Author Archives: thehomebrewer

  1. SD Homebrew Fest 2017: Winners

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    SD Homebrew Fest 2017
    Recap & Winners

    The 2nd San Diego Homebrew Fest was another success for many reasons. Most notably, we raised funds for a great local cause that is vital to the future success of our neighborhood – extra curricular activities for a local elementary school. Friends of Jefferson Elementary, the event organizers, raise funds help teachers cover the costs of valuable supplies and learning experiences that are not funded otherwise (other than the teacher’s pocket, of course).

    The event also gave 40+ homebrewers, cider makers, and craft breweries the opportunity to connect with community and spread their passion. This is perhaps our favorite example of how the hobby of homebrewing can bring people and communities closer together.

    Homebrewers attended with their friends and family to share their wares, and talk about their beloved hobby with attendees. All guests were allowed to vote for their favorite homebrew/cider.

    For a complete list of the participating brewers, read below, but first, allow us to announce the winners of the 2017 San Diego Homebrew Fest:

    Official Judging Session Results:

    This session was judged/coordinated by members of the Beer Judge Certification Program, as well as esteemed members of the brewing community. Entries were grouped into similar categories when necessary. 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place awards were granted to the top three of the entire competition. These entries were selected from the top 2-3 beers from each group. We also awarded ribbons to the beer with the most points in each group.


    Darrel Brown, Doug Brown, Sean Thompson.

    1st Place:

    Darrel Brown – Exquisite Blonde – American Blonde Ale – 18A

    2nd Place:
    Sean Thompson – Aperplop – Apricot Cider – Cider w/ Other Fruit – C2B

    3rd Place:
    Doug Brown – Suppermolly (Don’t Haze Me Bro) – American IPA – 21A





    Group Leaders:

    People's Choice Winner: Ben Elson

    People’s Choice Winner: Ben Elson

    The following brewers came out on top of their groups, and advanced to the overall Best of Show (BOS).

    Pale Ale/IPA:
    Doug Brown – Suppermolly (Don’t Haze Me Bro) – American IPA – 21A

    Darrel Brown – Exquisite Blonde – American Blonde Ale – 18A

    Spice/Fruit/Specialty Beers:
    Ben Elson – Rope Swing: Dry Hopped Farmhouse Ale (NZ hops) – 28A – Brett Beer

    Belgian/Sour Beers:
    Ben Elson – Rope Swing: Dry Hopped Farmhouse Ale (NZ hops) – 28A – Brett Beer

    People’s Choice Awards:

    This award is granted to the crowd favorite. Each attendee placed a ballot for their top pick. The winner this year, by a sizeable margin, was Ben Elson for his Rope Swing: Dry Hopped Farmhouse Ale (NZ hops) – in the Brett Beer category 28A.

    Other Participants/Thanks Yous:

    We have several people/groups to be grateful for:

    Waypoint Public, The Homebrewer, Barons MarketCommunity Real Estate Co, Observatory North Park, A7D Creative Group Inc, Green Beans PreSchool North Park Beer Co, Pariah Brewing Co, Coronado Brewing Co, Thorn St Brewery, Fall Brewing Co, Mike Hess Brewing, Home Brewing CoBeer Can Soap, SD Beer Talk Podcast, Woo Bars, Original Grain Watches

    Many thanks to all of our participating homebrewers:

    Hayden Charter, Roy Leyrer, Josiah Vivona, Ralph Carrasquillo, Doug Brown, Jeremiah Trammel, Edgar Regis, Joseph Herrmann, Mark Bolczak, Gloria Pratt, Nicholas Schoch, Mark Vacha, Ben Elson, Michael Lettieri, Edgar Regis, Joe Pastry, Ben Elson, Sarah Schoch, Doug VomSteeg, Daniel Huffman, Chris Sullivan, Darrel Brown, Daniel Huffman, Tricia Gallant, Nicholas Schoch, Sean Thompson, Jesse Valle, Charles Pulley, Andrea Cerda, Anthony Espinoza, Jeremiah Trammel, Michael Zimbric


  2. Now Hiring: Assistant Homebrewers

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    We are now hiring in order to add to our amazing crew of friendly & knowledgeable Assistant Homebrewers. This position is for retail division, and will NOT involve brewing, but will include hours in the tasting room.

