Tuesday, April 28, 2009

More beard, more beer, raffled beer and a brief rant about Cheeseheads

First and foremost, a toast to the Chicago Blackhawks!

The Hawks finished off the Calgary Flames four games to two, which means they move on to face the Vancouver Canucks in the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs and you now have at least another week to pledge me for the charity Beard-a-thon (back story here). As you can see (as I enjoy an excellent Dark Horse Fore smoked stout), the beard is progressing from the Faith-era George Michael stage to the Jack Black stage. The fundraising has also progressed nicely, as I'm now in fourth place on the Leader Board with $288 raised and a mere $12 away from third place. Thanks to those who have donated so far, and for those who haven't, if you could send $10 my way the local charities who will receive the money would be very grateful, as would I. Click here to make a tax-free donation.

Moving on to beer, our Somethin' Else India Black Ale reached its final gravity 0f 1015 and I racked to the Wiggum keg today. I'm liking the taste, though I wish it were a bit more roasty. It's got a nice balance between piny hoppy and citrus hoppy. At this point I'm leaning towards dry-hopping since there's little aroma. For those of you who dry hop, do you think it impacts the perceived bitterness a lot? I want to dry hop because there's not a lot of aroma, but the bitterness is pretty much dead-on and I'm afraid that the aroma will increase the perceived bitterness and throw it out of whack. Of course, it is an IPA...

Item #3 on the agenda... How would you like to win a bottle of 2008 Older Viscosity? Or maybe some bourbon barrel-aged Angel's Share from Lost Abbey? Well, the folks over at Free the Hops (the organization dedicated to repealing Alabama's ridiculous ABV and container volume limits) is hosting a fundraiser raffle where just about every barrel-aged beer on BeerAdvocate's top 100 is up for grabs. For the full assortment visit drinksprettygood.com (and if you don't get the reference check out this post from Lew Bryson's blog; you'll laugh and cry at the same time). Anyway, it's $4/ticket, 3 for $10 or 5 for $15. So after you donate $10 or $15 to my Beard-a-thon, donate $10 or $15 to Free the Hops and maybe you'll score a bottle of Firestone Walker XII in the process.

Finally, I have to rant about this. Leah and I entered the Green Bay Rackers Titletown Open this past weekend. Yesterday I go to check if the results are posted and I see a headline that reads "15th Annual Titletown Open Results." I think, "Sweet! Let's see if we won anything." And what does the text under the headline say? "The final results will be posted in the following weeks right here, and in the Rackers Forum." What??!! First of all, I see no reason why clubs can't post their results within a week of the judging. But beyond that, why does your headline specifically say "Results" if you aren't posting the results??? I tell you, those damn Packers fans are always one step ahead of me. ;-)

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Beard update and beer update

So, first of all, an update on the Beard-a-thon... I'll start with the good news. I've already raised $180 and, because two people pledged per day rather than the flat rate, that number will go up $5 a day as long as the Blackhawks are in the Stanley Cup playoffs. A special thanks to homebrew bloggers Brian of The Daily Ikura and Dawn of From the Mind of the Dawnie (who doesn't blog exclusively about homebrewing but she indeed brews) for their generous contributions.

Now, the bad news... Since I first blogged about the Beard-a-thon, the Hawks went from a 2-0 series lead to a 2-2 tie. Theoretically I could be clean-shaven by Monday. That's bad both because it means less time to raise money (so if you're thinking of pledging do it now!) and because it means less time to grow a proper beard. Here's what it's looking like after almost a week:

I used to think I grew facial hair pretty quickly (I'm one of those guys who needs to shave every day) but now it seems like it's taking forever. I guess it's the whole watched-pot thing.

