All posts for the month April, 2012

Northampton Brewing Company, the maker of Picaroons Traditional Ales,  is a brewery that has experienced the lowest of lows (closing down its operations) to the highest of highs (being named 2011 Canadian Brewery of the Year).  I’ve recently exchanged emails with Dennis Goodwin, the Information Manager for Picaroons, who consulted with owner / operator Sean Dunbar for answers to my questions and I also referenced some internet sources to complete this profile.

Picaroons was originally opened in 1994 by Sean Dunbar, a recently graduated UNB Law Student, and three other individuals with no background in brewing.  Here’s a quote of Sean’s from the Acorn Organic website to explain why he went into the brewing business:

“I just found the brewery business to be so much more interesting than what I saw in law firms,” Sean says about his choice to give up practicing law to become a full-time brewer.

Craig Pinhey’s excellent article in the Summer edition of TAPS, outlines the history of the brewery.  Here are quotes related to the brewery closing in October 1999:

Even through their beer sales are growing at 40% per year, Picaroons runs out of cash and all the equipment is sold by the receiver.  What brings them down?  “Idiot consultants and our own poor decisions.  It certainly wasn’t the beer’s fault” answers Dunbar.

In 2001, Sean re-opened Picaroons on his own.  Since then, Picaroons has enjoyed consistent growth in sales and added new brands to their portfolio.  While firm plans are not in place, it is likely that they will expand at some point in the foreseeable future to keep up with demand for their brews.

Their Beer
Picaroons produces between 6000 and 7000 HL of beer per year.  Two seasonals, Dooryard Summer Ale and Winter Warmer,  are their top sellers when in season.   Best Bitter is their best seller among the year round beers.

When I asked Dennis to describe each beer he explained how each beer is important to the company and designed to fit with the portfolio in mind.  “We think that you just try to use the very best ingredients you can, brew it with feeling and good beer will happen.   We don’t try to shock anyone with our beers.    We fail to see the point in that.   I want those people who want interesting beer to drink  to be able to drink it every day.  Each of our beer styles is intended to fill a need in the beer market.   We only make ales and are not likely to stray into the world of lagers, or Belgian styles, etc.   We’ll let other brewers come along,  find the stylistic niches and brew into them.    Our portfolio of beers is not designed haphazardly.   It is supposed to fit together.”

Below is a description of each of the beers that led to Picaroons being name 2011 Canadian Brewery of the year taken from the company’s website:

Best Bitter – A full-bodied, aromatic English-style pale ale. Flavour highlights include notes of caramel upfront, ending with a tangy hop punch.

Irish Red – A hearty meat ‘n’ potatoes Irish-style ale. Its malty sweetness coats the palate like candy, and is offset in the finish with spicy Goldings hops.

Dooryard Summer Ale – 100% Certified Organic Our quirky blend of three traditional wheat beer styles gives the palate a refreshing sunny burst of citrus and spice. Picaroons’ commitment to a healthy environment led to the creation of this “Certified Organic” beer.

Simeon Jones River Valley Amber Ale – Our reverence for the brewing history of New Brunswick culminated in the creation of this medium-bodied lightly-hopped ale. This accessible amber beer is an homage to Simeon Jones, former brewer and Mayor of Saint John, whose beer was known throughout the Maritimes for its robust flavour.

Winter Warmer – Our interpretation of the English barley wine is a big, strong hug of a beer. The intense alcoholic warmth sneaks up on the drinker, who is simply enjoying this beverage’s fruity nose, malty sweetness and mahogany hue.

Blonde Ale – Our Blonde Ale is the result of simple brewing techniques and quality ingredients; Maris Otter barley, West Coast hops, and Ringwood yeast, creating subtle yet complex flavours in a sociable pale ale.

Dark and Stormy Night – This Certified Organic ale is a stylistic hybrid of an English brown ale and a German dunkel weizen. It is dark in colour but light in texture, providing all the rich flavours of a stout or porter with the easy drinkability of a wheat beer.

Man’s Best Friend – This is a well-rounded porter, brewed to be assertively roasty and toasty with an approachably pleasant body; at once, soothing and invigorating.

Maple Cream – This brown cream ale is conditioned as a lager and brewed as an ale. The result is a beer that is well-endowed with rich malt flavours and the bitter/sweet accent of pure New Brunswick maple syrup.

Timber Hog – The classic Irish-style dry stout is the basic background of this aromatic ebony elixir but deviations may occur from batch to batch as we improvisationally wander through variations on the theme.

