2018 Competition Goals

It’s a bit early in the year to be talking about goals, and yet, both of the goals I set for this year have come to pass.  One successful, one not successful. The unsuccessful one was a one-time event, so it can’t happen later in the year.

The first goal was to place a beer into the final round of the National Homebrewers Competition.  This required placing 1st, 2nd or 3rd in a category and scoring over 30 points in one of the regional competitions. Two of my three beers met the score threshold, a 34.5 for my CDA and 32.5 for my Belgian Dark Strong, but alas, no top three finish and no advancing to finals.  My English bitter (a style I had never made before) scored 29 points.  Maybe next year.

The second goal was to get on the scoreboard of the Oregon State Homebrewer of the Year standings.  OSHBOTY (as it’s known) is a statewide competition to crown the best homebrewer in the State.  You earn points by taking first in a medal category, with even more points for finishing 1st/2nd/3rd Best in Show.  So, this goal required me to also win my first gold medal, which I had yet to do.  Ironically, I won my first gold in January at Stout Bout, but since that’s a limited style comp (stouts only) it doesn’t qualify for OSHBOTY points.  The next full style competition after NHC Regionals was the COHO Spring Fling.  Much to my surprise, I snagged first place in the British Bitters category with my Strong Bitter.

2018 COHO Spring Fling

You earn points based on how many beers you “beat” to win the category.  So for a 6 entry category, I earned 5 points.  That puts me way at the bottom of the list (current leader is at 120 points) but I’m on the list! The goal wasn’t to win the thing, simply get on the scoreboard, and so I am!


The brewers at the top with 100+ points have all won a best in show.  That’s where the big points live.  Part of me thinks that’s unfair, but on the other hand, if your looking for the best brewer in the state, winning an entire competition should rate pretty highly.

The competition season isn’t over by a long shot, so still a chance to earn some more points, but for now….

Mission Accomplished!

2016 Beer in Review

2016 was a very good year for beer travel and beer education, so I thought I’d take a look back.

My wife and I rang in New Years 2016 in Savannah Georgia, which included a trip to Moon River Brewing.  Right on the main drag, the building is reportedly haunted in typical Old South fashion.  The third floor is vacant which otherwise would be primo Savannah real estate so even if you don’t believe, enough people do that they refuse to go up there.  This concluded an East coast trip that included trips to several breweries in North Carolina and Georgia.  The original post is HERE is you want to revisit it.


After we returned from vacation I jumped into my role on the Board of Directors for the Oregon Brew Crew, our homebrew club.  I served as Festival Coordinator, which involved recruiting volunteers to work the OBC info booth at beer festivals, coordinating with festival organizers about when and where we could set up, actually setting up the booth and making sure it stayed occupied (which included myself at the booth for an entire day at one festival).  It was fun and rewarding, but also very taxing.  It took me well out of my comfort zone as far as being a leader and working with large groups of people.  I learned a lot about myself and about group leadership and while it was very healthy for me to push and expand my boundaries, I’m very excited to step away and rejoin the club as just an average member.

In March was a very exciting event, the first annual Pacific Northwest Homebrewers Conference (PNWHC).  Held in Vancouver Washington the conference was meant to emulate the National Homebrewer Conference, but focusing in on the PacNW.  This years NHC was out on the East coast and a lot of us couldn’t make the trip, so perfect timing for something local.  The conference was set up pretty much exactly the same as the national one.  There were lots of seminars on every imaginable topic, an expo with equipment and ingredient vendors, a lot of whom are already based in this area anyway, a pro night banquet of all the local breweries and a club night banquet for all the local homebrew clubs.  Members and clubs came mostly from Oregon and Washington, but there were representatives from Montana, Idaho, Northern California and even Canada.  My wife volunteered to help run the conference since (at the time) she wasn’t brewing and not as interested in the seminars as I was and now is helping plan the 2017 PNWHC which should be even better!

In April, my wife graduated with her Masters degree and we went to Disneyland to celebrate.  We only visited one brewery while we were there, but it was a pretty cool one.  The Anaheim Brewery was in the Anaheim Packing District which is full of old citrus warehouses close to the historic downtown area.  It was neat to walk around a quieter section of Anaheim, even though it wasn’t really that far from Disney and the Convention Center area.


June brought about perhaps the most exciting beer related event of the year as I started my new job as a Quality Analyst at Portland Brewing! One of the original Portland microbreweries along with Widmer and Bridgeport, PBCo has grown and partnered with Pyramid Breweries out of Seattle into a fairly large regional brewery.  I’ve learned a lot in the last 6 months and continue to learn daily, but the coolest thing is I get to make beer for a living! I don’t do any of the actual brewing, but I work daily with the brewers and monitor the fermentations from brew day to bottling day to make sure everything turns out as it should.  It’s amazing to see the difference between homebrewing and commercial brewing, especially large scale commercial brewing.

In July we celebrated my wife’s birthday with a trip out to Bend, which is a great beer town if you haven’t been.  We visited two breweries while we were out there, one small and one very large.  The small one was Cascade Lakes brewing, which we discovered by accident while we were out riding bikes, the large one was Deschutes.  We took the tour at Deschutes which was really cool and left there with a super nice growler full of beer, compliments of a friend who works there as a birthday present for my wife.

