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Southern New England Regional Homebrew Competition (SNERHC)

The 2016 Southern New England Regional Homebrew Competition (SNERHC 2016) will be held on October 23 at Two Roads Brewing in Stratford, CT, hosted by the Underground Brewers of CT and the Krausen Commandos of Northwest CT.

SNERHC is generously sponsored by Maltose Express, My Place Restaurant, and Two Roads Brewing.

Registration for entries and volunteers is now open. As of this update (12:30pm on 9/17), 53 out of 400 entry slots are taken. Don’t delay!

http://www.undergroundbrewers.org/snerhc

 

John Watson Wins Again

Each year, in June, we Underground Brewers engage in a fierce competition among ourselves for “Best Brewer” honors. We bring our best homebrews to John and Tracy Watson’s house, judge them for real, and give prizes to the brewers of the top three.

We’ve been doing this for as long as anyone can remember. And John’s been winning the contest for almost as long.

This year was no different. In fact, it is believed that John’s winning entry was from the same batch that he won with last year. I’d complain, but it is consolation enough to get to sample some of John’s beers while judging. And the potluck dinner is always amazing.

The winning entries:

Best in show: Helles, John Watson

First runner-up: Piwo Grodziske, Krzysztof Lasocki

Second runner-up: Berliner Weisse, Andy Tipler

Honorable mention: IPA with Tangerines, John Watson

And the scoresheets:

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You’ll Always Remember Your First Time

May found us once again with a first-time meeting host. “Hosts”, actually, since both Robert and Barbara Rickman are brewers and club members. (Their son, Brian, also joined the group a day or so after the meeting.) After bouncing from rental to rental over the past few years, none of which were large enough, the Rickmans have recently bought a lovely home in Naugatuck with lots of space for hosting YAHOOS meetings. Hence their first ever hosting.

More than half of our recent hosts have been first-timers and all of them have done a superb job. The Rickmans were no different. Excellent food (especially the homemade flax seed crackers — see recipe below) and homebrew in a lovely setting.

We YAHOOS, unfortunately, were not the perfect guests. There was an incident with an overly exuberant bottle of French cider which may have left a scar on the kitchen ceiling. I feel guilty. I brought that bottle of cider. I will say in my defense that it was cold when I brought it and may have been better behaved if it had stayed that way. I hope I am not under lifetime ban at the Rickman estate.

The theme was “Cider” and many club members brought their personal variations on the Beardsley juice theme. I am always amazed by the differences in the end-products when starting with the same ingredients. Some brewers add sugars, some add yeasts, some add other fruits. The results can fall into any BJCP cider category. We are a creative bunch.

Tasting notes may be found below. I hope I remembered the cider sub-score breakdown properly. If not, please forgive me.

But first, the cracker recipe. Barbara spins her own fibers and this recipe comes from one of the reference books she uses. But, like all good homebrewers, she has made this her own in subtle ways. All I can say is, these crackers are amazing. I ate far too many, with nothing on them. Make them, even if you have to buy a pasta machine to do so.

Barbara Rickman’s Awesome Flax Seed Crackers

4 cups King Arthur flour (it works best in this recipe)
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons onion powder
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1/2 cayenne (red) pepper
4 tablespoons olive oil (dark virgin)
3/4 cup flax seed
1 1/2 cups water
Mix dry ingredients together well.  Add water and oil and mix with dough hooks or by hand for at least 5 to 8 minutes to get the gluten in the flour activated.  Separate dough into 4 parts.  Using a hand crank pasta machine set on level 1, run pasta thru until it holds together in a solid sheet and does not lose its seeds.  Then, turn the settings one at a time until you get to setting 4.  Cut the dough the size crackers you want or score the crackers with a fork.  Line baking sheets with tin foil.  Bake them at 400 degrees until just brown around the edges..about 10 1/2 minutes.  You can also bake them  on 1 side for 7 minutes, turn them over and bake them for 5 minutes more for a browner, crispier cracker.
We use the recipe in the book doubled, except for the flax seed.  1 3/4 cup of flax seed is WAY too much!  Gets stuck in the pasta machine causing it to jam.
Barbara and Robert Rickman
Recipe taken from Alden Amos Big Book Of Handweaving, page 403

 

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Bridgeport Rules!

When I was a lad, back in another century entirely, Bridgeport was considered (how do we put this delicately?) not the best place to buy a house. P.T.Barnum was long gone, and the industrial manufacturing economy which had replaced him was gone as well. Nothing was left but vacant lots and empty factories.

Fast-forward to the present day and we find that this idea is completely out of date. The Bluefish are thriving, the city is reviving, and a number of YAHOOS are happily living within the city limits.

Case in point: Mara Heneks, our hostess for the April meeting.

Mara has been building what may be the most high-tech brewing system of any Underground Brewer. At our last meeting at her home, she showed us her induction heating system and glycol-chilled fermenters. She has now added a home-built, 3-tier brewing rig. Brewers like me, without any space to call our own, can only gaze admiringly at this amount of dedicated brewing equipment.

And it doesn’t go to waste. There is never any shortage of great homebrew at Mara’s place. Most of it wild and/or sour. All of it delicious. Complemented by a generous spread of tasty munchies, this made for another excellent club meeting.

The rest of the YAHOOS brought their own high-quality brews to be judged. Except for me. I brought a tripel so bad that the rest of the batch had to be dumped. I had hoped for some advice on how to avoid the off-flavors next time, but apparently I stumped the experts. Never underestimate an Underground Brewer — even our fails are epic.

Tasting notes:

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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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