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November 18, 2009 - Image 12

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The Michigan Daily, 2009-11-18

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TheMichig anDaIy-We d nesdayN ovemb e r182009

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t

Home brew is where the heart Is
Student brewers met at Arbor Brewing Company for The Michigan Daily's first home brew
competition. While judges scored the beer, we asked the entrants about their hoppy hobby. By Jessica Vosgerchian 11 Ma

a
igazine Editor

i

.n .
C

T he conversation in Arbor Brew-
ing Company last Sunday was far
from the norm. Words like "estery,"
"diacetyl" and "phenolic" were tossed
around with ease. Patrons traded sto-
ries describing gruesome scenes - "It
looked like we had sacrificed a goat" -
and violent explosions - "The best is
when you have fruit in it and it blows up
and hits your ceiling."
It wasn't a meeting of Mad Scientists
Anonymous - not officially, at least.
ABC's Tap Room served as the setting
for The Michigan Daily's first home
hr~x~nrtnrn~ttjn iA~idh+t1d-+tQ

submitted their own beer to be judged
by a panel of local experts: Matt Greff,
owner of ABC, Ron Jeffries, owner of
Jolly Pumpkin, and Alex Petit, a mem-
ber of the Ann Arbor Brewers Guild.
The contest featured 25 entries and
17 styles. To accommodate the diverse
field of entries, traditional categories
were consolidated into three broad
groups: Light/Amber, Strong/Spiced
and Dark. Judging criteria included
overall quality and adherence to style
as established by the Beer Judge Certi-
fication Program.
The Daily held this contest to create
a forum for what seems to be
a growing number of students
who are taking up brewing as a
hobby. Entries varied widely in
style, inventiveness and qual-
ity, but all confirmed a trend
of college students who are
forsaking the "dirty thirty"
of cheap macro-brew to try to
make beersworth drinking.
"I think there's a big surge of
people enjoying and appreciat-
ing craft beer, which tends to
lead peopleto maketheirown,"
said Engineeringgraduate stu-
dent Ian Stines, a member of
the Ann Arbor Brewers Guild
whose Obama Victory Porter
eaiy won Best of Show.
Stines said the guild has
increased its membership
n- to over 100 this year, which
reflects a burgeoning interest
in home brewing.
But most of the contestants
knew few other home brew-
ers before the contest, having

or in twos or threes with little guidance
other than Internet research.
"(A friend's dad) got me into good
beer, so I wanted to take the next step
andmakemyown," saidfBryan Yestrep-
sky, a medicinal chemistry graduate
student. "And then I found a set online
for $100 and had to go for it."
The contest judges, who were ,all
once amateur brewers themselves, were
eager to provide constructive criticism
to guide brewers who have developed
theirunderstanding ofbeer from books,
websites and pure experimentation.
Greff, whose Corner Brewery in
Ypsilanti still makes five recipes he
developed as a home brewer, said the
best thing about brewing is the commu-
nity of fellow travelers to geek out with.
"(It's a) collegiate atmosphere," he
said. "People grew up together. People
help each other out, share recipes."
While the judges scored the entries,
the brewers swapped recipes and tech-
niques - along with stories of more
than a few bloopers that almost inevi-
tably accompany any foray into home
brewing.
Several brewers said specialty ingre-
dients like fruit and honey can affect
thecarbonationinsurprisingways,ren-
dering beer as flat as water and syrup or
causing bottles to erupt when opened.
While brewing your own beer can be
economical, mistakes can be expensive.
Business senior Jason Hollingsworth
learned this the hard way during one of
his first attempts to brew.
"It was one of my first times brewing
and (I) put the wort (unfermentedbeer)
into the carboy before cooling it in the
boiling pot first," Hollingsworth wrote

carboy in the bathtub and turned on the
cold water to cool it down, and because
of the temperature difference, the glass
carboy shattered into a hundred pieces.
$40 of beer ingredients literally went
down the drain, taking my $60 carboy
with it. I learned not to make that mis-
take again."
Appreciating good beer takes sophis-
tication. But as accounts from the con-
testants show, tryingto make itrequires
other qualities - dedication, creativity
and nerve.
From beginning to end, brewing
a single batch is a process that takes
months. A concoction must be mixed,
boiled, fermented, bottled and then left
to sit for weeks before it is drinkable.
The step-by-step procedure required
in home brewing might explain why so
many of the contestants had science
backgrounds. Many brewers inter-
viewed said they were attracted to
brewing because it was a way to be cre-
ative with science.
"It's basically just to have creative
control over the product," Engineering
senior Chris Moline said. "It's creative
but you still have to follow a technical
procedure."
13ut while home brewers tend to be
the type who have no problem with lab
assignments, the interesting part of
their hobby is when they stray from the
formula. When brewing for your enjoy-
ment, there's no harm (except for stain-
ing your ceiling, perhaps) in throwing
something unexpected into the mix to
see what happens.
"It can be as scientific as someone
wants it to be or it's just throw every-
thing into a barrel and hope for the

