Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Categories of grisette and grisette strength

This post,which builds on some of the thoughts and label analysis presented in my 'What is Grisette?' post and my talk at Homebrew Con 2016, will dive into what information I have about the the general strength range that a historic grisette falls into. As usual there are still questions, but hopefully this helps to make the identity of grisette a bit more clear and helps you choose what strength to make your grisette. Also, as with the previous post about hopping grisettes, this builds off of an incomplete set of source material which relies heavily on Pelset's 1874 book. This text, while fairly thorough, has some inconsistencies, leaves some stuff out, isn't always clear, and in the end is only one source from one point in time for >100 years of beer brewed by many different brewers. The book is also on the earlier side of grisette info compared to other info out there (personal accounts from people who remember grisettes before they disappeared and labels, both of which would reflect mid 1900s grisette).
A Cat. 3 grisette and...

To start this off, I want to look at the more modern sources that today's Anglophone brewers might be familiar with and what they say about grisette in regard to strength. These are Farmhouse Ales (Markowski, 2004), Brewing with Wheat (Hieronymus, 2010), and (most likely via Farmhouse Ales rather than directly) Belgium by Beer, Beer by Belgium (Perrier-Robert and Fontaine, 1996).

-Farmhouse Ales cites Leon Voisin, retired brewer at the old Brasserie Voisin (see the saison label below) to say that grisettes would have been 3-5% beers. Shortly thereafter Belgium by Beer, Beer by Belgium is cited for an OG of 16.3-17.5 Plato.

a Cat. 1 saison from the same brewer
-Brewing with Wheat (citing Pelset, 1874) gives a gravity range of 10.2-11 Plato and mentions that there were three classes of historic grisette: young/ordinary grisettegrisette de saison, and grisette supérieure.

-Belgium by Beer, Beer by Belgium, drawing information form Pelset 1874, gives an OG of 6.5 to 7 degrees Belgian, which works out to 16.3-17.5 P or 1.067 to 1.072.

Excerpt from Pelset, 1874 mentioning gravity.
Some of this is in general agreement and some is quite different. To try to figure that out let's look at the original source material for Brewing with Wheat and Belgium by Beer, Beer by Belgium. This source is Pelset's 1874 book on grisette. Pelset gives the three classes of grisette mentioned above and gravities for the first two classes of grisette. For the third the author mentions that the later runnings were not mixed in and instead were used for a small beer. The section dealing with gravity, shown at left, gives the following:

Young/ordinary grisette brewed in winter: 6 degrees
Young/ordinary grisette brewed in summer: 6.25-6.5 degrees
Grisette de Saison: 7 degrees

Here's the source of confusion: these units are "degrees in an ordinary brewer's scale". At that time there were three primary units of degrees in use: Baumé, Balling, and Belgian. I don't have a strong handle on which would have been the most common in Belgium. It probably depends a good deal on where/when a brewer was trained, which would be influenced by scale (if they were more of an industrial brewery or a small local brewery). As mentioned previously in this series, the sources available are generally biased toward industry and grisette, if its roots are in mining, is a beer with an inherent tie to industrial activity. For reference, Lacambre (1851), one of the seminal books on Belgian brewing from the era (focusing on more large scale brewing activity), uses Baumé.
Results from an analysis of grisette labels, June 2016.

Given the gravities from Pelset (which are referenced to 10 degrees Réaumur, or 12.5 C), here are the equivalent gravities in OG at 20 C / 68 F:

6 Baumé = 1.042
6 Balling = 1.022
6 Belgian = 1.060

This is a big range, and only one of these three possible units is what Pelset meant. To try to determine which type of grisette would have been most common in the mid 1900s I looked through a collection of historical labels from breweries that closed before the mid 1990s, compiled and digitized by Jacques Triffin. The results from that analysis is in the tables at right.

