And The Winner Is…

Kegerator.com sponsored an employee beer brewing competition over the month of November, and the winner was recently announced. There were four participating teams:  Rainbow Ale, Brew Ha Ha’s, Holiday Five Pack, and Schlitz and Giggles.

All put up a good fight – but ultimately, the judges had to choose just one to be the winner. And how did they determine the best beer you ask?

We arranged for a panel of beer aficionados (the brew class instructor from Austin Homebrew and two unbiased company execs) to rank the brews. They came to an undisclosed location (AKA an upstairs conference room) for scoring each team’s batch based on the following four criteria:

  • Presentation
  • Aroma and head retention
  • Flavor
  • Overall perception

JB, our brew class instructor and actual beer expert, lead the tasting – giving Rick, our CEO, and Peter, one of our VPs, his insights throughout the process. Interestingly enough, the scores came out synonymously, which affirmed a true winner.  Phrases used to describe the victor included, “excellent, almost-commercial, and a true first place.”

The winner was Schlitz & Giggles’ Meadow Muffin, a medium-bodied brown ale with hints of chocolate and malt. Out of a possible 120 points, Meadow Muffin came in at a not-too-shabby 102.

 

Kegerator.com congratulated its first ever beer brewing competition winners with a trophy of a home brew keg and tickets to a local beer tasting event.

Final Day | Brew Ha Ha’s

The day has finally arrived… the judges will taste our beer today.  A couple members of our team did a taste test last night and gave Bee Caves Imperial Stout two thumbs up; let’s just hope the judges agree.  If not, well…at least our label looks amazing!!

Speaking of our team, the Brew Ha Ha’s FINALLY got a team picture this morning.  That’s Michael, Ashley, Kari and Stefanie.  Unfortunately, Blake was on vacation today so he’s missing from our photo.

Brew Ha Ha’s Brewing Process

Once we learned the basics at Austin Homebrew, it was time to do it ourselves. As previously stated, we chose the Imperial stout recipe. The brewing process was fairly simple and foolproof, from start to finish. The recipe was straightforward and step-by-step, allowing for an easy night of brewing. All the equipment was labeled and documented in a little pamphlet provided by AHB. The first step was to sterilize the stock pot, thermometer, and gigantic spoon. We visually inspected the equipment before sterilizing, but found no dirt or grime to clean. Earlier in the day, I took the hops and yeast out of the refrigerator to let them warm up.

Next it was time to bring the water 155˚F and then steep the grains. We added the grains to the boiling bag and let it sit in the water, periodically moving the bag up and down to really let the grains move through the water. We did this for about 26 minutes, and halfway through the aroma really began to waft through the kitchen.

Following the steeping process, we let the boiling bag drain excess water into the pot and then tossed the grains. The formerly clear water was now a dark black, so we were headed in the right direction. We added in some more water and began to bring the pot to a boil. With such a large amount of water it took about 30 minutes to bring to a full boil. Once it was at a continuous boil we added in the malt, which brought with it an overpowering, concentrated smell. The smell permeated through the entire house and it was almost enough to make one feel a little nauseous. Opening the kitchen window brought only a little relief. We let that sit for about 45-60 minutes, occasionally stirring so the syrup didn’t burn to the pot.

Once the malt was sufficiently dissolved and cooked, it was time to add the hops editions. The recipe only called for one packet of Chinook hops, scheduled to cook for 60 minutes, however a packet of Kent Golding hops had found its way into the ingredients bag. Not wanting to leave anything to chance, I called Austin Home Brew and they advised that it would be okay to just throw the unscheduled hops into the mix at about 5 minutes left in the scheduled hops cooking time. That was good enough for me and I did just that.

Next was the hardest part of the entire process – bringing the wort down to 80˚F in 20 minutes. We set up an ice bath in the sink and placed the pot inside. The ice would melt pretty quickly so we would constantly drain the water, add more ice, and repeat until the wort was cooled. Unfortunately, it took a little longer than 20 minutes so hopefully that doesn’t affect the end result too much.  While the hops were cooking we had sanitized the fermenting bucket. It was time to dump the wort and add the yeast. After adding the wort and water to bring the brew to the necessary 5 ¼ gallon level, I stirred vigorously to allow it to breath and then added the yeast. I placed the lid on the bucket to close it up and, after adding sanitizer, placed the air lock in its designated hole.

It only took about an hour for the CO2 to start making bubbles in the air lock, which was a comforting sight. Hopefully the rest of the process is as easy as the brewing portion. We will update you once we begin the secondary stage.

Check out our video of the process:

Related Posts: Company Homebrew Competition, Brew Ha Ha’s: Austin Home Brew Class #1

Brew Ha Ha’s: Austin Home Brew Class #1

When I arrived at Austin Home Brew, I realized that their set up was much larger than I expected. They have a great facility complete with retail and shipping operations. They appeared to be very transparent, giving you a view of the grain room and how they work inside it. The sales floor has everything under the sun related to home brewing, and we spent several minutes browsing the equipment, ingredients, etc.

                             

Once the initial awe wore off it was time to get started. The first step was to pick a recipe, and it was a little daunting looking through their recipe book because there were literally hundreds and hundreds of recipes and clones to choose from. A clone is a recipe that matches a specific name brand; if you have a favorite beer the chances are extremely good that they have a clone recipe for it. One of the experts, Christian, explained to me that the cost of the recipe kit goes up by ABV %. I finally landed on the Imperial Stout recipe and they gathered up the materials.

The next step was to learn how to brew. JB took us to the back of the building where the shipping bays were, and where he had bag of grain already steeping in a stockpot sitting on a propane cooker. He explained the process of steeping the grains like a tea bag, moving it up and down. Next was removing the grain bag and to bring the brew to a boil and then to add the malt. The malt was almost like caramel – very thick and sticky – and it was important to get it all in there while stirring vigorously to help it dissolve.

Once again, JB brought the brew to a boil and it was time to put in the hops additions to add bitterness, aroma, and flavor. At this point it was just a matter of waiting to add in hops as the recipe called for it, in this case every 30 minutes or so. While we were waiting JB set up a cold bath to quickly bring the brew down to 80°F. From there he poured the contents of the stockpot into the primary fermentation bucket, added the yeast, and locked up the bucket with an airlock to let the CO2 out and keep oxygen from getting in.

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The class was very informative and allowed for socializing with my fellow Living Directors and I look forward to the second part of class.

Video Clips from the Home Brew Class:

Related Post: Company Homebrew Competition