Beer Camp 118: The Experience Part 1

When it comes to my time at Beer Camp… I really don’t know what to say… or maybe how to say it. I feel that no matter what I put down it will seem like I’m being that guy with the really funny story that no one laughs at. And then I would have to follow it up with, “Well, you had to be there.”, which is kind of true in this case.

When I arrived in Chico, the first thing I did… well, I checked into my hotel room. But after that! I sent over to Sierra Nevada and got a seat at the bar. The first beer I grabbed was the Christmas Jam Session Ale, which was a collaboration with someone in Asheville… but that is not what is important… It is just what kicked everything off.

After a few more beers, more members of our group showed up, plus the members of Beer Camp 117 we were told to make or way upstairs for a concert in The Big Room… I honestly don’t remember now who was playing, but they had a pretty awesome sound and they were different. Even when they were covering popular songs. Beer Camp had not even officially started yet but things just kept getting more awesome and more awesome. Did I mention that after the show, we headed out to a local bar? We may or may not have kicked every Sierra Nevada keg they had there at the time… and possibly raced around the place on Big Wheels… But not before snagging this photo… and we may or may not have ended the night with a bottle share……….. but that is enough about Day Zero.

Well… morning came. Why would they want to get started at 8am? That makes no sense but we all made it! We started the day by watching all of our videos and a little tour… and beer… But hey, I don’t care what time it is ever. QA everybody, QA. It was shortly after this, I got to taste Torpedo straight from the fermenter… I wondered if ever again Torpedo would taste this good. We just got a brief taste of the brewery at this time. The tour was, I guess an introduction to the brewery. There was far more to see than what we saw but we had to “get back” to start discussing and determining our recipe.

We had quite a bit going back and forth on the recipe. One of our first ideas, a Saison, was kicked back because of available yeast. We were considering a sour beer… but that got kicked back also, for obvious reasons. We selected a few base styles we wanted to go for but it essentially came down to IPA. Yup. A few of us tried to push for the Wheat Wine angle. We ended up using a bit of wheat in our beer and kicked the ABV up to 8%. We had a huge selection of hops to go with and we discussed what flavors from malt we wanted and even the color, etc etc etc. We even thought it would be cool to age it on Spanish Cedar. Something we were totally able to do, and give this beer it’s own flair. 

The brewers, Abraham and his team, came up with the full recipe based on what we discussed. It came out looking like this. I cannot wait to taste it. My party is coming up very soon!

This is just part 1 of this epic experience… this was just the morning, and I can’t even do that justice here. I don’t know a way to help you experience it other than being there. I will try, though. 

Cheers!
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Beer Camp 118: The Experience Part 1

Tour de Fat Durham

This past weekend, Hop Man, made an Appearance at New Belgium’s Tour de Fat. For those of you who don’t know, Tour de Fat is essentially a Beer Carnival showcasing New Belgium, sustainability, and their lifestyle and culture when it comes to fun and bikes.

A celebration of bikes, beer and community in 12 U.S. cities spreading the good word about the radness of the mighty bicycle and a simple, honest way of living.

If you need a recap of why I would be interested in something like this… You have not been paying attention, but here you go. As soon as I got there I started scoping out the park trying to figure out my game plan for the day… Not that I really needed one. It was to only be about excitement and going with the flow and then I ran into this sign.

I guess this set the stage for what I was drinking anyway. I may or may not have been able to score my way into the VIP tent, Thank You Again! So it was cool just being around everyone that was there. I even left with some swag that will be going on many of rides with me.

Tour de Fat kicked off with a fashion show, (actually, it kicked off with a Bicycle Parade that lead to the opening but still…), showcasing the best of the best at the park. I shot a clip of the catwalk as it was shutting down. Take a look here.

//player.vimeo.com/video/99412874 Fashion Show.mp4 from L Allen Huerta on Vimeo.

Of course I came dressed for the occasion, not that it should come as a surprise to you. But after the show, IT WAS TIME TO GET BEER!!!

Over the course of the day I tried everything that was available at the Lips of Faith tent. I didn’t bother heading over to the other but they had Summer Helles over there. I highly recommend finding that on and trying it. Especially those of you who say you don’t like lagers. This is one of the best beers I have had in a while and it even falls into the Light Lager category for those of you who always trash it. Just saying.