Results from an analysis of saison labels, June 2016
While labels don't necessarily give clear information about recipes/characteristics, there is some goon insight hidden in there. First, some of the labels list a category of beer, which is the strength class of the beer (which to my understanding is for tax purposes, though it also conveys the strength to the consumer). Looking at modern beers, some Belgian beers with OGs in the realm of 1.050 still list category 1 on the label (see Girardin lambic). Categories like these are also used in Dutch brewing. In modern Dutch beer:

Category 1 beer would be 1.044-1.063
Category 2 beer would be 1.028-1.044
Category 3 beer would be 1.004-1.028.

Some historic and modern Belgian beers list category S (Supérieure, see Seizoensbrouwerij Vandewalle below as an example). In some historic labels this is listed along with Cat. 1, so this is either at or above Cat. 1. For the purposes of this analysis I have combined it with Cat. 1.

A cellar-matured saison. Keep it lying down and serve in a basket.
Brasserie Voisin's 'old' saison.
As you can see, the grisette labels cluster toward the lower end of the strength categories when the category is listed (given the caveat that not many list the strength) while saison clusters much more toward the higher end. The grisette labels were also more likely to mention something about being a table bière or a bière de menage (house beer) than saison. While grisette labels didn't mention anything about being old beer, this was not uncommon on the saison labels. Labels not listing some of this info are an unknown, but with the information given this supports that at the time period of these labels (many of the breweries in the collection closed in the mid 1900s) grisette was a lower strength beer that wasn't aged while saison was stronger and more likely to be aged. This is also true for paired labels (grisette and saison labels from the same brewery). Though with the range in both beers, it is clear that these beers were still heterogeneous and would vary in factors like strength and aging between different producers of the same time range.

Therefore, though there is a lot of good historical cultural insight in Belgium by Beer, I think they are mistaken with the OG of grisettes. That range is well out of line with the ABV range quoted in Farmhouse Ales and it also doesn't agree with the label analysis. Over the time period from the mid/late 1800s to the 1900s, gravities of Belgian beer were not dropping significantly (excepting during the wars) and in general gravities of average beers were rising. So it is unlikely that the gravity of grisette dropped significantly between Pelset's text in 1874 and the labels, mostly coming from the mid 1900s. The interpretation of degrees as degrees Belgian simply doesn't line up with the other sources.

Taking degrees Belgian off the list then we are left with an OG of either 1.042 or 1.022. If we then assume that the historic Belgian category system is roughly in line with modern Belgian and Dutch levels (and perhaps this is a bit assumption, though I think it is not likely that the categories have grown significantly weaker from the mid 1900s to now), a category 3-2 beer would be somewhere in the range of the 1.020s to 1.030s, maybe into the 1.040s. This matches with both the remaining Balling and Baumé gravity scales, though these degrees fall toward the low and high extremes respectively based on the expected gravity range from label categories. If I had to choose one I'd probably lean toward 1.042 for a couple reasons. First, that matches the units of Lacambre, 1851. Second, degrees Balling would put grisette de saison in the mid 1.020s, which is too low for a bière de saison. And finally, interpreting the units as Baumé matches the interpretation given in Brewing with Wheat which likely came from Yvan de Baets, and he is pretty informed on these sorts of things.

A Cat. S beer from Vandewalle.
However Baumé doesn't quite line up with the labels listing a 3rd category beer. I'm not sure what to make of this, so perhaps it is safest to target a gravity range somewhere in between the two. Splitting the difference I think it is reasonable to base grisette in the 1.030s, possibly toward the middle to higher end to comfortably hit 3-5% abv on a beer with reasonable attenuation but without the benefit of prolonged mixed-fermentation to increase attenuation further. For this reason I tend to target gravities around 1.035 for the average (ordinary) grisette personally, but I think you could have some substance to an argument that beers which are both stronger and weaker could accurately be labeled grisette, depending on time period and grisette subcategory.

