2012 Vanbrewer Awards

Well the 2012 Vanbrewer homebrew awards have come and gone . This was our first year participating in the event and thought it would be interesting to share our experience. We have been home brewing for little over a year now experimenting with only a few different styles. We are limited on what we can brew due to lack of equipment  (mainly a lager cellar). There were a total of 23 BJCP categories to enter in with over 300 different beers entered from all across Canada all we could do was hoped that our beers are good enough to place in at least one category.

Four there were, that went bravely forth.

 We managed to enter 4 beers:

1).  Tartan Eater Scotch Ale – 6.4% – 22 IBU

Malts: Pale malt base with roasted barley, smoked malt, and biscuit malt. Hops Perle, Fuggles, Willamette

                This was our second go at the Tartan Eater, but this was the first time all-grain. The Tartan eater was our very first home brew attempt using extract in January 2011. Our goal was to make a beer as good as our better than the Alexander Keith Tartan ale which came out about that time. We think we succeeded, even though we blotched the sugar priming for bottle conditioning and ended up with super sugar foamers.

2).  Hopfull Monk Belgain Imperial IPA – 7.3% – 67 IBU

Malts: ½ Malt Extract, ½ Pale malt Base, honey malt, and carastan. Hops: Simcoe, and a lot of Chinook (dry hopped with Chinook also)

                The only other recipe we’ve done more than once (5 times to date) and we keep tinkering with it. We’ve tried different yeasts, different hops and different hop schedules. This version as supposed to be the beta version of what we were to ultimately enter. However due to timing we entered this version which was half malt and half extract. We found this was the best way to get the flavour and alcohol content we wanted, with our limited mash tun.                               

 3). Maple Barley Wine –  10.3 % – 32 IBU

 Malts: all extract, carastan, chocolate malt. Hops Fuggles, Norther Brewer, Goldings.  Extras: Maple Syrup

                This was our first attempt at a barley wine and it was still pretty young when we entered it. The best in show winner (and the $3,000 prize) was a barley wine so one might surmise that the other entries in this category were quite good.

4). Dark Star Apprentice Liquorice Stout – 8% – 49 IBU

 Malts: Pale malt base, molasses, brown sugar, black patent, roasted barley.  Hops: Fuggles,  Willamette. Extras: Fennel, Liquorice root

                This was a first attempt at a licorice stout, based on the Dogfish Head Dark Star Licorice stout extract recipe from the Extreme Home brewing book. We converted to all-grain and then ignored the original recipe. It could have used some star anise to compliment the aroma and flavour. It ended up being quite good, if not hit-you-over-the-head black licorice flavoured.

The entry process was simple enough. They hold the contest every year, and for the modest fee of $6 per entry, anyone can enter through their website. The drop off location was at the Parallel 49 brewery, and it was a treat to see the facility, even just briefly. Also we got to meet Parallel 49 brewer and contest organizer Graham With, and that was very cool. A couple of things were learned in that brief conversation: if the contest asks for 2 standard sized bottles, supply two standard sized bottles. Anything bigger is a waste. The second bottle is in case you win that style’s category and move onto best in show selection. Also you need to brew with your eye on the contest and make sure that your brew has aged sufficiently, or is properly fresh at the time of the contest.

                On the Monday after the contest, we attended the Awards night and got to try some very unique and great tasting beers. We won’t give a review of each thing we tried but here’s a quick recap: Parallel 49’s Hoparrzzi India Pale Lager and Seedspitter Watermelon Wit, Yaletown Brewing’s Oud Bruin, Big Ridge Brewing’s ESB, and last year’s winner Rick August, had a cask of the award winning  brew, a Russian Imperial Stout, produced by Russell brewing (the other part to the best in show prize). The Rick August Russian Imperial stout was very good. We made sure to try that first while there was some available. On a side note, now you can try this brew too! Look for it in bottles at Brewery Creek, Firefly and other private liquor stores of discerning quality.

So how did we do? Well… *drum roll please* we took first place in category 9: Scottish and Irish ale! Needless to say we are happy and slightly shocked with the results. We find our brews to be quite tasty but it’s always nice to know we’re not delusional.

In the future we will have to work on entering more contests across Canada and under more styles.

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