Moving from beards to beer, a quick update on Somethin' Else. Given that my Maibock pretty much fermented in two weeks, I figured this would be done in a week. Boy was I wrong. On Sunday our Beerfly Alleyfight partner, Naomi, came over to talk beer and hang with the family. I figured we could rack and dry-hop while she was over. Well, I took a gravity reading and it was only down to 1024 with an expected final gravity of 1015. Now four days later the airlock is still going. The sample tasted great, though I wasn't picking up any smoke (I guess that's what happens when you use two-year-old peated malt). It seemed to have a nice hop profile, including the aroma, so I'm having second thoughts about dry-hopping. I'm thinking I'll rack, let it sit for a week, and then decide whether to dry-hop.

I'm also having second thoughts about our pairing. We made a bacon mac 'n cheese with smoked cheddar, smoked mozzarella and not-smoked muenster, topped with fresh diced tomatoes, and it was awesome. However, I'm not sure it pairs with the beer well. I'm thinking of maybe trying a chipotle gazpacho, but Leah really likes the mac 'n cheese. I agree it's awesome; I just think a spicy gazpacho might complement the beer better. Decisions, decisions...

In the meantime, I tried the Maibock and it's pretty good. I'm picking up a little pineapple-like fruitiness but I'm hoping the lagering will clean that up. It's also a little light on the bitterness (the German Tradition hops I used are several months old now and I didn't account for that) so I may add some iso-alpha acid extract to bring up the bitterness. It should definitely be good to go by May 1.

That's it for now. GO BLACKHAWKS!!!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Weird things happen on BeerAdvocate

Before I get started, I'd like to direct your attention to my shameless plea for your cash (for charity!) which I posted earlier today. Please donate a few bucks if you can; the brewing gods will reward you with an incredibly short lag time and a vigorous fermentation.

So, I've been known to frequent BeerAdvocate from time to time, mainly for the homebrewing forum. I don't start threads too often, but today I learned that President Obama has nominated Mothers Against Drunk Driving CEO Chuck Hurley to head up the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. I don't want to get too political here (it's a brewing blog, after all) but I have serious questions about whether many of MADD's policies, including their advocacy of dropping the BAC limit for a per se DUI from .08 to .04, would actually decrease drunk driving fatalities (see this post from The Agitator blog for more on the subject).

Anyway, I started a thread about this topic since I figured the potential lowering of the BAC limit from .08 to .04 would be of interest to many BA members. While many users posted concerns about the efficacy of such a proposal, one user posted the following:

sorry to be the big buzzkill but drinking and driving is wrong and reckless i dont do it so i wouldnt care if the limit was .0000 sorry yall but get on a bike or walk. drinking and driving is lame and does nothing but add to alchohols already bad reputation. im not saying that alot of people cant handle it under the right circumstances and everyone is guilty of doing it at least a few times in their past (myself included) but theres no denying that something needs to be done to reduce the amount of accidents. also if you can drive. you can drive. bac of .999 or bac of .00001 driving reckless is what gets you pulled over in the first place not anything else.

I understand why people would want to reduce drunk driving (I don't want to be killed by a drunk driver either). If somebody can show me that reducing the legal limit to .04 will save a significant amount of lives, I will totally support it. However, the research I've read is mixed at best. So I asked the guy what proof he had that reducing the BAC level would save lives. His response?

i have no proof. who amongst us has proof of what will happen in the future?

At this point, I decided this discussion wasn't looking too good so I responded:

If you don't understand how empirical evidence and statistics can help predict the efficacy of public policies (in other words, how the scientific method works), then there's no use debating you and I'm checking out of this thread.

Maybe a little condescending, but I thought it was fairly restrained overall. His reply:

yeah because scientific method can accurately predict everything 100% of the time. you win. (sarkazm) have a few people you know loose their lives to drunk driving and then get back to me.

