure

Bringing Yeast Back from the Dead

Posted by homebrewdad on 9/15/2015 at 09:40:04 AM

The purpose of my last brewday was to put together my Christmas beer for this year. I'm lucky enough to be part of an email list containing some knowledgeable, accomplished brewers, and this year, we're all brewing up an assortment of Christmas beers for a swap. I'm excited to be a part of this, but I'm also a bit nervous, as I want to be sure that my offering is respectable.

My entry was supposed to be a big, caramel-heavy brew, so I put together a recipe that aligns pretty closely with an English old ale. Maris Otter, some layered British Crystal malts, a little honey malt (because that stuff is amazing), Target hops, a little table sugar to dry things out, and my favorite dry English yeast - WLP037 (Yorkshire Square Ale). I planned to reduce some of my first runnings to syrup, maybe employ a longer boil - all in all, I wanted this beer to be an absolute caramel bomb.

WLP037 is a Platinum offering from White Labs that is apparently a bit divisive; people seem to either love it or hate it, as the yeast has a touch of a Belgian like character to it. Sadly, it appears that I am in the minority "love" camp, as last year, White Labs elected to not sell the yeast... and it looks like they made the same choice this year; I suspect that they may never sell it again. Fortunately, I keep a culture of this yeast...
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Tags for this post: yeast, starter, vitality, viability, old yeast, wlp037

QUAFF Maple Bourbon Barrel Project - Part 1

Posted by zVulture on 9/13/2015 at 03:21:03 PM


Sorry on the delay for the usual Friday post, but just by the title you can guess just what might have kept me busy this week. About a month ago I got into a group project with other local brewers, mostly with QUAFF members. The lead of the project managed to get ahold of two 55 gallon bourbon barrels that had been used to age Maple Syrup. These are usually reserved for founders of the aging project and so I jumped on this as a rare opportunity. Better yet, we already had the cooperation of a local nanobrewery, Arcana Brewery, to let us use their system and fermenter as it would be quite a bit of work to pull 55 gallons out of homebrew gear. This post is a bit more just documenting what we went through than any particular topic like I usually do.

Planning and Scaling

It's one thing to have a good idea and another to pull it off entirely. We had a good planning session together where we worked out the styles of beers and the recipes to scale up. The initial contenders were Old Ale, Breakfast (Pancake) Pale Ale, Breakfast Stout, and Barleywine. After some heated discussion, we ended up closing it down to the Old Ale for the first barrel which we modified to take Molasses instead of Dark Brown Sugar or Treacle to go with the Maple. The second barrel was going to get a Breakfast Stout where we really

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Tags for this post: Barrel, Bourbon, Bourbon Barrel, Maple, Molasses, Old Ale, Scale Up

unTraditional Bock - BrewUnited Challenge Beer #1

Posted by wildscientist on 9/11/2015 at 12:25:53 AM

Initial recipe for my unTraditional Bock:
8lbs Munich - light
3lbs German Pilsner
1lb Crystal 60L
1lb flaked wheat (toasted at 300F until golden)

Mash low at 143 and boil for 3 hours to build flavor and color

0.25oz Perle and Challenger @60
Irish Moss @15
0.25oz Perle and Challenger @15

Saflager 34/70, use Brulosopher’s quick lager method

After looking at some more recipes and letting the initial take simmer in my mind for a bit, I was on edge with using 1 full pound of Crystal 60L. At ~7.5% of the total grist, it seemed excessive even though many recipes seemed to have around that much of similar malted grains, but I just couldn’t pull the trigger. I was worried about a cloying caramel sweetness that would over power the rich deep malt backbone from the Munich and Pilsner. I also dropped the wheat because I didn’t want to fight haze with all the starches from the wheat and hoped that 4oz (just under 2%) of well toasted flaked wheat would add a bit of oomph to the beer, oddly the color of the wheat didn’t change all that dramatically, but the smell and taste sure did. I then bumped up the Munich and Pils to get OG more in range stylistically according to BeerSmith and increased the initial bittering charge of hops to again keep it more in style and to balance out the slight increase in gravity.