There are a few shows, and bands, I wish I would have caught but there were a lot of good people to talk and hangout with. Of course enjoy your company, but if you have the chance to show up to an event make sure you check out as much as possible. They put on a great show. I should have taken photos of the puppeteer. He did some pretty… interesting things that I did not even know were possible. Including a stripping puppet and Homer Simpson on the drums! Pretty epic.

There are a few more stops this year, so if you have the chance to get out to them, I suggest you do!

Washington, District of Columbia Yards Park 5/31/2014
Durham, North Carolina Diamond View Park 6/21/2014
Chicago, Illinois Palmer Square 7/12/2014
Twin Cities, Minnesota Loring Park 7/26/2014
Boise, Idaho Ann Morrison Park 8/16/2014
Fort Collins, Colorado Civic Center Park 8/30/2014
Denver, Colorado City Park 9/6/2014
San Francisco, California Golden Gate Park 9/13/2014
San Diego, California Golden Hill Park 9/27/2014
Tempe, Arizona Tempe Town Lake 10/4/2014

Now, I could not let you go without showing you what I wore, so you better show me up at the event that you go to!

Cheers!

Tour de Fat Durham

BJCP Tasting Exam

After such a long wait, the time has finally come and passed. It has been about a month and a half now and I still have a lot to cover when it comes to learning the history of the styles, etc. but the BJCP Tasting Exam is finally OVER!!! I was stressing a lot about it the first few days to a week or so after the exam but now I am just over it and want my results. Before I wanted an 80 or better, now I just hope I got a 60 so I don’t have to test with the updated guidelines… JK!!! I still hope I did great but this waiting period is killing me and seriously all I want is a pass at this point.

The main advice I have for anyone taking this is exam is to make sure you learn the styles. I know that may sound kind of obvious, but maybe I should phrase it this way. Make sure you know the differences between the styles. You are there to judge each beer presented to you based on what you sense. Not what the guideline says. Write down everything you notice and then afterward, consider what you tasted. The proctor told you this was a Sweet Stout. Was it really? or was it an under-carbonated Oatmeal Stout? There are differences but if you can’t pull out what they are, you are stuck taking their word for gold.

Overall I think I feel pretty good about it but we will see when the results come back. One more thing when it comes to taking the test. Or even when it comes to life: NEVER SECOND GUESS YOURSELF!

I showed up on test day not knowing what to expect. I signed in, sat down, filled out preliminary paperwork and just waited… I don’t know why I showed up so early. About an hour but I stayed in my car. I got in the testing room about 30 minutes before the start of the exam… Just waiting… I guess it is better than being late.

I was relieved when the first beer showed up. I feel it set the pace for the whole exam. The category was 1A: Lite American Lager. A pretty good one, too. At least I thought it was. Drinking it was honestly just like reading the guidelines. The only thing I knocked that one for was the fact that it was hazy. This is not a style I ever really drink but I would drink several of them no questions asked. People just get so stuck on the BMC is bad kick, that they cannot relate to a good beer in those styles. Just about every beer has its time and place. Lite American Lager included.

I thought I got pretty lucky with the choice of beers. The remaining styles went as follows; 5B: Traditional Bock, 10A: American Pale Ale, 13B: Sweet Stout, 19A: Old Ale, and 18C: Tripel. Each of those beers had their own strengths and weaknesses and there was only one I found nearly undrinkable. I felt everything was good until the very end of the exam where I finished up Beer Number 6 and had about 10 minutes remaining… That second guessing yourself thing comes into play here.

The Tripel that I thought was pretty awesome, started to taste funky… like really odd. Like odd enough for me to lower my score from a 34 to a 29! I should have left it because it seems I was right in line with everyone that I talked to after the exam before I went back. I guess one beer won’t really hurt me when it comes to grading but I was hoping to have all 6 be good. Just to hopefully score fairly well. And who knows what else I may have slipped up on. I thought the Old Ale might have been infected and then I go back to taste it after the exam and it was not as “bad” as I thought it was.

I did not adjust that score because I had given it a 19. It was a bad example of an Old Ale, regardless. Other examinees I talked to scored it right in line with me or in the low 20’s, so I am not too worried about that… unless it was not infected and I get knocked for that. But it is still only 2 beers out of 6… I feel I nailed the other exam beers and I was not too far off here, even with my changes or perceptions.