Yippee IPA – An East Coast-style India Pale Ale that weaves hop bitterness and aroma throughout a blanket of malt backgroung. This beer may change from batch to batch as we explore the various interpretations of the style.

Melon Head – Crisp and delicious, this feisty and flavourful ale is made from the equal marriage of Canadian 2-row barley and toasted wheat. Citrus notes pop with the addition of natural watermelon extract, leaving you with melons on your mind.

The vast majority of their beer is sold in New Brunswick with some sales coming in Nova Scotia.  Dennis estimates that they sell approximately 60% of their beer in bottles and 40% in kegs.

Brewery Tours
They do offer tours on an exceptional basis;  normally only for charity groups who purchase a tour and tasting at, for example, a silent auction.

One of the unique features of Picaroons is the Brewtique located at 422 Queen Street in downtown Fredericton which is open 7 days a week.  In it, Picaroons clothing and collectibles, 500 ml bottles, and growlers of fresh beer are available (they typically have about 5 beers available on tap at any given time).  It also has some interesting books in the store to browse through and some very interesting graphics about the history of brewing.  The Brewtique is a must stop for any beer geek remotely close to the area.

Internet Presence
Picaroons is very well represented on the net.  The have two websites:   the Picaroons website and Picaroons Pub which has member information,  news, their blog, videos, pics and what’s available on tap at the Brewtique.  They also have an active Facebook page and can be followed on Twitter @picaroons.

Community Involvement
Picaroons is heavily involved with their communityThey support a variety of environmental causes and are heavily involved with Arts initiatives in the Fredericton area.  They sponsored the Women Love Beer Too event in Fredericton this past March. 

Editor’s Note:  I mentioned a while back that guests posts would be appearing from time-to-time regarding beer travel.  Here is the first post from Raven and Sierra.

Raven and Sierra holding the Philadelphia Beer Week “Hammer of Glory”

So, what does Friday the Thirteenth and cask conditioned beer have in common? Well, if you are the vast majority of the world, nothing at all. But, if you happen to be in the great beer city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, plenty. Northeast Philly is home to the Grey Lodge Pub and for the past 15 years and 25 Friday the 13ths later the Grey Lodge has celebrated this “unlucky” day with a beer event of epic proportions–Friday the Firkinteenth!

Here is a little history regarding the event……Scoats, owner of The Grey Lodge, wanted start serving cask-conditioned ales at The Grey Lodge, but thought it needed some sort of push to get it going. He saw somewhere, and with enough time to plan ahead, that 1998 was going to have three Friday the 13ths (this happens about every 11 years). The phrase “Friday the Firkinteenth” came to him in a vision while riding the Market Frankford SEPTA line and the rest is history!

Scoats – the owner of The Grey Lodge

From beer writer Jack Curtin, “”This whole thing makes no sense whatsoever. It’s totally random because the timing is entirely at the mercy of the calendar. It’s held in this tiny neighborhood bar in Northeast Philadelphia, an area which is not exactly your mecca for great beer. Yet virtually every brewer within shouting distance would kill to be a part of it and people come from all over to stand shoulder-to-shoulder and hope they can get a beer from bartenders who are incredibly overworked. Scoats is either a genius or an idiot savant, I can’t decide which. But God bless him.”

For those who are wondering, “what the hell is a firkin”, here is a bit of information.  Firkins and pins are two sizes of casks. A firkin is 40.8 liters (10.8 US gallons). A pin is 20.4 liters (5.4 gallons). A typical U.S. 1/2 barrel is 15.5 gallons.

This past week Sierra and I met up with some beer friends who traveled up from North Carolina to celebrate the 25th Friday the Firkinteenth.  The weather was near perfect and with that we ventured to the pub in time to be nicely postioned for the 12 noon tap time of the first seven firkins. In case you are wondering 22 firkins were acquired for the event with seven firkins pouring at any time (except when they got down to less than 7), tapping a new one as one kicks. The order of the casks were totally random.