Now, I kept my word and didn't post on the thread anymore, but in an attempt to both reach some kind of mutual understanding and try and understand why he seemed so anti-science/statistics, I shot him a beermail (BA's private message system). Here's what I wrote:

Look, man, I think you're missing my point. I don't want to see anybody die at the hands of a drunk driver any more than you do. I have a two-year-old daughter and a two-month-old son and the thought of losing either of them or having either of them grow up without a parent because of drunk driving scares the shit out of me. However, my point is that reducing the BAC limit to .04 or zero tolerance won't actually reduce the number of drunk driving fatalities. Despite your assertion to the contrary, we can indeed look at empirical evidence to determine what effect such laws would have. When several states went from .10 to .08, there was no statistically significant reduction in the number of drunk driving fatalities. If that was the case, why would going from .08 to .04 suddenly make a difference? The reality is that most drunk driving fatalities result from habitual drunk drivers who are well above .10. If you offer me evidence that stricter drunk driving laws will reduce fatalities, I'll support it. But the debate isn't whether drunk driving is good or bad, it's whether certain policies will curb it.

He beermailed me back:

sorry to break it too you man but statistics cant control the future. no matter how philosophical you try to sound while saying it you still sound uninformed

we both agree that alchohol and driving are dangerous when mixed so what logic is there to saying that less alchohol wont equal less alchohol induced wrecks. to me it sounds like youre saying "even if there were half as many guns in the world there would still be the exact same amount of gun related deaths"

statistics are based on information collected in the past and may have some relevance to the future but do not determine it. please dont try to act like you know my future or your own cuz you sound really silly when you do so.

...but i guess you had already used the scientific method to predict everything i was gonna say in this post. so i should probably save my breath as should you

At this point I was really having trouble understanding where this guy was coming from. I mean, I grew up with a biology/math teacher for a mom, my dad was a chemistry major, and I majored in meteorology with a minor in math, so I'm pretty familiar with statistics and scientific inquiry. But I don't think you need to take Differential Equations to understand how scientific studies can be used to determine public policy. So I had to shoot back:

I have to ask, what do you do for a living? I'm not trying to be confrontational here, but I've never met somebody who is so strongly anti-empirical. You realize our entire society is built on statistics and science, right? When somebody builds a bridge, they use formulas based on empirical observations to determine how much weight will cause it to collapse. They don't just build it any way they'd like and wait to see if it collapses. It's not about "predicting" anything unless you consider calculating the path of a rocket "predicting" it or determining the toxicological qualities of a substance based on epidemiological studies "predicting" that people will die if exposed to a certain substance. Scientists do this kind of "predicting" all the time and it makes our lives better. I'm not quite sure why you're so quick to dismiss statistics as some sort of pseudo-science.

Okay, so maybe that one had a bit of a lecturing tone to it, but this guy didn't seem to be listening to me at all. If he really doesn't believe in science at all, I have to say something to defend the value of research, right? Here's what he had to say next:

i have a t.a.b.c. certified retail dealers off premise license and sell beer. what do you do for a living? come up with philosophical nonsense all day? whats the formula for people who get killed by drunk drivers? whats the formula for who or who is not going to die in iraq? if you know could you please tell me and the rest of the world. also maybe you could come up with a formula to predict how bored i will be with each new bullshit letter received from some internet asshole halfway across the u.s.

oh and by the way fuck society i dont care about it. so you and it should probably just piss off together.

At this point I should note that I've had disagreements on BA before, but I've always been able to reach some sort of amicable agree-to-disagree resolution to the debate. Obviously that wasn't going to happen here, so I sent one final note:

Hey, like I said, I'm not trying to be confrontational. I just honestly don't understand your basis for dismissing statistics. Surely a businessman like yourself must use statistical analyses when deciding what to purchase, how to budget, etc. (even if you don't call them "analyses," you look at past trends of what you sell to determine what will sell next month, right?). I was hoping that, though a few beermails, we could at least come to understand each other's point of view even if we don't agree. I'm not sure what I said to be labeled an asshole, but obviously you're not interested in continuing this discussion so I'll call it a day. I hope you understand I was simply trying to express my take on the issue, and best of luck with your business.