I will send out an update as I get my results back, but don’t expect to see that for another two or three months… or so I hear. Twitter or Google Plus will probably have the first look at that, but that is like breaking news. Until then,

Cheers!

BJCP Tasting Exam

Craft Beer Growth?

Right now is a time where all in the beer world is golden. Some even say its recession proof. Your neighbor, who used to only drink American made lagers or fancy imported beers whose names you cannot pronounce, is jumping into the game; opening a brewery simply because it is a great investment. There is even a chance that your favorite brewery has reached capacity and now has to make the ultimate decision; Stop where we are and let our product and fans speak volumes for our business. Or take route number two and expand, increase production, or even move to a secondary location.

Several breweries are at that point now and both decisions have been made. Both Russian River and Hill Farmstead took the ‘stop where we are at’ route. Some are disappointed by this decision, but others respect it and understand what it will do for their local market or the quality of their beer in the future. On the other hand, there are the breweries, such as Sierra Nevada, New Belgium, and even potentially Deschutes that are expanding and bringing their beers into new markets as they do. Some people complain about what this is doing to the local beer scene, even though New Belgium stated they did not want to interfere, and others are excited to finally get their hands on beers that were nothing but a rumor… Then there’s me.

I have gone across many places in this country for work, enjoyment, and as you suspected, craft beer. I travel not only for the love, but for the fact that I cannot find what I want where I live. Sure, you think I’m exaggerating, but I’m not. What makes this even sadder is the fact that I live in North Carolina; home to a number of great breweries and the new location of some of the big shots.

As you know, Oskar Blues is already in town, Sierra Nevada is months away from completion and New Belgium has plans to be open and in production next year. With all the beer these guys are known for, and the big shots from North Carolina, you’d think I’d be set… WRONG!

Okay, sure. I get Fat Tire, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, and similar beers from other major breweries. But nothing beyond that and a few seasonals. A funny thing, I went into a local store to see if I could find Celebration Ale. You know what I found? Summerfest… IN NOVEMBER! I really don’t remember seeing Summerfest during the summer. Maybe I wasn’t looking hard enough but there’s no excuse. I have contacted other breweries about similar incidents in the past. Is there some reason this is happening?

While there is great choice and variety in the United States, it only goes as far as consumers will allow it. In this case, I am not even sure it is the consumers fault. On one of my beer-scapades, I drove up to a favorite bottle shop of mine, Bottle Revolution, and asked them about their distributors and beer availability. I was informed that where I live is kind of a grey area for beer in the state. Distributors don’t even consider ordering or sending much craft beer to the area. This is shocking to me being there are two well established homebrew clubs and over 350,000 people living in this “small” area.

Granted, not all of them are known craft beer drinkers, or even of age but part of this population is a military base. With people from all over the country, some of whom, have a certain expectation for the beer that they drink. One of the two homebrew clubs was actually set up and ran by service members who cannot get the beer they want. The members come and go as they enter and leave the area. But the passion and love for craft beer stays. So there IS a market.

I really don’t know how to explain it but I’ve lived in similar areas before. There are always one or two local craft breweries within a few miles and they make a name for themselves. But for the everyday consumer, i.e. not the obsessed craft beer nerd, unless you were going there for dinner, why do you care? You aren’t buying their beer when you go to the grocery store and you aren’t sharing it with your friends.

I hear about all this growth and I’m truly excited to see the companies grow… but what does it mean for my town? Nothing? Is it going to be just the same as it was before? Even when it comes to “local” options, I can only get a select few because even those breweries are looking for more lively and thriving markets. No one wants to try an untapped market; they stick to pre-established ones. That doesn’t make sense to me, but what can I do? I make decisions based on what beers or breweries I feel are worth it. Nearly 2500 breweries across the country and the selection, not to mention rotation, in my local stores would not make any enthusiast happy.


Only 18 months old and outdated

I know there is interest, but what is it going to take? Who do I have to talk to in order to bring awareness and better products into my area? I am not even talking about the major, regional brewers right now. What’s it going to take to get a brewer from Charlotte, approximately 120 miles away, to sell their beer where I live? They ship further East than me, as well as further North. Why not here?

Cheers!

Craft Beer Growth?