End of Year Recap - Onward to 2018!

It's time for an update on our actual brewing. The Summer/Fall was taken over by travel and busy day job responsibilities however, we did make a lot of progress! The last brew related blog left off with our Pale Ale, Lupo conditioning in bottles, our Nugget hops producing a nice amount of cones and the planning of our new IPA called Chá Bomb. I promise you we have awesome updates on all of that and then some. And for the record....one last time I promise....I WILL DO A BETTER JOB AT UPDATING THIS BLOG. :)

Let's start off with Lupo. I had set out a goal on New Years Eve last year that I wanted to take Terra Costa into the all grain brewing level. We successfully did that (somewhat haha) with Lupo. With the jump to all grain I also wanted to get involved with my local homebrew club. I have heard great stories about the experiences homebrewers have in a club. All these stories told of valuable learning experiences and good networking opportunities. Conveniently enough, there was a club that met once a month within walking distance of my house.

I had been following them throughout last year via their Facebook page, just checking things out. Once I made the official jump to all grain I felt like I was worthy enough to show up to my first meeting. During club meetings, members bring a few bottles of fresh homebrew and pass them around a long table for all to try. The members then all have a taste and talk about the recipes, techniques and also give tips on how to tweak the process to make the beer a little better.

I was really nervous going into my first meeting...Mike came along so that helped a lot. It was like the first day of school in a new town. I didn't know any of these guys, I had no idea what level brewers they were and I was unsure of how accepting they would be. Mike and I were the first one's to get to the meeting. We took a seat and set our bottles of Lupo on the table. The room quickly began to fill up with members and their beers. The tasting started...There were all types of styles which was really great to be exposed to. Mike kept looking at me to throw a bottle of Lupo into the rotation. I was legit sweating because I was so nervous. My beer has barely been tasted by people outside my friends/family group so I was unsure about the honest response we were going to receive. I reached for my bottle opener and slid a bottle of Lupo to the guy next to me to start the rotation. The reactions all seemed to be pretty positive. I was more concerned about the two guys sitting at the head of the table who ran the club. I watched these guys pour some Lupo into their glass and my heart began to race. Chris, the president of the club took a sip and stood up....He hushed the room and asked who brewed this beer...My heart dropped to the floor..."I suck, that's it, my beer just isn't good", is what I thought. I raised my hand and said that I had made the beer he was holding in his hand. "This is fantastic, great job", Chris said. Wow. I was shocked and proud. It was only fitting that the beer that solidified my acceptance into the club was the one that I named after my grandfather. Im sure he was smiling down at me that night.

After we drank the homebrew dry, Chris informed us about an annual charity event that they participate in each year. It was a Harvest Fest in Glen Ridge, NJ in which the homebrew club present their beer to the public. This would be my first opportunity to serve my beer in a public setting. I volunteered right away and had two beers that would be perfect for the event.

Last fall we brewed a brown ale called, "Devils Kettle". It was a hit with our friends and honestly could be my favorite beer that we've brewed. I vowed to brew this beer again this fall and would be perfect for a fall harvest fest.

I also have been meaning to execute the Azorian Black Tea IPA that I've been tweaking in Beersmith and this would be a good stage to taste the waters with some people and share the story behind the beer. I had replaced the false bottom on our mash tun and it worked perfectly. We were ready to rock and roll.

Being that we didn't have much time between then and the event we had to get brewing right away. We managed to pull it off just in time. We had two fresh batches of Terra Costa beer for harvest fest. By law in the state of New Jersey, in order to serve homebrew to the public, there had to be a "contest" associated with the beer.

Mark and Mike telling the stories behind Devils Kettle & Cha Bomb at Harvest Fest

People attending harvest fest had the opportunity to taste beers from the homebrew club and vote for their favorites. We weren't keeping score, but it was cool to see complete strangers voting for our beer. I've been to many beer festivals and it was a great experience to be on the other side of the table this time. We were able to tell some of the stories behind our beer and get honest reactions from strangers. Needles to say, Chá Bomb was quite popular with not only people from the club, but attendees of harvest fest. You can read more about the story behind Chá Bomb in our blog entry, "Summer 2017 Level Up" https://www.terracostabrewing.com/single-post/2017/08/14/Summer-2017-LEVEL-UP

Quickly after harvest fest we had to jump on some more beers with the holidays quickly approaching. I wanted to take another stab at our Christmas Ale, "Boas Festas".

I've decided that it would be pretty cool to do a different variation of the beer each year to make it extra special.

This year I went with a Belgian Strong Ale brewed with cocoa nibs and fresh cherries. We also gave our new fermentor a spin with this beer. It's our first conical fermenter with a dump valve so we can primary and secondary ferment in the same vessel. The 2017 version of Boas Festas exceeded my expectations. God I love Beligian style brews....I do have a few bottles left which I plan on sealing them with wax and saving a few for next year.

During the holidays we tend to see a ton of friends and family. Each year we do go through quite a lot of homebrew so I knew that I had to do another batch of beer to share with everyone.

With that being said, we had quite the yield out of our second year Nugget hops. Through the summer I saw more and more surprised every time I passed by our plants. Each time I looked it seemed like there were several new cones forming on the various bines.

This year we harvested around eight ounces of Nugget hops, just enough for a nice IPA. During the holidays my friends and family who I haven't seen throughout the year always ask me how my hops were doing so I thought it would be pretty cool to share a beer with everyone made strictly with our hops.

We brewed up a simple American IPA recipe to let our hop flavor shine. This is the first time that I brewed with whole hops rather than pellets. It sure doesn't make for a different brew experience given the amount of water that the cones absorb. I'll have to tweak my mash water quantities next year. Regardless, we were able to produce a really nice full bodied IPA called "Homegrown". We're looking forward to next year's version as our plants should produce more hops and maybe with some higher acid numbers? We shall see!

Just as Homegrown and Boas Festas were finishing up, I received a note from members of our homebrew club. They were holding a warm up competition before the NHC competition season kicked off. They called for any beer style containing the terms : English, British or Irish and the beers would be judge BJCP style.

I quickly did some research and formulated a recipe for an Irish Red Ale and called it, "Come on You Reds Ale", paying homage to Manchester United. This is going to be our first competition and it's coming at a great time so that we can gain some experience with the score sheets before NHC starts. I kind of ran out of days in which I had to brew this beer.

The window was closing rapidly and it just so happened that the day I had slotted to brew this beer we had the first snow fall in Jersey. Snow/Brewday!

What is NHC? In 1979, 34 entries competed in the first American Homebrewers Association (AHA) National Homebrew Competition held in Boulder, Colorado.Today, the National Homebrew Competition (NHC) has become the largest homebrew competition in the world. The goal is simple: to celebrate the spirit of homebrewers. The competition gives homebrewers a chance to receive invaluable feedback on their entries and also recognizes the most outstanding, world-class homebrewed beer, mead and cider. Final round winners are revealed at Homebrew Con (this year in Portland, Oregon on June 30, 2018) *via https://www.homebrewersassociation.org

I feel as though getting involved with NHC will help us hone in our brewing skills more and broaden our horizons overall. It will allow us to continue to make better beer as we move along our journey known as Terra Costa. Registration for NHC begins on January 26th with regional judging happening starting April 6th. I plan on documenting and sharing this experience as we go so stay tuned for updates and wish us luck!

We'll check back in after our first club competition which is happening this Wednsday January 10th. Talk yo you all then!

-The Terra Costa Team

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