He sent one final note back:

i make and sell home brews only i dont have a retail purchase license so i dont worry about what to buy. i make what id like to and so do my friends. the world is unpredictable. as much as youd like to fool yourself into believing that everything can be explained through some stastical analysis it will never be true and honestly i feel sorry for you being so hung up on thinking that everything can and will be explained through some pre-determined equasion. honestly seeing your name in my inbox is starting to annoy me so either come with some positive energy next time or dont even waste your time or mine

So there you have it. I don't know why I decided to post this entire exchange, but for whatever reason I'm both fascinated and confused as to how somebody could feel this way. The whole conversation intrigues me in a train wreck sort of way. I guess some people just aren't meant to understand each other.

In his defense, I probably could have worded things a little better here and there, but I really think I tried to reach some sort of common ground. I'm curious to know if he's a homebrewer, because I truly believe that every brewer is a scientist whether they're conscious of it or not, but I'm not going to bother sending him another beermail. Anyway, I hope you found this interesting too (and if you're still reading the post at this point I guess you did). Hell, maybe this whole post just shows that brewing is how I get my science fix now that I've left the world of meteorology for the world of law. Yeah, that's probably it.

We interrupt your brew day to beg for money

No, I'm not asking for money for myself. It's for charity! Here's the deal...

Those of you who aren't fans of hockey are likely unfamiliar with the playoff beard. Simply put, when the Stanley Cup Playoffs start, players stop shaving. This can lead to some unique sights on the ice by the time the Finals roll around.

So what does this have to do with charity? Well, this year the Chicago Blackhawks are hosting a Beard-a-thon and I've decided to participate. It's pretty simple: I stop shaving until the Blackhawks get knocked out of the playoffs (or win the Stanley Cup) and you pay me to do so. Well, actually you pay Chicago Blackhawks Charities. You can either pledge a one-time payment or you can pledge per day that I grow my beard. And if you're wondering what they'll do with your money (a good question to ask of any charity), they actually dole out what they raise to local charities such as the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, Chicago Children’s Advocacy Center and the National Runaway Switchboard.

I realize times are tough, and I also realize many of you probably already have charitable organizations you support. However, I figure this is a great chance to use my rapidly-growing network of homebrewers to help out some people who really need it. If you're willing to help, go to this page and donate today! You can also follow the progress of my beard on the page (if you're really, really bored, that is). I've even donated $50 myself to get things started. So stay home and have a homebrew instead of heading out to the bar and throw $10 my way. Brew a 1035 British mild instead of a 1090 impy stout and donate the money you'll save on malt and hops. Or take a few bucks from your tax refund and put it to good use. Seriously, if you can donate $5 I'd be thrilled.

For the record, I just found out about this on Saturday night so I'm just getting started. Here's my "beard" (okay, stubble) on day 3:

and here it is today (day 4):

I'll post another update once it actually looks like a beard. On a related note, the Blackhawks are currently up two game to none on the Calgary Flames (and Game 3 will be getting started later tonight), so hopefully I'll be sporting the Grizzly Adams look by the time all's finished. Thanks for your support and GO BLACKHAWKS!

P.S. If you're looking for some way to connect this to beer, check out this thread on BeerAdvocate about brewers and beards.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

"Damn Scots... They ruined Scotland!"

Despite Groundskeeper Willie's declaration which serves as the title of this post (full clip here), Leah and I have decided to head to Scotland for our next vacation in just over a month. It's been almost two years since we visited Germany, so I figure we're due. Anyway, I mention this because we're just starting to work on our itinerary and any advice is greatly appreciated. Specifically we're trying to answer two main questions:

1. Should we travel by rail or rent a car? I'm a big fan of trains, but my research suggests it'll actually be cheaper to rent a car (even factoring in the cost of gas, er, um, petrol). Plus I'm guessing some of the breweries we'll want to visit are somewhat off the beaten path, so having a car would come in handy.