    You’re primary objective will be to provide the most outstanding customer experience humanly possible. This will include:

    Greeting customers, helping new & experienced homebrewers with a non-know-it-all-attitude, treating every single person that walks through our doors with the utmost respect (including customers & team members), treating yourself with dignity & respect, striving to learn as much as possible about the coolest hobby of all time, receiving & stocking inventory, keeping our dojo clean & tidy, answering phone calls, packaging & labeling supplies, LOTS of dusting & sweeping, attending team meetings, having fun, being punctual, making our neighborhood a better place, and more.

    We offer competitive pay & benefits w/ the opportunity to grow within the company.

    The position will consist of 20-30 hours per week to start. We are flexible, but you need to be willing to work weekends.

    If all of those things interest you, please email a CV and Cover Letter to by August 31, 2016.

  3. A Toast to Tradition

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    Picture me. On a roof top. Drinking a porter. Arms hugging my ears. A toast to tradition. So that was a terrible attempt at making a reference, but how American of me. My fellow cohorts and I are studying for the Cicerone exam, which we will take in a few weeks. This has lead me back through the classic styles, and examples, yet again. Revisiting these beers just gets better and better.

    Tonight brings me to Garret Oliver’s Brewmaster’s Table. A fine book, indeed. I was reading through the sections on English Porters and Stouts, and could not resist the temptation to drink one of our calibration beers for tomorrow’s study group: Samuel Smith Taddy Porter. I made my way through the Samuel Smith Lineup when I was 21, simply because they were something different to try, and I think I got distracted, or simply took them for granted.

    This beer is smooth and rich and light on the palate, yet offers a complexity of lingering character in the finished, which is marked by nutty, sugar-plum, caramel, and a just-perfectly-browned toast. In addition, I detect a slight brininess that helps me understand why this would be a great choice with oysters, or other sweet seafoods, such as shrimp or lobster. The aforementioned dark flavors would snuggle with a medium rare steak, or roasted lamb like it was nobody’s business. But this is all old news.

    The "author's" cluttered desk. "Photo" taken by "author."

    The “author’s” cluttered desk. “Photo” taken by “author.”

    I think the true meaning of this post, is that there are still countless pleasures to be had in reviewing the classics that have brought us to where we are today. I love these visits to the past, because they remind me that the point of making beer is to brew a concoction that accompanies our daily existence, and food is an integral part of that. The classics tend to do a better job at this, and I think it is because they have the clear vision of hindsight. They did not invent the wheel, they simply respect it for what it is. In other words: they were founded on the traditions of their place and time. In America, our tradition is to constantly reinvent and make new, which is beautiful. But let’s not forget our number one goal as brewers ought to be to make a delicious beverage that will accompany our daily lives of friendship, hardship, family, work, and love. The consumer deserves a beer that is complex and subtle as their every inner-thought.

    Reading between the lines: I’m rarely impressed by the hard-to-find rare beers. Rarely. Maybe that’s where the word stems from… as in rarely truly that innovative, rarely subtle, rarely a match to my lifestyle, rarely as good as this Samuel Smith Taddy Porter. Shout out to Bine and Vine for supplying my beer learning beverages since before they were in uptown.

  4. Home Brewing Co Update 1

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    I don’t like talking about things that I haven’t actually accomplished yet. I always felt, or perhaps I was told, that recognition only comes after a job is complete. Hence, my reluctance anytime I sit down to issue a “brewery update.”

    That said, a well-meaning customer gave us a good old fashioned scolding the other day. And the customer is always right.

    As far as build out goes, we have floor drains and a cold box. For the latter we are using a 24.5k BTU window AC with a Cold-Bot. The cold box is 8×15′, so this AC has no problem maintaining a perfect 38F. It will hold even better once we get several batches of cold beer in there as well!

    On the tasting room side, we are working with Shawn Benson from SideYard, and Tyler Cristobal, our in-house designer. We have met several times refining the plans every step along the way. I would say the design is 80% there. We are still tossing ideas around how the taps themselves will be installed. We’re aiming for 18 taps. I am so stoked to be working with these guys, and I know they will help make our tasting room comfy, interesting, and simple.