But what about grisette de saison and double/supérieure grisette? Brasserie De La Senne and Brasserie Thiriez brewed a grisette which Yvan de Baets told me was targeting the grisette de saison strength. This beer came out at 5.3% (DLS brew) and 5.5% (Thiriez brew), so guessing a bit on the FG this puts the beer somewhere around 1.045 OG. This fits with normal grisette being in the mid to upper 1.030s if grisette de saison is about 17% stronger than ordinary grisette, as stated in Pelset's text.

I don't have a lot to go on for double/supérieure grisette. Two distinct double grisette labels showed up in the label analysis but no strength classes were given on those labels. With grisette de saison in the mid 1.040s I think a double grisette has to be above 1.050, and probably not over 1.060, or at least not much over 1.060 given general beer strengths of the time (though this upper limit is purely a guess).

In closing, I want to say something about how this grisette strength info plays into the identity of grisette in the modern world. Two things are clear:

1) based on the labels, grisette was brewed at the same time as saison from some of the same brewers
2) It seems that most grisettes were lower strength, but that is not necessarily true. There were saisons brewed at the category 3 level and at least one grisette at cat. 2 (not to mention the double grisettes, which don't specify a strength but according to Pelset would be stronger than beers of roughly 1.045 OG).

Therefore it appears that there is something in the identity of grisette that, historically at least, made it different from saison more than just being lower strength. I think most grisettes were low strength beers, and if you were going to try to make a grisette it is probably best to start in that range (mid to upper 1.030s for a standard grisette by my estimation). Grisettes definitely clustered to lower strength than saisons in the label analysis so I do think that is part of the story (at least that grisette wasn't a beer requiring age and commonly brewed to as high an OG as saison). But there are other aspects that define grisette and help to differentiate it from historic saison. So far in my research those seem to be a requirement for malted wheat, generally lower hopping rates than saison (but still high enough to be noticeably hoppy), and beers designed to not be harsh/bitter/astringent when they are young (as both the grain and hopping rates of saison might contribute to).

The differences get murkier in the modern world, where saison is generally a softer beer than historic recipes suggest and most saisons are not mixed fermentation or are not aged long enough to give mixed fermentation time to express itself. But what I've seen so far supports grisette as a hoppy beer (but probably not astringently so) and does not support grisette as an acidic beer. Grisettes would not be sweet beers, as is the case from the one regular producer in modern Belgium, and from what I've seen it is best not to go for acidity when brewing grisette.

Other posts on grisette:
What is Grisette?
Grisette Recipe
Hopping Historical Grisettes
What is Grisette part II


Sunday, June 19, 2016

Hopping Historical Grisettes

Following up on my talk at the National Hombrewers Conference (audio and slides will be available here for AHA members), I want to take some of the new info I presented in the talk and expand on my previous grisette posts (What is Grisette and a Grisette Recipe). So I'm starting a new series of posts diving into various aspects of historical grisette production. For those that didn't make it to the talk, these posts will cover a good amount of what was there. And for those who made the talk, these posts will hopefully add some new info to what I presented, or at least give a good platform for discussion of the topics with a different organization. To start this all off I'll talk about hopping grisettes.

Riding (an improperly-adjusted rental bike) through hop country. Ph: J Young
When it comes to the specifics here (hopping rates) I only have one good source: Pelset’s 1874 text on brewing grisettes and pale beers. It is always risky to draw large historical generalizations from a few sources, and that is the case with grisette as a whole given what I’ve been able to find. And it is especially true here for hops. So for now this is the best I can do, and we’ll just need to keep those caveats in mind. The info will be updated if I am able to find more sources.

Before getting into grisette specifically I want to spend a bit of time talking about hops in general. Within Belgium, the two main hop growing regions were, and still are, around the West Flanders town of Poperinge (quite close to Westvleteren and also the French Border) and the East Flanders town of Aalst (which falls rather close to the Pajottenland in Flemish Brabant). These hops were regarded as being of higher quality than Belgian hops grown in other regions, but generally Belgian hops were thought of as inferior to hops grown elsewhere in continental Europe and in England. 