2. Where should we go? We're flying in and out of Edinburgh, so that's destination #1. Other places I'd like to go include Inverness, Orkney and Kyle of Lochalsh (and to a lesser degree Aberdeen and Glasgow). I'm particularly intrigued by Orkney both because one of my favorite Scottish beers (Skull Splitter) is brewed there and because it looks awesome (that's a picture of Orkney above) but it's quite out of the way from anything else and given that we'll only be there for seven days, I'm thinking we may have to put it off until we return some time in the future.

Anyway, just thought I'd mention this in case anybody has any suggestions/recommendations. And of course, just as we did with our Germany trip, we'll be posting a recap right here. Slaandjivaa!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Brew day: Somethin' Else India Black Ale

Today we brewed our Somethin' Else India Black Ale which we'll be featuring at this year's Beerfly Alleyfight (the full back story is here). At previous Alleyfights, we've gotten lots of questions about the brewing process, so I figured this would be a good opportunity to document a full brewing day. Here it goes!

It all started around 11:15am when I added three gallons of charcoal-filtered water to our brew kettle and fired up the burner.

Once the water reached a temperature of around 118°F, I added the water to a cooler fitted with a drain manifold (called a mash tun) and mixed (mashed) the malted grains to the water.

The resulting mixture (called a mash) is then left to sit at 110°F for twenty minutes. This step isn't commonly done (in fact, it's the first time we've ever done a rest at 110°F) but this particular beer had three pounds of malted rye, and malted rye can become gummy. At 110°F, enzymes break down beta glucanase so that it's less gummy, which makes it easier to drain the sugary liquid (called wort) later on.

After the beta glucanase rest, we added another three gallons of water heated to 204°F, so that the resulting mash temperature was raised to 152°F. At this temperature, starches are converted into sugars which will subsequently be eaten by the yeast and turned into alcohol. We let the mash sit at this temperature for 45 minutes.

While the mash was resting, we heated up another three gallons which will be used to sparge. Sparging is basically like making coffee: you sprinkle water on top of the mash while draining the wort from the bottom of the mash. The water is heated to almost 200°F and then pumped up to a cooler which is above the mash tun (called a hot liquor tank). The hot liquor tank is above the mash tun so that gravity can draw the sparge water down into the mash tun.

(That's the mash tun under the Cubs blanket, and the brew kettle is in the foreground.)

At 12:55pm, the rest was complete, the starches converted to sugars, and it was time to sparge! I slowly drain the wort into a Pyrex measuring cup. Initially I pour the wort back into the mash tun, as the first ten minutes or so the grain has yet to form a filter bed so you get lots of floatie bits. After a little while, though, the grain compacts such that it filters all that crap out. At that point I start dumping the wort into the brew kettle.

Despite the beta-glucanase rest, I still had some issues with slow/inconsistent flow rates. Nonetheless, by 2:25pm we had collected roughly 6.5 gallons of wort and brought it to a boil. Now it's time to add the hops! While Miller Lite may brag that their beer is triple-hopped, this beer features a whopping FIVE hop additions:

The first hops were added at the beginning of the 60-minute boil. These hops add the bitterness to the beer. Later additions forty minutes and fifty minutes into the boil give the beer a piny and citrusy hop flavor, and a fourth addition at the end of the boil gives a nice hop aroma. The aroma will be accentuated in a couple weeks when I "dry-hop" the beer (which means adding hops to the keg after the beer has fermented). We used a combination of Simcoe, Chinook and Amarillo hops.

(In order to keep the hops from clogging the hoses and fittings, I add the hops in a nylon mesh bag.)

Once the beer is done boiling at 3:30pm, it's time to chill it down to around 70°F. You want to do this quickly as to avoid contamination, so I use a plate chiller. A plate chiller is a small heat exchanger with two inlets (one for the hot wort and one for a garden hose) and two outlets (one for the cooled wort and one for the hose water). A pump pushes the wort from the kettle to the chiller and the cooled wort is pumped out into a carboy (giant glass jug).