The line up was as follows–

Cricket Hill Hopnotic IPA
Dark Horse Crooked Tree
Dock Street Rye IPA, dry-hopped
Dogfish Head 75 Minute IPA
Flying Fish Farmhouse
Free Will Citra Pale Ale
Ithaca Nut Brown
Manayunk Dreamin Double IPA
Manayunk Oatmeal Stout
Nodding Head 60 Shilling
Philadelphia Engine 1892 Market Stout
Prism White Lightning
Ruddles Country Ale
Sly Fox Chester County Brown
Sly Fox Oatmeal Stout
Sixpoint Brownstone
Stoudts Scarlet Lady ESB
Troegs Hopback Amber
Victory Headwaters Pale Ale
Weyerbacher Blanche
Yards Brawler
Yards ESA

With plenty of good friends, good beer abounding and an appearance of Philly Beer Week’s very own Hammer of Glory we hung in all day and at least sampled from each one of the 22 firkins tapped. The last firkin, tapped around 7 P.M., was the Philadelphia Brewing Company’s 1892 Stout. This beer was brewed to celebrate Reading Terminal Market’s 120th anniversary. The market, a city icon, is an enclosed public market found at 12th and Arch Streets in downtown Philadelphia. Over one hundred merchants offer fresh produce, meats, fish, groceries, ice cream, flowers, baked goods, crafts, books, clothing, and specialty and ethnic foods.

Standouts from the day include–Dock Street dry hopped Rye PA, Ithaca Nut Brown, Free Will Brewing Citra Pale, Manayunk Dreamin Double IPA, the aforementioned PBC 1892 Stout and Weyerbacher Blanche.

All in all a fantastic time was had by all. Kudos to Scoats for pulling off another flawless event!

If you are looking for a summer beercation idea the city of Philadelphia would be happy to welcome you for a visit. The next Friday the Firkinteenth will take place at The Grey Lodge Pub, 6235 Frankford Avenue, on July 13, 2012.

Editor’s note:  To see additional pics of the event, check out the Friday the Firkinteeth Photo Album on the Atlantic Canada Beer Blog Facebook Page.

Tickets are now on sale for this year’s Atlantic Canada Beer Festival.  The event will take place at the Moncton Coliseum Saturday, May 26th. There will be 2 sessions as in years’ past;  one from 2:30 to 5:00 and one from 7:30 to 10:00.

Tickets can be ordered online or purchased at the Coliseum Box Office, the Pump House Brewery, the BarnYard BBQ and Sobey’s stores throughout Greater Moncton.  Tickets are $44.50 and include the cost of shuttle bus service after the event.

More information for the event is available by calling 1-877-968-2337.

As per the event’s Twitter account (@SJBeerFest), there are still some tickets left for this Saturday’s inaugural Saint John Beer Fest. Tickets are available exclusively at Harbour Station and can be ordered over the phone at 506-657-1234 or 1-800-267-2800 or picked up at the Box Office during regular hours.  Tickets for this event cannot be ordered online.

Here is a link to a previous post about the brewers and beers that will be available.

For out of town travelers, a special Beer Fest room rate of $99 is available at the Saint John Hilton.  Either mention “Saint John Beer Fest” or “BEEA12” to qualify for the reduced rate.

Brewnosers is a group of Atlantic Canadian beer enthusiasts comprised of mostly homebrewers but general beer geeks as well.  I recently exchanged emails with one of the members, Chris McDonald, to learn more about the club.  Chris reached out to one of the original 4 members of the club, Jeff Pinhey, to help out with my questions related to the history of the club.  Here is the Q & A:

Atlantic Canada Beer Blogger (ACBB):  Tell me about the background of the club.

Chris McDonald (BN): The Brewnosers was started by four friends in 1986 in Halifax. Fed up with the lack of good beer available in NS, these friends would swap homebrew and good beer brought back from other provinces and countries. Those original members are still around, two are still very active in the club. The group grew through the addition of friends, co-workers, and beer-enthusiast strangers to the fold, and now numbers over 200 who self-identify as Brewnosers.
One of the reasons the group has been around so long is our lack of formal structure, rules, or fees. The only rule is that you can’t drink shitty beer (unless it’s the only beer on the menu, or it was given to you).
We have three policies that are self evident, in some ways.  We are not just beer drinkers, we are hell raisers – that is, we sometimes function as a beer advocacy group, and that includes responsible consumption. No one likes a hypocrite, and we ask people to know their limits and not drive when they shouldn’t.  We also ask members to take the opportunity, when presented, to advocate for better beer, be it homebrew, or commercial beer. “Don’t be shy” when the media call. And, most importantly, we all try to bring beer home to share with our clubmates when we are travelling.  There’s always another new beer out there.

ACBB: How long have you been involved with the club?

BN:  I’ve been involved with the club for about 5 years, since hearing about it through the Coast (our local weekly alt paper). I went to one meeting with some beer I’d brought back from the US, and was pleasantly surprised that there were others like me: thirsty beer lovers looking to share our knowledge and access to interesting beer.

ACBB:  Tell me about the club today.