Multiple recommendations are made in Le Petit Journal du Brasseur for brewing saisons and bières de garde with English (the East Kent region shows up multiple times) and Bohemian hops. (Note that bière de garde here refers to general beers for aging and not the family of beers known by this name in Nothern France.) The journal suggests these hops for their superior flavor contributions and less aggressive bitterness. Bavarian hops were well regarded also but were thought to give more antiseptic properties and a stronger bitterness, which may not have been desirable in all beers. Especially those which the brewer wanted to become acidic. These trends may reflect some inherent differences in the varieties of hops, but I suspect much of the difference is strongly influenced by the quality of the hops in terms of cultivation rather than/in addition to differences inherent in the varieties.

Ad for Groene Belle hops from PJB 1929
In the 1800s and early 1900s, popular Belgian hop varieties included Coigneau, Groene Belle, and Witte Rank. Coigneau (as I've talked about before) is notable as being a main hop used in lambic production. And from what I’ve gathered it seems to have been the main Belgian hop in the late 1800s. In the early 1900s Groene Belle seems to have supplanted Coigneau as the primary hop of choice.

Native Belgian varieties disappeared around the mid-1900s as Belgian hop growing switched to other varieties such as English hops, which are common today in Belgium’s hop fields. These original Belgian hops were very nearly lost forever, but fortunately some Coigneau was recently discovered as having made its way to an English nursery. Groene Belle was used in hop breeding in Slovenia and was also able to survive until today. Both of these varieties are potentially available for purchase in season as plants from a UK supplier. It seems that they are not shipping outside of the UK for now, but perhaps that could change with enough enthusiasm/nagging. But if you really want them you may have to make some UK friends. Whatever the case, it is good news for those interested in historic Belgian beers that these hops somehow found ways to stay alive until modern times and hopefully the availability of plants and/or hops increases.

Hop fields in Poperinge
Pelset gives hopping rates which would depend on the season of brewing and the type of grisette brewed. Before going further, as mentioned in Brewing with Wheat, Pelset describes 3 classes of grisette: Young/Ordinary Grisette, Grisette de Saison, and Grisette Supérieure/Double Grisette. I may go into more detail summarizing these beers at a later date, but for now here's a quick rundown as it pertains to hops: ordinary grisettes brewed in summer would have been hoppier and also slightly stronger than those brewed in winter to counteract the non-ideal summer conditions. Grisette de saison, brewed ‘in season’ so in the wintertime, would have been stronger and hoppier than both summer and winter young grisette. Not many details are given for grisette supérieure, but this would have been stronger still, and presumably more hoppy as well.

I’ve transcribed the specific hopping rates suggested for grisette by Pelset into the table below. For comparison I have also included some info from various issues of Le Petit Journal du Brasseur for saison and bière de garde along with relevant notes about those recipes and calculations I made. Pelset notes that Wallonian hops, or hops from other areas of not optimal quality, can be added as first wort hops while Poperinge or Aalst hops should not be boiled for more than 2 hours in order to not extract too much bitterness. Using a small amount of Poperinge or Aalst hops as first wort hops would be permissible. Non-Belgian hops are recommended for grisette supérieure given its higher quality and price point (more on grisette pricing in a post to come). Other texts from the early 1900s give a rough conversion of 1.5 lbs Belgian (Poperinge or Aalst) hops to 1 lb Bavarian hops. I should note for this table that the exact timings for hop additions aren't always given, but that these hopping rates are for what seems to be bittering hops.

Hopping rates for different grisettes and saisons/bières de garde in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

Le Petit Journal du Brasseur recommends dry hopping grisette with English hops. Bavarian hops are mentioned as being too bitter. Specific hopping rates aren’t given, but are likely low (lower than what it sounds like was done for saison at the time). From this I am guessing that dry hopping rates would have been on the order of 0.5-1 g/l (0.066-0.13 oz/gal), though with everything else here there is not one approach that would have fit everything, so higher or lower rates might also be appropriate.