(It may look like chaos, but there's a method to my madness.)

In order to know how efficient your brewing technique was and how strong your beer will be, you want to take a gravity reading. Gravity measures the amount of sugar in the beer, and since most of the sugar is turned into alcohol, you can use your gravity readings before and after fermentation to calculate how much alcohol is in the beer. Our original gravity was 1.070; by comparison, the original gravity of Budweiser is 1.045 and the gravity of water is 1.000.

Once the carboy is filled and the gravity measured, it's time to add the yeast!

Of course, I wish the brew day was done at this point, but there's still a matter of cleaning up. Fortunately, my daughter Dorrie was willing to help:

I got done cleaning around 4:30pm. I would say five hours is about the average time for me to brew a five-gallon batch (it's a little longer with ten gallons). Now it's time to let the yeast do its job. My plan is to let it ferment for two weeks and then transfer to a keg, at which point I'll dry-hop. That'll give me another two weeks to dry-hop and one week to cold-condition and carbonate before it's time to serve up Somethin' Else to all those hungry and thirsty Beerfly Alleyfight attendees. Hope to see you there... cheers!

EDIT: I initially neglected to mention that our good friend Marta came over to help with the brew and snap some pictures as well. Since she used Leah's camera, I'm not sure which were hers, but I'm guessing at least one of the pics above was taken by Marta. Just want to give credit where credit is due.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Coming up: IPA for Beerfly Alleyfight

On Saturday, May 16, Leah and I will be participating in the third annual Beerfly Alleyfight, held at the Chicago Rock Bottom and sponsored by the Drinking & Writing Brewery. Leah and I have actually participated in each of the first two Alleyfights, and you can learn more about it by reading our recap of last year's event here; if you're looking for the Reader's Digest Condensed Version, here it is: we brew a beer, make some food to pair with it, and then we're paired with an artist who interprets our pairing. Then people come, pay a few bucks, and get to enjoy all the beer and the food and the art. It's a lot of fun.

Anyway, for the third Alleyfight, the theme is India pale ales. I'm excited about this because, as the three of you who read this blog know, I'm not an IPA guy. I'm not really that big of a hops guy. But I like being forced to work out of the box (like last year when we brewed our Worst Case Scenario), and this is a great opportunity to do just that. So, the first thing I started thinking about is hoppy, IPA-like beers I really like. Two that jumped out at me are Two Brothers' Cane and Ebel and Stone XI 11th Anniversary Ale. The former is a rye beer, and the latter is a "black IPA" or India black ale if you're not into oxymorons. So I had my start: it's gonna be black and brewed with rye.

Next my thoughts turned, naturally, to the label. In my opinion, one of the most iconic album art ever is Cannonball Adderley's Somethin' Else. It's an all-time classic jazz album, and really more of a Miles album than a Cannonball album, but that's all beside the point. I figure this beer is definitely gonna be somethin' else in terms of what I usually brew, and it might be somethin' else in terms of what people will expect at the Alleyfight. So it occurred to me... maybe I can make this beer the liquid representation of a jazz club. It's dark, like the club. It's got rye, like the whiskey that many patrons would drink. It's got aromatic, piney hops which remind me of the aromatics found in gin. And then the next thing hit me: it should be smokey, just like the clubs of old. Not too smokey, mind you. After all, I want this to be popular at the Alleyfight, and overpowering smoke might freak people out. But I'll throw in just a touch of peak-smoked barley to give it an edge.