    We have at least (1) 7bbl Uni Fermenter from Premiere Stainless waiting for us, and we hope to order 2+ more in the coming month. En route we have a 300 Gallon dairy tank (it looks like a can of soup cut in half), and a 450 Gallon boil kettle (also an old piece of dairy equipment). Our 200k BTU Tankless Hot Water Heater has already arrived for the HLT.

    Here’s our 450 Gal Kettle.

    We also have (4) 3 bbl Brite tanks set to arrive late June. This half capacity will force us to split the batch at the serving vessel. So we’ll be looking for a hop back soon.

    We still need to order: sanitary pump, power pack (glycol for tanks), plate chiller, really expensive tubing/fittings, and a few odds and ends.

    Timeline? Who knows? We won’t put a beer on tap just because we’re excited that we brewed so much. So we’re not interested in making a time commitment, although deadlines are good. That said, I hope to brew our first water batch by late June, and our first wort batch shortly after. Whether or not that goes on tap or down the drain will be determined, and if we have to dump 3 batches, then so be it. That’s our attitude for now.

    We have all of our homebrew supplies, packaging station, “office” and more where our brewery will be soon. I hope to fit (5) 7 bbl fermenters in there by the end of the year. It’s going to be a challenge for us logistically with our tight space, and with so many things going on, but we have one of the best group of people in the whole freaking world to help us figure it out. And better yet, we have some of the coolest, most talented, and intelligent customers in the whole world, so I am sure you will all have some helpful tips down the road. For now, this is the plan and we’re sticking to it.



  5. Crystal vs Caramel Malt

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    There are probably a million articles on this out there, but how about one more?

    It is true that typically Crystal malts were made in Europe, and Caramel Malts in the US. This seems to be the only difference. According to a Briess article on the topic, that is the main difference. Most people are using the term interchangeably. The malt producers at least stick to the distinctions, but no one else seems to care. Not sure if we do either. Indeed, one of our main distributers has us order “Briess Crystal 10L,” but when the bag arrives it says “Caramel 10L.”  We have crystal/cara/caramel malts from 6 different maltsters from around the world, so we enjoy tasting all of the options and making the decision based on our goals.

    Most Crystal/Caramel malts are made by stewing grains at temperatures that achieve saccharification, and then roasting them at temperatures above 300F to produce a hard crack type caramel, or “crystallization” of the endosperm.

    There are some caramel malts that are produced using a kiln, but the maximum temperatures possible with a kiln are about half of what a roaster can do, so this requires more time, and is generally less consistent than roasting.

    The only for sure way to tell, is to visit the websites for each major malster, and read up on what processes/techniques they use. Briess is probably the most helpful here. We’ll attach links to the malt companies that we use most, and furnishing a more detailed report would be a good project for the future.

    Briess, Crisp, Bairds, Weyermann, Castle, Thomas Fawcett, Gambrinus, Great Western Malts, Franco-Belges.


  6. Let’s play, “How much have we rearranged in 2 weeks?”

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    So We’ve been rearranging a lot lately. Mostly because we like it when you guys/gals comment on how different it looks, and we’re afraid that you wouldn’t talk to us if you didn’t have to ask where the Special Roast has moved to.

    Look! It's a dork!

    Look! It’s a dork!

    So in our latest addition of “How much have we arranged in 2 weeks?” We’d like to present to you our digital walk-through of the shop. It’s pretty cool, George looks like a dork, and we’ve already moved a few things around, so next time you come in we are guaranteed that you will be forced to talk to us!! George will still look like a dork though. That won’t change, sorry.

  7. Wyeast Now in Stock

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    We have expanded our offerings from Wyeast Labs. We have always carried their American Ale, Pacman (Rogue), and Denny’s Favorite, but we are now carrying the following strains in addition:

    German Ale, British Ale, Whitbread, Ringwood, Northwest, Kolsch, Belgian Abbey Ale II, Forbidden Fruit, French Saison, Belgian Saison, Roeselare Blend, and Trappist High Gravity.

    You’ll find them in the yeast fridge sharing two blue containers. Click here for more info about each individual strain.