From what I’ve seen, most grisettes would generally have been consumed young and, save for one mention in one source I’ve found, grisette was never described as a tart or acidic beer. That one source is definitely in the minority, with most others referencing the refreshing hoppyness as the character of note. The higher category grisettes (grisette de saison and grisette supérieure) got some aging time, but overall descriptions are consistent with these hopping rates and the time between brewing and serving of most grisettes resulting in a hoppy beer where the mixed-microbes used in fermentation would not have had a chance to express much acidity in the beer. This leaves grisette as a beer without a lot of mixed-microbe character and with some brighter hop character still around.

It is important to note in closing that all of these hopping rates are for historic beers with historic hops. We don't know exactly what those hops would have been like, but they were probably lower in alpha acid than modern hops, especially the Belgian hops. They may have contributed a bit more of a rough bitterness given the amount of plant material used and the long boils. And, in looking at the table, the origin of the hops can have a big impact on the total recommended hopping rate. 

Ok, that roughly sums up the additional thoughts on grisette hopping for now. Hopefully this was useful for you and keep an eye out for additional posts breaking down specific aspects of grisette.

Posts on Grisette:
What is Grisette?
Grisette Recipe
Categories of Grisette and Grisette Strength
What is Grisette part II

Friday, June 17, 2016

Homebrew Con 2016 Reflections

I’m a bit late on this, at least compared to some other blogging folks, but I wanted to post a quick reflection on last weekend’s Homebrew Con (formerly known as NHC, and I resisted using the new name for as long as I could). This was my second homebrewers conference, I went last year in San Diego, and it was a great time. I got more out of this conference than last year’s, probably for a few reasons. Having already been once, I already knew some brewers from around the US who would be going this time. In addition, I was presenting a seminar so I had a bit more active role in the conference than before. And the readership of the blog has grown so there were more folks who follow this that I hadn’t met before. And finally, I went without knowing anyone local to me who was also going, which meant I had to make more of an effort to meet others.

Here are some of the highlights of the conference to me:

Speaking – I was pretty excited to have an opportunity to give a talk this year (thanks to the organizers for the opportunity and to all who helped me gather info, especially Thierry!). I expect I wouldn’t have gone to the conference if I wasn’t speaking. But I’m glad I went. Anyway, the topic, grisette and saison history (focusing mostly on grisette) was a great way to put to use all the historical research I was doing in Europe for the past 9 months when I couldn’t brew. So having that outlet was great. And I think I did a pretty good job of outlining where grisette would have fallen with the info I have now as well as how it compared to saison, and how both might compare to modern examples.
Speaking at the conference (thanks to Justin for this picture).

The time slot was tough - 9 am after club night, so the biggest night of ‘organoleptic analysis’ (drinking) of the conference. But the turnout was good. I wish I had taken a picture of the audience but I was focused too much on trying to sound coherent and awake that I forgot until after it was over. But there were a few hundred people there to hear the talk, including some big names in the beer world (I wish I had a chance to ask what they thought of it). The talk was well received by everyone I talked to at least. And for the rest of the day (it was the last day of the conference) I’d get stopped regularly by people who had been there and liked it. So that was pretty cool. It was like getting a little hint of being a ‘homebrewing celebrity’ (more on this below).

If you missed it and are an AHA member, audio recordings and videos of talks will be available here in the near future. I’m already toying with possible ideas to propose for next year. I have some stuff I’d be interested in doing, but I’ll have to wait and see if I think I can go to the conference.

