March Madness

The March meeting was hosted by your humble narrator at the beach house in Branford. Turnout was surprisingly good for a meeting located on the far eastern frontier, although numbers were inflated a tad by members of MASH, our sister club on the eastern shoreline. More would probably not have been better; there were enough bodies in my tiny living room.

The beers we judged were uniformly excellent. Several were outstanding. A number were from batches which were also entered in the Nationals. I’ll be very surprised if they do not advance.

Only one picture was taken of the event. I’m not sure why everyone in it looks so, um, distracted. Momentary bout of madness or something. This is why one should always take multiple photos of any occasion.

Tasting notes are in the album below. Andy handled scribe duty since I was pouring beers. Thanks, Andy!

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Kathy and Ted’s Excellent Adventure

Ted and Kathy Kobishyn will soon leave us for a life on the road, traveling the US in an RV and sampling the beer at every brewery they pass. But they were kind enough to host one meeting in their lovely home before taking off. (Frankly, I can’t understand how they can leave such an amazing location, hard up against the river in the historic part of Milford, but the open road beckons.)

Attendance was fairly small, but those who showed up were treated to outstanding food and libations. A most wonderful evening, to be sure.

The theme was “Strong Ales” and several attendees took that very seriously. The good Dr. Pivo, in particular, showed up with some Thomas Hardy ale older than my children. Slightly oxidized, but still quite excellent.

It seems that no one took any pictures. That stinks, because the house really is quite lovely. But we do have tasting notes, below.

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Meeting at Veracious Was Truly Fantastic

See what I did there? Truly? Veracious? 😀

Okay, seriously, our first meeting in the Veracious Brewing tap room was a wild success. Turnout was enormous — well over 30 people — so we made full use of the big room and long tables and lots of chairs. Lots of newbies, which is great. Everyone brought awesome homebrew to judge. Big win.

The Sforzas were our hosts, with some help from the Nurse. They went all out with delicious munchies. We ate well! (I hope the newbies didn’t get the impression that the munchies will always be so copious and tasty. They’ll be disappointed when I host.) Eric looked like an old pro pouring samples and keeping the evening moving; despite the huge number of homebrews to judge, we still managed to finish at a reasonable hour. An excellent first outing for them.

Special thanks to Mark and Tess Szamatulski for making the room available to us despite the fact that they were far away and could not attend. They also left us with some delicious Veracious beer to sample, which we did. And very special thanks to Chris Palazini representing Veracious, helping with the setup and cleanup, babysitting us, and locking up afterward. (I STILL haven’t managed to taste any Palazini homebrew! Have to make that happen at some point.) All of our photos are courtesy of Chris as well.

Photos and tasting notes follow. (Trying to learn the new photo gallery widget, so bear with me.) Lots of great beers and ciders, from newbies as well as old hands. Unusually for us, we actually discussed processes and ingredients and made some suggestions for improvement. Enjoy!

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November Meeting at the Acosta’s

For the 3rd month in a row, the hosts for our monthly meeting had never hosted a meeting before. In fact, in this case, they had only ever been to one meeting before. No matter. The November meeting at Paco and Andrew Acosta’s was a complete success. They can’t take all the credit — Paco’s wife/Andrew’s mother helped with the food. But the evening went as smoothly as if the Acostas had been old hands at this.

And, as has been the case for the past few months, the hosts’ own brews turned out to be some of the evening’s stars. It’s becoming another tradition that our newest members are some of our best, and most knowledgeable, brewers. So much for the idea that brewers join a club to learn from the old veterans. We old vets have much to learn from the newbies.

November saw the return of Geoff, lost to the club for the past year. Lame excuses were made about home remodeling and such, as if we are supposed to allow family obligations to get in the way of making and judging beer. But it seems that he is back and hopefully for good this time.

We also learned a dark secret about 3 of the attendees. It seems that Mara, Nick, and Bobby have been meeting clandestinely to swap bottles and sample commercial beers under the code name “Unicorns”. Those of us with daughters cannot hear that word without thinking of big-eyed, horse-like things which fart rainbows. There will be repercussions.

Anyway, tasting notes. Uniformly excellent beers, across the board. Some were truly outstanding. Back in the day, we’d bring skunkers in and ask for advice on how to improve them. Nobody seems to make skunkers anymore. Or, at least, they don’t need our advice on fixing them. A great night for tasting.

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October Meeting at Burgher Burger’s Burg

We continued our run of “virgin hosts” in October with a meeting at Robert Burger’s home in Branford. Bob may be on the far eastern fringe of our club footprint, but he has the cutest kids on the planet and he serves candied bacon at meetings. In other words, we’ll be back. Often.