In September I had the opportunity to meet Jamil Zainasheff, who came to speak at one of our homebrew club meetings.  Jamil is pretty much a rockstar in the homebrew community.  Long time homebrewer with many gold medals in the National Homebrew Competition and several homebrewer of the year awards, went on to found Heretic Brewing, where true to the name he pretty much does whatever the Hell he wants.  I got two of Jamil’s books (and had him sign them) and got to speak to him briefly.  I hope to learn from him and it was a super cool experience.

In October we traveled to San Francisco on a very non-beer related trip (friends wedding) but I managed to sneak a couple places in.  While a large group went off of to be pampered at the spa, I took a stroll through the SoMa neighborhood headed towards AT&T Park.  I stopped at 21st Amendment on the way, which was much smaller than I was predicting it to be.  They obviously have a production brewery somewhere else for all those cans that make it as far as the East coast because the SanFran pub was small.  Not a bad thing, just a little shocked when I got there.  They didn’t have Back in Black on draft, although my coaster said otherwise.  I got the Brew Free or Die! IPA and it was quite nice.  As we were leaving San Fran (since it was near the airport) we stopped at Armstrong Brewing Co in South San Francisco, which is a brewery run by an NC State classmate of mine.  We took several of our food science and bioprocessing classes together.  I didn’t get a chance to see him, but it was super cool to stop by his place.


Also in October, my wife brewed her first batch of homebrew and joined the American Homebrewers Association, so that was exciting.  She just brewed her second batch and is slowly dialing in a recipe for a Chocolate Orange Stout.  It’s already good and just going to get better.

In November, I started a small beer cellar and taking some detailed tasting notes on beers that I want to drink now, and then drink again a few years from now and see how they evolve.  This is a pretty drawn out, long term project, but the results will eventually make their way here on the blog.

2017 already has some pretty epic stuff lined up, so stay tuned!

Expectations vs Reality

I haven’t posted here in a while because I’ve not been brewing lately, but I’ve still been very immersed in the local beer scene.  It’s been a busy summer as Festival Coordinator for the Oregon Brew Crew and I’m about 2 months into my new job as a Quality Analyst at Portland Brewing/Pyramid Breweries.  So I’m now actually a member of the industry!

The QA lab at Portland Brewing gives me access to a wide array of equipment and I’m learning a lot about brewing and beer chemistry.  One of the perks is that I’m allowed (heck, encouraged) to bring in my own homebrew to run tests on.  The results have been very interesting and I thought they might be worth sharing with the rest of my homebrewing friends.

I brought in three of my beers to test and I was hoping to discern some patterns or trends, but it looks like I can only paint in very broad strokes.  Not surprising that there is a lot of batch to batch variations in doing stove top small batch homebrews.

*One major caveat to these tests is that the samples I brought in were all fairly old and no longer drinkable so I didn’t feel bad dumping a couple bottles to do the tests.  I don’t believe it should affect data like IBUs and color but I could be wrong.  Along with oxidation there could be some evaporation of alcohol, but the ABVs on all three were higher than I expected to begin with, more on that later.

The first result is that my measured IBUs are way lower than the BeerSmith estimate.  That’s not a complete surprised since calculated IBUs is just an estimate based on X% alpha acid hop in the boil for X amount of time, but the amounts they dropped were a bit shocking.  My experimental hop IPA was estimated at 81 IBU and measured at 30.5 IBU, a drop of 62%.  My porter was estimated at 31 IBU and measured at 18.5, a drop of 40% and lastly my california common was estimated at 35 IBU and measured at 17.5 a drop of 50%.  I’m not sure those are close enough to derive a trend from, but the average is about half.  Another thing I’ve learned at the brewery is that IBUs in the wort (which I assume the BeerSmith estimate is, immediately after the boil) will drop during fermentation since the yeast will eat up some of the alpha and beta acids from the hops.  I didn’t know that.  Even in our commercial beers we see the IBUs drop.

The ABV (alcohol by volume) on the other hand, has been higher than expected, and by a pretty large margin.  I realized that I was making a mistake checking my final gravity by not letting the CO2 out of solution before I measure, which lowers the density of the solution and floats the hydrometer a bit more, so I know my FG readings are off, but these are old samples so there’s nothing to be done about it now.  My experimental IPA was estimated at 5.8% and measured at 6.68%, a whopping 15% increase.  My porter was estimated at 4.7% and measured at 6.0%, a 27% increase.  My california common was estimated at 4.6% and measured at 5.4%, an increase of 17%.  If I change the measured final gravity in BeerSmith to what I measured, then the measured ABV jumps up to 5.4 on the Common, so the estimate in BeerSmith is dead on, I was simply measuring the final gravity incorrectly, so that solves that mystery.

The SRM (color) for all three beers was also darker than the estimate.  This is somewhat expected, since I’ve read and been told that beers brewed with extract will be darker than their all grain counterparts.

So there we have it.  Some interesting numbers from doing actual wet chemistry testing on beer rather than relying on estimates and formulas.  Of course, the downside is you can only test after the fact, so you have to adjust your recipe for the next batch rather than the one you’re currently working on.