BN:  Once a Brewnoser, always a Brewnoser, we say! On our forums and email list, we’ve got over 200 members. Not all of them are in the Halifax/HRM area so they’ve created their own “splinter” groups; there is a strong contingent in PEI (the Aleanders), the Sackville-Amherst corridor (Sackville-Amherst Area Zymurgists, SAAZ), as well as Newfoundland and BC, and parts in between. We also have some members in the US.

ACBB:  How many events does the club typically have in a year?

BN:  During our monthly meetings (second Tuesday of the month), we will typically have 10-15 members come out to share homebrew and special beers from here and away.  We also host a quarterly themed get-together, which will attract 30+ members and friends and family: we just recently had a Rye IPA tasting, with over 20 different homebrewed and commercial Rye IPAs, and will once again host a Hoptoberfest event in the Fall. There is also a good number of members who will partake in other groups events, like Big Strange Brew NB and March in Montreal.

ACBB:  Can you give me an overview of the website?

BN:  The focal point of our website is the forum. There we share homebrewing and cooking recipes, beer release information, BN events and brewpub visits, and general beer-related information. We also have Classifieds for people looking to buy or sell homebrewing or related equipment, and a spot for beer-centric vendors to post about specials they might be able to extend to BN members.

ACBB: How does someone join the club?

BN:  If you can abide by our one rule and policies, then joining the club is as simple as signing up on the forum and saying “Hi!”. Come out to one of the monthly meetings, or get-togethers at the Rockbottom, Hart & Thistle or Rogue’s Roost. Just look for the table of handsome guys and gals enjoying a well-made pint.

ACBB:  Are any professional brewers part of your group?  Have any members started within this group and gone on to brew professionally?

BN:  We do have some professional brewers in our midst, including local brewer Greg Nash (of Rockbottom and Hart & Thistle). We also have members who brew or work at other breweries in the Maritimes (Garrison, Big Tide, etc). The information they give the group is excellent and bring the quality of all our brews up considerably.
While I’m not sure if any of our members have recently opened their own breweries, there are quite a few people who are close, or are going to professional brewing school to make that a reality.

ACBB:  Are there any local homebrewing competitions?  Do any members attend any events in other parts of the country?

BN:  The only BJCP-sanctioned event in the Maritimes right now is the Garrison Brew-off, which wrapped up last month. There is always a strong Brewnoser presence in the finals. We do have informal competitions for members, and will be launching some more shortly (think “Iron Chef”, but for beer). Our members have entered and done very well in competitions across the country and North America, with very strong showings in the Toronto Beer Week competition (look for Tim Gregory’s Dubbel to be released by Beau’s Brewing in the summer).
Newfoundland Member Tony Legge is one of our most prolific competition brewers, putting our name on the map at competitions across the country!
In the past, we were quite active and won the Best Club in Canada in 1996, awarded by the Canadian Amateur Brewers Association (CABA). And as I write, one of our members (and co-founder) Jeff Pinhey is in Montreal at “March in Montreal”, an annual CABA event. He also is one of the invited judges at the Canadian Brewing Awards.

ACBB:   Have any members received or scheduled to receive formal training / certification?

BN: Several of our members are BJCP-sanctioned judges, including a National-level judge. Our members have attended the American Brewers Guild, the Siebel Institute, and will be attending the Niagara College Brewmaster Program. We have a Beer Judge Certification Program exam scheduled for Halifax in early 2013, and plan on ramping up the competition side once we have some more local judged.

ACBB:   What tips do you have for anyone looking to get into homebrewing for the first time?

BN:  If someone is interested in getting into homebrewing beer, my best piece of advice is “Just Brew It!”. Pick a style you like, and try to make that beer. All of the reading of books and forums, or listening to podcasts is immaterial if you haven’t yet made a batch of beer. You can start simple with a canned kit from the grocery store or a Festa Brew from your local homebrew store. After you brew it, share it with friends and family, maybe the homebrew shop where you purchased the kit. Ask, What did you do right? What did you do wrong? After that, you might want to get into adjusting their recipes to your tastes, so a partial mash (steeping grains with added malt) is the way to go.
After you’ve conquered that technique, it might be time to graduate to all-grain brewing, where you have supreme control over the entire process of the beer.
We have members at all stages of the process, and we’d love to help new brewers with any questions they might have.
Besides the Brewnosers forum, John Palmer’s excellent book “How to Brew” is online for free, and has excellent information for new and veteran brewers alike. “Brewing Classic Styles” from Jamil Zainasheff and John Palmer has great extract/all-grain recipes for most every style of beer, along with great general information.