And thus Somethin' Else was born. The grain bill I have right now is:

10.00 lb Pale Malt (2 Row) UK (3.0 SRM)

3.00 lb Rye Malt (4.7 SRM)

1.00 lb Caramel/Crystal Malt - 60L (60.0 SRM)

0.50 lb Carafa III (525.0 SRM)

0.13 lb Peat Smoked Malt (2.8 SRM)

It's estimated to clock in at an original gravity of 1068 with a color of 27 SRM. My tentative hop schedule is:

1.00 oz Simcoe [13.50 %] (60 min)
0.80 oz Simcoe (20 min)
0.40 oz Simcoe (10 min)
1.00 oz Simcoe (1 min)
1.00 oz Simcoe (Dry Hop 3 days)

Should give me around 65 IBU's. The thing is, since I really don't know that much about hopping IPA's, I'm thinking I should diversify the hops, particularly when it comes to the late additions and dry-hopping. Any thoughts? As I've mentioned before, I'm more of a piney guy than a citrusy guy.

So that's where we're at right now. Of course, there are two other things to consider: the food and the art. We're currently thinking of pairing our beer with some kind of bacon mac and cheese, possibly made with smoked gouda. And as far as the art is concerned, I learned today that we're being paired with Naomi Ashley. I don't know Naomi personally (well, at least not yet) but she's a guitarist/singer-songwriter who did an awesome job at Beerfly Alleyfight last year, so I'm definitely looking forward to whatever she comes up with this year.

Well, I should probably shut up (or, technically, quit typing) and go to bed now, but before I do, one quick update on the Maibock. After only six days at 50°F it had dropped from 1070 to 1031 so I started upping the temp for the diacetyl rest on Saturday. I let it sit at 60°F for three days and started dropping the temp back down yesterday. I dropped it back down to 50°F tonight and hope to take a gravity reading again tomorrow before starting to lager. It may actually be ready by May 1!

UPDATE: Read about the brew day here.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Those are some expensive ribbons...

Homebrew competition season here in the Chicagoland area is late winter/early spring. Between February and March you have the BABBLE Brew-Off, the Drunk Monk Challenge, and the BOSS Chicago Cup. As I've discussed before, I have a love/hate relationship with competitions. The love stems from the fact that you get great feedback and, hey, it's fun to win. The hate (or, more accurately, annoyance) stems from the fact that I find the winners to be somewhat arbitrary; a full post on this very topic can be found here.

Generally speaking, I like to enter the local competitions but shy away from ones where I have to ship entries. It gives me some good feedback without wasting too much beer and money. Due to Jonas being born in February, I completely forgot about BABBLE Brew-Off and didn't remember Drunk Monk until it was too late. I managed to remember the BOSS Chicago Cup, and the good news is that two of our four beers placed! Our Downdraft Helles took second in the "light lager" category. We actually entered it as a Dortmunder Export because I thought the late-hop addition made it a little too hoppy to qualify as a Munich Helles, and Bamberg/Franconian Helles isn't a BJCP-recognized style. I'll be curious to see what they have to say about the balance. Our F6 Sticke Alt took third place in the "specialty beer" category.

The other two beers entered were our It's A Boy! Dunkelweizen and our Road House Red. I thought the Dukelweizen might have a chance, but I'm not surprised it didn't place--particularly considering the first-place winner in the category was Rodney Kibzey's Weizenbock... as in THIS Weizenbock. I wasn't too happy with the Red (I'll do a full review later) and mainly entered that one to get some feedback, so I wasn't too disappointed that it didn't place.

Overall, I think what made me happy with this competition is that the beers that I thought should win did, and the ones I thought shouldn't didn't. Sometimes it's hard to judge your own beers. You spend so much time formulating a recipe and brewing and tasting that it becomes a challenge to approach it objectively. It's quite possible that the results were simply a fluke, but it's also possible that I'm getting better at figuring out when my beers are good and when they're just okay, and that's a skill I'll need to take my brewing to the next level.

So, getting back to the title of this post, why are the ribbons we won so expensive? Well, I got a surprise in the mail the other day. On our way to Two Brothers Brewpub to drop off the entries, I got nailed by a red-light camera in Naperville while making a left turn. So... $100 for the ticket plus $21 for the entries divided by two ribbons equals $60.50 per ribbon. Such is the price of homebrewing, I guess...