Remembering National Home Brew Day
Remembering National Home Brew Day – May 3, 2008
National Home Brew Day was on May 3 this year and my local home brew supply shop, Beercrafters, had their 15th annual home brew celebration. Beercrafters is in Turnersville, NJ and is only a few minutes from my house. I have been spending a good deal of time lately in their shop since I started my home brew career a couple of months ago and everyone there is very helpful. I learned about this Home Brew Day celebration on my last trip there and knew it would be an excellent way to meet more experienced brewers and to learn new techniques. I was dead on as I met a bunch of cool people, reconnected with others I have not seen in years and learned a lot about how to expand my current operation so I can brew more beer in the same amount of time it takes now.
I invited my friend Mike and his fiance Mellisa to go because my normal beer buddy John backed out at the last minute. Since Mellisa was going, I convinced my wife Tamika to join us and we all left our house around 2 PM. Fortunately, I had thought ahead and already had 12 of my home brews getting cold to bring along and share with others. I brought 6 Fat Boy India Pale Ales (IPA) and 6 Soul Crusher Smoked Porters. In addition, I brought 2 huge 750ml bottles of a special, one-time release Cherry Abbey Dubbel from my favorite local brewery, Flying Fish.
When we arrived, the party was already in full swing and the air wreaked of soggy malt and fragrant hops. A home brewer’s paradise. There were garden hoses running all over the place, people yelling and brewers brewing – all things that reminded me how fun it is to brew your own beer. Since everyone had already claimed their own space in the huge parking lot behind the home brew store, we dropped our stuff at the end of the tent and went inside to get our wrist bands and our special 15th Anniversary beer mug. Now all was right with the world. I was with my wife and two great friends, had a home brew in my hand and was surrounded by people who enjoy the finer qualities of beer as much as I do.
As we drank, other brewers starting coming over and introducing themselves and asking what kind of beer I had brought. I really loved sharing my brews with them and at first, was very anxious to see what they thought of the quality. As I expected, most everyone raved about the smoked porter and could take or leave the IPA. I feel the same way. I wish I had added more hops to the IPA so the flavors and aromas would explode in your mouth and nostrils the way any decent IPA should. But, against my better judgment I decided to follow the recipe and ended up with an “ok” beer. I feel that adding some hops during the primary fermentation, often referred to as dry-hopping, would have given my IPA a noticeable hop profile.
Hours passed as we schlepped from booth to booth, sampling each others beers and talking about how fun it is to brew. I asked lots of questions about using recipes and how to create them and was able to learn more than I expected. I took notice of how to expand my current stove top brewing operation to a larger scale and larger volume brewing setup. For example, instead of using 3 or 4 gallon brew kettles, many people used half barrel kegs with the top cut out, allowing them to brew 10-14 gallons with the same amount of effort. Also, they used propane burners so they could brew outdoors and in less time. After seeing this, I have been on the prowl for a decent propane burner and a new brew kettle.
Ever since I started brewing, I have been very weary of screwing up because cleanliness and sanitation are the two most important characteristics of any home brewer. I possess neither. Reading and doing lots of research has really helped me understand how to be a successful home brewer. However, watching people with lots of experience and seeing how relaxed everyone was about making beer helped put my mind more at ease. I learned that no matter what happens, you should always follow the very important suggestion of renowned home brew expert Charlie Papazian: “Relax. Have a home brew.”
Pictures courtesy of Jeff Linkous & Evan Fritz.