NEW Homebrewery + Spring/Summer Competition Re-Cap

The recent winter competition success created a whole new level of obsession to the hobby....I wanted to keep getting better and to tweak the recipes that have been having success. On a whim I also entered the new American Amber Ale, "Antilia" in a few competitions. I originally brewed this beer for this year's Portugal Day get together in early June. Since I had a few bottles left I figured that I would test the waters with a few upcoming competitions and boy was I glad that I did. Antilia has joined our Irish Red Ale, "Come On You Reds" as our two competition ringers!

In July we took home two Silver medals at Ohio Beer week. Both Antilia and Come On You Reds took medals at their tables. Next up was the For What It's Wort Competition in Illinois where Antilia continued it's success.

It landed Gold out of 15 entires and moved onto the Best of Show round where it took 2nd place out of 175 overall entries! Since we scored so high in this competition, Antilia was chosen for a ramp up batch to be brewed with Keg Grove Brewing Company in Bloomington, IL!

We will be flying out the last weekend of September to brew this beer on their 7 bbl system. Never in my mind did I think that I would have this opportunity, at least not this early in my competitive homebrewing career. This trip/experience is going to be invaluable for me during my journey to one day taking Terra Costa pro. I will be sure document the trip as best as I can and update you all once I get back to Jersey in early October.

We wrapped up the summer competition schedule with a silver medal for Antilia at the Manitowoc County Fair in Wisconsin.

I really stretched these last two batches as long as I could and it showed. After the Manitowoc competition, I also entered Malt Madness in Pennsylvania which was a huge competition with almost 400 total entries, we failed to medal, but still received respectful scores. We had a similar experience with a competition in Missouri, which also saw strong competition, but yielded respectful scores as well. Even when we don't medal, we still get our scoresheets which are full of helpful tips and feedback. I went back to the drawing board and made some notes for the upcoming re-brews of Antilia and Come On You Reds.

The reason why we had a two month gap in-between brew days was due to the fact that we were in the process of building out our new homebrewery in our garage. It was something I've been dreaming up for a while and was extra inspired after the trip out to Homebrew Con.

Our garage was full of scrap wood and was packed to the gills with miscelanous things. As first time homebuyers, we tried to keep all the free lumber in case we needed to use it for future DIY projects. Many projects came and went over the past 3 years, but none of which included the full wall of stacked lumber. Now behind every obsessed homebrewer is a hero....a great supporting wife. Kate and I spent an entire day clearing out all of the wood and piling it into our driveway.

The garage was spotless and full of potential however, there was a giant pile of lumber that we had no idea what to do with. We decided to just go to Homedepot and bite the bullet on one of those oversized dumpster bags.

The plan worked out beautifully and doubled as a receptacle for pieces of our retaining wall that has been crumbling.

We now had a blank canvas to work with. Corrugated metal always caught my eye as you would frequently see it present in many brewery aesthetics. I thought it would make for a nice backsplash to my burners. I wanted this project to be an exercise to prove that I can actually use a power tool properly. I had gotten a new driver for Christmas from the In-Law's (no not for golfing) and installing some corrugated metal seemed to be the perfect opportunity to do so.

I spent another full afternoon installing the metal pieces, sometimes by stretching my body in awkward positions to fasten them to the wall. I think it worked out pretty well and I was really happy with how it came out.

I kicked around ideas about a table to hold my kettles and was able to repurpose an old workbench that was under the rubble in the garage.

The burners/kettles fit perfectly! The dual propane tanks also had a nice little home underneath the table and the cables to the burners reached perfectly...a match made in homebrew heaven.

There were a few things that I wanted to accomplish with having a bigger/designated brewing space. I wanted to hone my craft more through the use of some new tools/techniques. I wanted to enter the world of brew pumps and master recirculation practices. I also wanted to develop a relationship with a local craft maltser and begin to mill my own base malts. I currently have communication open with Deer Creek Malthouse outside of Philadelphia. After a malt analysis I was really happy with the quality of product they produce, so stay tuned on updates there! Lastly, I wanted to control my fermentation temperature. I know...I know... this is rather important, but truth of the matter is, I just haven't had to time or space to do so. I opted for a 7 cu. ft. chest freezer and a ceramic heater running through a trusty Inkbird temperature controller.

The stage was now set and now its time to dial in the new system setup. As I type this entry I am two brew days deep into the new brewhouse and Im over the moon with the results. I still have a tweaks to make, but I should be comfortable in no time at all.

What's next? Well I have two ringer recipes that have been doing well in competition. I will be more comfortable once I reach 3 or 4. I should get there before its time for NHC regionals. Currently Im looking into a Porter and a Belgian style beer. My Roggenbier also has room for improvement and I do plan on dialing that recipe in as well.

I still haven't made the jump to kegging just yet...Again, space/capacity is still a slight issue and Im also hesitant to experiment with bottling from a carbed keg especially when it comes to packaging competition beers. I'll get there though....one thing at a time.

Until then, CHEERS!

-Mark

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