Marshall and Malcolm presenting.
Brülosophers: Speaking of homebrew celebrities, I spent much of the weekend hanging out with Malcolm and Marshall from Brülosophy. To put it briefly, I think they are making some fundamental and important changes to homebrewing. Many aspects of brewing are driven by folklore, dogma, tradition. And that can be fine if that’s how you want to brew. Every homebrewer should brew the way they want to. But I think it is important to know what factors matter more and which ones don’t matter so much in recipes and process. These guys are getting that info out there. And it is making some serious changes. For much of my time brewing, doing a 90 minute boil for pils malt was given as a requirement. And fermentation temps, especially for lagers, were said to be extremely important. They have generated data to argue against this and, especially in the former case, to make a very compelling case. So by their ‘exbeeriments’ (awful beer pun, xBMTs from here on out) and getting this info out there I think they are doing the whole hobby a great service.

They are quick to recognize limitations and not overstate their results, which I really appreciate. Their sample sizes aren’t huge (it is hard to do these sorts of tests) and the results apply to the specific trial where the data come from. In another scenario the results could be different. So they don’t draw sweeping conclusions, they present the trial and the data and leave that info for the rest of us brewers to take in and make changes to our process (or not) as we see fit. Like anything in science, one data point doesn’t set a rule, but it does say more than superstition. And there are some xBMTs that they’ve repeated a few times, sometimes with the same conclusion and sometimes with differing ones. And a series of data sets drawing the same conclusion tell quite a bit, especially when the only counterargument is dogma. One thing that stood out to me from their talk is that they said while some trials like fermentation temp, boil length, or grain selection don’t always result in differences in the beers, all the water chemistry trials have led to a noticeable difference in blind tasting. And that I think is a pretty significant finding.

Remnants of the xBMT.
During the conference I had the opportunity to take part in one of the xBMTs for the first time. The beers were brewed by Ed of Ales of the Riverwards and the test hasn’t been disclosed yet, so I’m not sure what it was. But the beers were hoppy pale beers. And I can say it was really hard to tell the difference. In the end I came up with which beer I thought was different(at this point I honestly don’t remember what I chose as the different cup, either green or blue). The difference was very subtle and I perceived it as a harshness/level of bitterness difference, with one cup being smoother and the other two rougher. I accept that I could be totally wrong, both on which cup was different and what the difference was in the first place. I guess we’ll see. The best I can say is that in the end I picked a difference and I believed in it. Maybe I could do it if I had two back by back pints I'd notice it, but if I had one beer one day and the other the next day I wouldn’t note any difference at all.

MTF Meetup – One of the best parts of the conference to me was the second annual Milk the Funk NHC meetup. This was organized following a great seminar by Jeff Mello (Bootleg Biology) on local and wild yeast (quick aside - Jeff advocated for a new definition of 'wild' for yeast that I am fully in support of!). These beers at the MTF meetup were some of the best I had, commercial or homebrew, while in Baltimore! I brought three beers, the youngest being about 1.5 years old, and I was happy to see more people with aged beers as well. Not that there is anything inherently wrong with quick sours, but I’m drawn to sour beer for the fermentation complexity more than the sourness. And longer aging helps get that more. Plus people bringing aged beers means they must have been doing this for a while.

The turnout at the meetup was great and, although it may have been a bit disorganized, it presented a great opportunity to meet other MTFers and talk with some of the well-known mixed fermentation brewers. I had great beers from folks like The Mad Fermentationist Michael Tonsmeire, Ed Coffee at Ales ofthe Riverwards, Brian Hall from Brouwerij-Chugach, Matt Miller and the folks from Sour Beer Blog, Malcolm from Brülosophy and others I met at the conference (way too many to name, but quick shout outs to Tim, Justin, and Dan - though I may have only had Dan's beer at Club Night). Other highlights from the meetup were Michael Tonsmeire asking, jokingly, if I only brewed for one year about three years ago because of how old all my beers were. And Brian Hall giving away his secret (again jokingly) that he intended to become 'IPA famous' at the meeting by passing around a very nice IPA after we had been drinking sour beer for an hour. The hops really jumped out in that after so many not so hoppy beers, so I think his plan worked.

I left the meetup wishing it would keep going, or happen again the following day, so I could talk about mixed fermentation with such an enthusiastic group of people some more. Rest assured that the MTF admins and those of us on the Wiki editing side are talking about ways to maximize the MTF discussion/sharing at next year’s conference.