Joe Munski said.
Mike Elchinger,
a School of Natural
Resources graduate
student, got a little
creative with the
pale ale he entered
in the Light/Amber
category. Instead of
picking up brewer's
sugar from Beer
Depot, he used pow-
dered sugar that he
already had at his
house a liberty
that didn't seem to
hurt him too badly
with the judges, as
his pale ale received
ascore of53.
"I thought it was
going to be a bad
batch,sothefactthat
it was drinkable was
a surprise," he said.
But Elchinger,
whose pumpkin ale
won the Strong/ Co
Spiced category, said Contest judges Matt Greff and Alex Petit score an entry and write
henevercutscorners
when it comes to
the most important
aspect of assuring quality beer: keeping issues by all three judges, garnering
equipment clean. comments like "vegetables are over-
If brewers don't sanitize every piece whelming," "medicinal aroma" and
of equipment that comes into contact "dish water."
with their brew, they risk distorting the But what more often plagued the con-
batch with impurities caused by bacte- testant brewers was difficulty balanc-
ria contamination. These impurities ing flavors or classifying their entries
can manifest as an aroma of rotten eggs correctly.
or the flavor of plastic. Another judge wrote about a high-
One not-so-delicious pumpkin ale scoring black stout: "Perhaps stout

(TOP) JAKE FROOMM; (BOTTOM LEFT, RIGHT) SAID ALSALAH/D
(TOP) The brewing contest received 25 entries enconmpassing 17
different styles, which judges scored without any knowledge of the
brewers' identities. (LEFT) The brewing supplies of Best of Show wi
ner Ian Stines, an engineering graduate student. (ABOVE) Contest
judges scored entries on a variety of characteristics: aroma, appear
ance, flavor, mouthfeel and overall expression.

SAID ALSALAH/Daily
eedback for the brewer to consider.
though."
Engineering graduate student Joel
Forman, the creator of the black stout,
only started brewing six months ago
but has yet to have a batch go awry.
"I'm waiting for a batch to turn out
poorly just to get that over with," he
said.
He might not have to wait long,
though.
too REWERS. Page 8B

The
best
of our
brewers

Ian Stines
Best of show winner: Obama Victory Porter
Dark winner: Obama Victory Porter
Light/Amber winner: Hawley's Hop Farm Fresh Harvest Acceptance Letter Ale
A year after the presidential elec- Another beer of Stines, an imperial try at a German hefeweizen, brewing
tion, it's only appropriate that Ian wit, scored 94 points in the Light/ has gone smoothly for Stines.
Stines's Obama Victory Porter would Amber category. "Actually, my first batch turned out
emerge as the winner of The Michi- According to the Beer Judge Certi- pretty good, which I understand is not
gan Daily's brewing contest Sunday. fication Program's guidelines, Stines's the actual norm," Stines said.
The only beer to receive a triple- scores qualify his beer as "very good," With a firm grasp of style, Stines
digit score, the porter earned a total or "generally within style parameters is looking to challenge himself with
of 100 points out of 150 for what one (with) some minor flaws." twists on his old technique. He has a
judge commented was a "good bit- While many other entries seemed couple of carboys of homemade cider
terness and hop aroma." to be incorrectly classified, Stines's going right now and hopes to master
That wasn't the only credit to brews stood out from the rest for the method of aging beer with toasted
Stines, though. Before his porter adherence to style. woodchips.
won the Dark category, his mouth- A member of the Ann ArborBrewers "I've only tried it once and I think I
ful of an American IPA - Hawley's Guild, Stines has had plenty of prac- let it sit on the wood a little too long,"
Farm Fresh Harvest Acceptance tice since he started brewing about a he said. "It didn't work out too suc-
Letter Ale - took the Light/Amber year and a half ago - not that he has cessfully - it was little bit too much
category with a total of 97 points. necessarily needed it. From his first like chewing on a tree branch."

Mike Elchinger
Strong/Spiced/Specialty winner: Pumpkin Ale

Mike Elchinger, a graduate
student in the School of Natural
Resources, knew he had a good
thing whenhe altered his pumpkin
ale recipe to include real pumpkin
instead of flavoring.
"I would call it amore authentic
taste, better color in the beer and
probably a better mouthfeel," he
said.
The Michigan Daily's brewing
contest judges agreed. Elchinger's
pumpkin ale won the Strong/
Spiced category with 92 points.
The pumpkin ale was in the
running with a diverse array of
entries, ranging from Imperial
IPA to Chocolate Chili Ale. On
advice from contest judge Alex

Petit, boldly flavored styles were
grouped with specialty beers for
being more flavorful than the
other entries.
But Elchinger came out ahead
for his impeccably balanced spices
- although the judges' comments
suggested that the flavors should
be toned down a smidge..
"Spices are over the top but
good," wrote one judge.
Elchinger said the judges'
feedback confirmed his prior sus-
picions about the recipe and con-
vinced him to cut back on spices
next time.
After his brother introduced
him to the hobby, Elchinger first
tried his hand at brewing with

a batch of brown ale. He said he
found brewingto be away to satis-
fy his "pension for self-synthesis."
"I want to make things," he
said.
Elchinger is open to experi-
mentation in brewing, but he is
strictly committed to keeping his
creations free of contamination.
"What are the three rules of
brewing?" he said. "Sanitation,
sanitation, sanitation - right?"
After sampling other brew-
ers' beers and comparing recipes,
Elchinger said he walked away
from the contest with a couple
ideas for future projects, like bas-
ing a batch on butterscotch or try-
ing a coffee stout.

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