I then started to question the mash...
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Tags for this post: bock, traditional, BrewUnited, challenge, untraditional, lager

How to Brew an Excellent Pumpkin Ale - Some Tried and True Tips

Posted by homebrewdad on 9/10/2015 at 01:09:08 AM

Yes, it's that time of year again - when it seems like half of the homebrewing population is debating the best way to brew a good pumpkin ale (often with little to no firsthand experience on the subject), while the other half is suggesting that the first step to enjoying a pumpkin ale is to pour it into the closest drain.  And of course, craft beer outlets everywhere are inundated with pumpkin offerings of varying quality, which likely encourages the trend even more. 

Rather than take a side on that debate, the following article is presented as some tried and true suggestions to follow if you find yourself wanting to brew a pumpkin ale.  After all, if you're going to do one of these beers, do yourself (and anyone you share the beer with) a favor, and make a good one!

Note from homebrewdad: this article is directly taken from a post by /u/rrrx at reddit's homebrewing sub.  While I have edited and applied formatting, I do not take any credit for the content.  I have reprinted it here with permission.

Interestingly, it seems that many brewers are adamantly opposed to using actual pumpkin flesh in their beers, feeling that doing so doesn't really offer anything to the beer and just makes a mess.  Instead, they rely on their spice mix to invoke that signature pumpkin beer flavor.

Pumpkin ale!
Pumpkin ale - image courtesy of Google image search

As an avowed advocate of using actual pumpkin in pumpkin ales, I...
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Tags for this post: pumpkin, ale, spice, pumpkin flesh, homebrew

Custom Tap Handle from Half-Yankee Workshop

Posted by Matt on 9/09/2015 at 09:17:04 AM

I won!

As most of you know, Brew United ran a small raffle to give away an awesome custom tap handle from Half Yankee Workshop. This is the same Tap Handle that was previously reviewed by the user Stonehands, and after such an awesome review a lot of us were eager to win. 

Thanks to a lengthy discussion about the 2015 BJCP guidelines, I won! 

Tap Handle
In all its glory!

I have a thrown-together one tap setup that I use primarily for IPAs and beers that should be drank fresh. It's nothing glamorous, but it's all I have the space, time, and money for at the moment. So this tap handle feels a bit like I'm putting (let's show my red neck upbringing here) "a new chandelier in a haunted house". 

The kegerator doesn't deserve the tap handle, it's fantastic. Solid, beautiful wood, it really is fantastic work. I'm pretty jealous of the craftsmanship and my own lack of woodworking skills. 

I had some trouble getting it onto the tap. Something about how the screws line up, I need to get it on pretty tight in order to have the board display out. Not a big deal, I plan on replacing this tap pretty soon anyways with a perlick. 

Awwwwwww yes

It's pretty tall, I think it will look a
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Tags for this post: Tap Handle, BrewUnited

Competition Hopes and Dreams: Down the Drain

Posted by homebrewdad on 9/08/2015 at 09:18:52 AM

I had planned to write about a fun - or, at least positive - subject for my post today. I've been working on my Christmas beer for this year, and while it's a bit off the wall, I have some high hopes for it. Related to that Christmas beer, I found myself trying to revive some old, neglected yeast; that turned out to be an interesting process. Also, I do really need to get a pumpkin beer "how to" post up.

Unfortunately, those topics will have to wait. Instead, it appears that it is time for a classic "what Homebrew Dad screwed up this time" story.

You may recall me posting three weeks or so ago about my nine hour brewday in preparation for the Alabama Brew Off. I had wanted to enter at least a couple of beers into the competition, but had missed the announcement stating when they would accept entries; as a result, I only had a chance to brew once for the comp. I ended up deciding to go with a split batch, which resulted in seven gallons of a simple wort. Four gallons got WLP820 and was fermented via the fast lager process as a Festbier. The other three gallons got further split; both got WLP500 so as to be fermented as a Belgian Blond, but I decided to play with pitch rates to see which gave the best Belgian character.

The fermentation process seemed to go great; once fermentation slowed,...
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Tags for this post: infection, competition, drain pour, beer, infected

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