  8. Wall for Tasting Room Knocked Down

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    Good news as far as progress towards expanding our store to include an education focused brewery and tasting room. Next time you are in you will notice the large hole in the wall. This will be where the tasting area will go. Behind it will be a walk-in cooler, and behind it the brewery, classroom, and storage. The goal is brew 2-3bbl batches for us to experiment with hop, yeast, grain, and water variables.

    Bye Bye Wall

    This will be a great way to experience the many options that we as homebrewers have available for us. It will also be a great way to compare specific techniques etc… We hope our size will be small enough to allow flexibility, yet large enough to keep up with demand. 

    As far as the overall process goes, we cannot say for sure now. The 30 day period for submitting a protest has passed (sorry if you missed it), but we have not heard back whether or not we have any complaints to deal with yet. Our last conversation with the ABC went something to the tune of, “don’t call us, we’ll call you.” So for now we wait.

    Needless to say we are all extremely excited and anxious as we await further details. Come in to check it out, for we will be happy to share our goals/vision for the space. We’ll keep you posted here as well.

  9. NHC 2013 – Philadelphia, PA

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    Last week was the 35th Annual National Homebrewer’s Conference. This year hosted by the great beer town of Philadelphia. We (or I, George) was lucky enough to attend, and am very happy to report back on the overall experience. The location was perfect, the seminars were fun and informative, and beer tourism was phenomenal, and in fact, really made the trip for me.

    Philly boasts some of the coolest beer bars & beer-centric restaurants you could wish for. We arrived on Tuesday, two nights before the conference began, and our first order of business was to visit Monk’s Cafe, a cozy Belgian-beer-lover’s paradise. In fact, Michael Jackson commented that it was America’s best Belgian beer bar, and many would argue that this is still true. There certainly isn’t anything quite like it in San Diego, although if you combined the tap list at Small Bar, with the bottle list at Hamilton’s Tavern, you would get kinda sorta close. You’d be missing moules frites, however (sad face). There is also a good offering of German beer bars in the city. Bru Carft, and Brauhaus Schmidtz being the two we had the pleasure of checking out. Again, we simply don’t have these sort of options in San Diego. Occasionally you can count on a solid Kolsch at Tiger!Tiger!, or Blind Lady Ale House, but there aren’t any places with the consistent selection of these Philly beer spots.

    Food wise, we enjoyed the above mentioned spots, but other standouts included The Farmer’s Cabinet. Rag time piano, lots of wood, and an ecclectic beer list featuring many fantastic Northern European breweries (Haandbryggeriet of Norway, for instance). A large group of fantastic homebrewers with large hearts enjoyed an outstanding meal there.

    The conference itself offered a solid variety of topics to satisfy the interests of any homebrewer. Topics included, sensory analysis (presented by San Diego’s own Kara Taylor of White Labs), Cider (again, San Diego great, Chris Banker of QUAFF), hops, hops, oh and one that talked a little about hops, mash chemistry, building a walk-in cooler, a “going pro” panel, mead and chocolate pairing, and more. You can view the details/presentations from previous years here. As of this posting 2013’s notes are not available yet, but they will be shortly.

    Many of the seminars include samples of beer, but there are many other opportunities to fill your glass throughout the weekend. The Pro Brewer’s Night is a great opportunity to sample pro beers from nearby and from around the country. Club Night is the zaniest of all, and is essentially a rager done in all the nerdy glory that only homebrewers can accomplish. Clubs from near and far offer samples of their brews for all to try.

    The weekend is wrapped up with a banquet, which includes the awards ceremony for the National Homebrewer’s Competition. Rogue provides the beers, and Homebrew Chef Sean Paxton creates the menu.

    All-in-all I highly recommend making the trip out to NHC every year if you can. Next years will be hosted by Grand Rapids, MI. So we will see you there.

    My account of the weekend is a summed up version of an all out action packed visit, so please include any of your favorite moments below.

  10. Dry-Hop Experiment

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    Jeff from Mash Heads, a homebrew club in San Diego proposed an experiment in which we dry hopped bottles of beer with different varieties.

    We had a keg of Mission Brewing light lager to work with, an ideal base for our experiment. We filled 15 22 oz bottles using a ratio of 1/2 oz per gallon, many higher gravity IPAs use 1 oz per gallon.