An unusual number of newbies attended, mostly invited by Nurse. Once upon a time, newbies would be new brewers who had done a couple of extract-based kits on the stovetop. That’s certainly where I was when I joined the group. Now, they arrive as all-grain brewers with lots of experience and excellent brews to judge. The tasting notes which follow bear this out.

Bob, himself, showed us all up with an outstanding raspberry Berliner weisse made via acid malt and sour mash. Just a fantastic beer. We forgave him for making the rest of us look bad only because he sent us home with samples from his keg.

Handy Andy was close behind with a straight Berliner and a dark mild, both just fantastic beers. The mild, in particular, drew many envious comments. How do you get this much flavor in a small beer?

Candied bacon, raspberry sour, dark mild, and newbies: all in all, a fantastic meeting!

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Local(ish) upcoming events

They are still looking for judges for NERHBC, 10/24 in Nashua. I judged this comp last year. Very well run. Good food.

And also for LIBME’s 3rd Annual, 11/21 in Bayshore. If Bayshore seems like a long drive, be aware that the plan is to get the whole thing done in one flight, leaving you the rest of the day free to explore.

And LIBME is hosting a MEAD EXAM on 2/20 in Patchogue. This is the only mead exam to be held in this area in the next year or two, so jump on it.

SNERHC 2015 Results

SNERHC 2015 was an amazing success. The decision to co-host with the Krausen Commandos was the best ever. Despite a major change in guidelines and an inauspicious start (we were stranded outside until someone came to unlock the gate at Two Roads), we judged 400 entries — 40 more than last year — in 45 minutes LESS time. We were cleaned up and out the door by 6:30pm.

Results may be found here: SNERHC 2015 Results

Scores and scoresheets are also available. Go to the SNERHC page and log in to see your scores.

Enormous thanks to all involved: the judges, the stewards, the cellar staff, and the sponsors.

See you all next year!

September Meeting at Mara’s

The September meeting was held at Mara’s house in Bridgeport, her first time hosting our motley crew. Awesome meeting: an excellent spread, some newbie members, and some fantastic brews to judge. We’ll definitely have to go back there.

Before the meeting proper, we got a tour of the brewery. Jealously factor: extreme. Induction heating units, automated keg washer, and, best of all, a homemade glycol-chilled, stainless steel fermenter. Outrageous.

Chatter during the meeting was uncharacteristically brewing-related and geeky. Even the newest members seem to possess extremely detailed knowledge about micro-organism strains, enzyme levels, hop varieties, and all kinds of other things we oldsters never knew. I’m not saying we used to just dump and stir back in the day. But I’ll admit that these kids are intimidating.

Not least because their beers are so damn good. Herewith, the tasting notes:

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July Meeting — Mary Izett Speaks!

The July meeting at Dan Mages’ house featured a special guest presentation by Mary Izett, ably supported by Chris Cuzme, who drove all the way up from Brooklyn to be with us.

Many of you know Mary and Chris as brewers, judges, and competition organizers from the NYC area. The ran the NYC region of the National Homebrew Competition First Round this year. In fact, they did it so well that I wrote a long post about how enjoyable it was. (I would post a link to the article here if I wasn’t just a WordPress numnutz. You can search for it in the archives.) They host and produce the Fuhmentaboudit! podcast. Chris was, until recently, the head brewer at the 508 gastropub. Chris and Mary recently formed Cuzett Libations to gypsy brew all kinds of fermented liquids.

More to the point, Mary just published a book: Speed Brewing: Techniques and Recipes for Fast-Fermenting Beers, Ciders, Meads, and More. This isn’t just about brewing beer faster, although that’s part of it. The book also explores a number of other fermented beverages — kombucha, kefir, sodas, teas, short meads, etc. — all of which can be brewed very quickly and drunk fresh in a week or two. These are all low-alcohol beverages and mostly quite thirst-quenching. Very tempting as we head into the hot part of summer.

Mary spoke about the book and the motivations behind it, giving us insight into what kinds of beverages work well and why you might want to brew them. She brought samples of 3 different recipes: a fermented jasmine tea, a short mead, and a cider. All of them had been brewed within the last 2 – 3 weeks and none had more than 5% abv. All were delicious and flavorful. Based on these samples, I am guessing that this book will be a big hit.

Chris also shared with us Cuzett Libations’ “Revenge Of The Emu”, a heavily-hopped Kolsch-like beer. That was also extremely yummy.

So a huge Yahoos thank you to Mary and Chris for the long trip, the excellent talk, and the delicious samples!

Of course, we also did our regular Yahoos thing and judged some homebrew. Tasting notes are below. Colin was the clear winner for the evening, clocking a 42 for a cider and a 40 for an American Strong.

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