A quick aside as it relates to Milk the Funk, MTF received repeated mentions and praise throughout the conference, and I saw a good number of people walking around with MTF shirts. It was great to see how many people are in this community. Also in the world of funky beers, it was interesting to see how many talks there were on mixed fermentation/sour and/or funky beer/alternative fermentation this year. There were way more than I remember from last year. In line with this, it seemed like there were fewer talks on hops/IPAs this year. It is interesting to see these changes in the conference seminar list and craft beer in general. There were too many good talks for me to make them all so I’m looking forward to catching up when the seminars are posted.

Being interviewed by James at Basic Brewing Radio (photo: Franklin).
Meeting Other Brewers: I’ve mentioned before that one of my favorite parts about keeping this blog is that it connects me with others brewers with shared interests. Well Homebrew Con was like a magnified version of that. Especially when I got to meet with others whom I’ve already connected with through the blog, with giving a talk, and having been last year. But there were still plenty of people whom I was meeting for the first time as well. And spending a weekend regularly running into these people again is great.

Among the folks I met at Homebrew Con, I really enjoyed meeting an active group of Canadian homebrewers. Western Canada wasn’t represented very thoroughly (I think I was the only one from BC) but there was a good group of Ontarians (Ontarioans?) like Eric from Eric Brews. The group I met were quite interested and active in promoting Canadian homebrewing and building active clubs, and possibly promoting more of a national connection for Canadian homebrewers.

Homebrew Celebrities: I use this term as a bit of a joke because being famous/a celebrity in the homebrew world generally means a group of beer loving people who are disproportionately large, flatulent, and dudes, and who traveled across the country to hang out with similar people, think you (also often one of the same) are awesome. I mean to say nothing bad about anyone that falls into that category (and I fit most of that description). And also it was great to see more diversity at the conference this year than I remember from last year (and hopefully more going forward!). But that remains the primary demographic of the conference.

Anyway, there are people who have earned their name as a famous member of the homebrew community. And going to the homebrew conference gives you a chance to meet and talk to some of the big stars. I got to meet, re-meet, and hang out with many of the people who inspired and educated me as a brewer over the years. It is great that the conference gives this opportunity in such a casual and communal setting. And every time I met one of these homebrew leaders they were always very welcoming and humble. When it came down to it they were a person who liked beer and liked talking about it with others who were interested. I’m sure it could be exhausting seeing a bunch of people who want to talk to you that you don’t know, and maybe the big names don’t get as much time for their friends as they’d like, but every one of them that I met over the weekend seemed genuinely happy to talk to those who were approaching them. I’m sure there could be exceptions to this, but I didn’t witness it in the course of the conference.

Closing thoughts: I wanted to give a quick congratulations to Amos from Browne & Bitter, whom I mention somewhat regularly on here, for his gold medal in Sour Ales. Read about his soleras the process for the winning beer here (and in the subsequent linked posts from that one).

Also wanted to give a quick shout out to two clubs that I spent a good bit of time with at the conference: the DC Homebrewers Club and TRASH (Three Rivers Alliance of Serious Homebrewers). Both had great members and great beers at club night (I mostly spent my time at one of these two booths). So thanks to those clubs and I look forward to the next time I get to try some of your beers!

Ok, that’s it for the wrap-up of the conference. Not as quick as I had in mind when I set out, but I suppose brevity isn’t one of my strengths. As a continued follow up to NHC of sorts, I’ll spend the next few weeks working on getting aspects of my presentation up on the blog. Also look out for a quick interview I did with Basic Brewing Radio, which may be showing up among other club night interviews in July. Thanks also to Franklin, another good friend met at the conference, for taking a photo of the interview. As you can see, when I'm talking and really thinking about something I tend to use my hands a lot and stare off blankly to the side.

Looking over Baltimore's inner harbor toward downtown.