    Jamie and Tricia from Mash Heads were kind enough to host the tasting at their house. There were about 12 Mash Heads present.

    For info about the hops we used, and some tasting notes check out Jamies blog at The Cask & Barrel.

  11. Brewery Visit: Barrel House Brewing Co.

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    Molly and I had a chance to take a nice drive up to Paso Robles (pronounced row-bowls for some). We spent three days visiting several wineries (I’ll leave the wine reviews to molly’s Bar We There Yet??). We had a chance to visit the wonderful Firestone Walker, where we enjoyed a private tour, and several tastings. Among our usual favorites from this brewery, we were happy to try the Velvet Merkin (Barrel Aged Velvet Merlin – coming in bottles soon).

    While searching for other breweries to visit, we came across news for the grand opening of Barrel House Brewing Company, just a mile or so south of Firestone Walker. We were excited to see another large brewery open in the area, but bummed that we would be heading back home just one day before their February 23 Grand Opening. We sent them an email, asking if we could stop by for an early morning visit on Friday, and they graciously obliged.

    Barrel House Brewing Co.

    Chris took us around the grounds including a beautiful garden, waterfall, and stage for live music. We sampled their Kolsch and their IPA. both were clean and true to style. They talked about getting used to brewing on a much larger system, and the adjustments they intend to make on their tried and true recipes.

    Overal, we had a great time meeting the Barrel House Brewing Co. crew, and are looking forward to checking back in with them on our next visit to the area. They are a genuine bunch and are certainly passionate about their craft. We wish them the best of success. Be sure to visit if your passing through.

  12. Berlin Beer Preparations

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    This August Molly & I will be heading out to the East coast for some family time, followed by several weeks in Europe, which will be capped off at a close friend’s wedding in the South of France. Needless to say, we are thrilled as we prep for this trip. I love the miniature isle at Target, finally an excuse to buy that mini deodorant. It probably won’t even last the whole trip, but oh well, it’s cute.

    Even more exciting is doing the prelim research on what we would like to do during our visit. Although I do appreciate the Lonely Planet type guides for their focus on fun-filled travel, we have found that the Rick Steve’s lineup of travel advice fits our nerdy, history-related interests, and that we can fill in the gaps for our other interests with some well worded google/blog searches (read the latter as beer/wine/food interests). Rick Steve has let us down several times when it comes to restaurant recommendations (read “family-friendly” as “the Chili’s of Brussels!! Yay!”)

    Unfortunately, sites like have never done much for us when it comes to finding the beer spots where others don’t expect to find it. This stood out to us on our last trip to Italy, as well as our trip to Spain before that. It seems that if BeerAdvocate users don’t expect good beer to be there, they will convince themselves that it won’t exist. Worse yet, they will go online and tell everyone that it does not exist, thus perpetuating the very lie that denied them the pleasure of great beer abroad. What a shame!

    Perhaps we will have time in the future to go back to our notes regarding Milan, Florence, & Venice. In each of these places we read everywhere that there was no craft beer to be found. Tell that to the shopkeeper in Venice that has over 100 bottles of beers decorating his windows, and perhaps more of them filling his numerous display fridges. We found that place on the first day… within about 30 minutes of wandering (perhaps we’ll post on the art of wandering about in a city). The Dog Fish Head collaboration we found the next day at a separate place, and it went great with our meals… I’ll tell you what.

    So back to our current travel prep, especially Berlin: our first stop in Europe this August. BeerAdvocate and related sites list a few places that we are certainly looking forward to, and we have already created bookmarks for them on our “OffMaps” App on our IPad. The bulk of these options however, are large scale breweries… we want to go a bit deeper than that. It must be there right?!

    So far all we have had to do is search for “German Beer Blog.” The top returns include a site that introduced us to 3-4 bars/breweries/cafes, that BeerAdvocate left out. I wil post the link to that blog here, and simply list those establishments below, in case you are also looking for some Berlin beer spots to enjoy during your next stay.

    Provinz Cafe carries Rollberg bier, you also have Eschenbräu, and Bier Kombinat.

    So in the end, the point of this ramble is to advocate digging a bit deeper than your usual resources when it comes time to plan your next trip.

    Do you have any Berlin beer/food/wine spots you’d like to recommend?