Here’s an overview of Atlantic Canadian beer news and reading from this past week:

Excellent article from Craig Pinhey:  Libations: Brewtopian dining

Brewnoser BPA is available on tap at Rockbottom Brewpub starting today.  So is Blackness, which is a “West Coast-style Robust Porter”, at Hart & Thistle.

Here’s what’s currently available at the Picaroons Brewtique.  Don’t forget about their Easter Keg Hunt and to send them a picture of your cat.

Sample some Propeller Bitter, IPA and Porter as part of this week’s Three Course Thursday at the Foggy Goggle.

The PEI Beer Guy has recently sampled Alchemist Heady Topper and Saint Bernardus’ Grottenbier Bruin.

The guys from Darkside Brewing have tasting notes for the winner of Garrison’s 2011 Ultimate Brew Off, Garrison Schwarz.

Here are tasting notes from Old Brown Shoe from Meek Brewing.

Darkside Brewing is another in a growing number of Atlantic Canadian beer related blogs.  The blog covers off homebrewing and the Halifax beer scene and with references to Guns N’ Roses and House of Pain mixed in.   Here’s the Q & A with the guys behind the blog, Earl and Drew.

Atlantic Canada Beer Blogger (ACBB):  Describe your blog.

Earl: Darkside Brewing is place for us to share our experiences with homebrewing and beer in general, with the latter focusing on, but not limited to, the Halifax area. Local beer reviews have become a big part of what we do, and seem to gain the most traction with the community. The blog also serves as kind of a creative vehicle for us, leading to some pretty random stuff (i.e. an apology letter to a beer we misjudged after destroying our palates with potent IPAs and spicy nachos) and a distinct pop-culture tilt to most of our material (i.e. the development cycle of our Rye IPA, ‘Rye Hard,’ was presented in posts following the arc of the Die Hard films). I think that one thing that’s really important for the blog is accessibility – there are a lot of really great books and blogs out there, and a lot of people whose beer and brewing knowledge dwarfs ours, but we try to present things in a way that (we hope) is interesting to both experts and more casual beer drinkers or brewers. Another key point is humility – we aren’t experts, and don’t pretend to be; we’re really learning as we go.

ACBB: Tell me about your background in homebrewing.

Drew: My experience with homebrewing goes back quite a ways – I used to help my father with wine and beer kits as a teenager. My first solo effort came as more of an experiment. After learning that wine was fermented grape juice, I figured I should try something else, and unfortunately went with oranges. It really was terrible, and I’m surprised it didn’t drive me away from homebrewing altogether. Although we did end up drinking all of it. More recently I got back into making wine, and then when Earl started talking about trying beer, I was all for it.

Earl: My development has been a bit more rapid. After Drew’s failed orange wine experiment, it’s amazing that I even considered taking up brewing… and also that I still have my vision. That stuff was pretty nuts. I had helped Drew with a couple of wine batches over the past couple of years, but wasn’t overly impressed, as I seemed to just end up stirring stuff.

Drew:  He was a very belligerent stirrer.

Earl: I have a background in science, and spent a lot of my university years in labs – stirring wasn’t doing it for me. I needed more control, to be able to really get involved with the process and understand what was going on. I didn’t realize it at the time, but the seeds for getting into all-grain homebrewing had been sown.

Drew:  It didn’t take long for those seeds to germinate. After one beer kit, we dove right into all-grain. We’ve completed 10 batches so far, with the first three being total failures. It was our fifth batch, an oatmeal stout, which was the first beer we made that was genuinely good.

Earl: That one kit we made was pretty disgusting. Well, Drew drank it all, anyway. But he used to drink a lot of Coors Light, so his credibility is suspect at times.

Drew:  The kit wasn’t that bad, but with my history, I guess it’s evident that I’m less selective than others.

ACBB: Why did you decide to get into both homebrewing and blogging?

Drew:  We both really started getting into beer about a year and a half ago, maturing from a somewhat standard practice of drinking a case of Coors Light while playing Rock Band on Friday nights.

Earl: I feel I need to interject that I was never super keen on Coors Light. Granted, it was highly conducive to mass consumption over extended periods of plastic instrument fueled debauchery, but I was more into English/European stuff at the time – Newcastle Brown, Heineken, Carlsberg, etc. We both have a strange fascination with Alpine in camouflage cans, though. I don’t know why, but their marketing department is to be applauded.

Drew: We’re both into focusing on local stuff, so we were naturally drawn to Garrison and Propeller. That really opened the door to enjoying beer because it was good, and not just because drinking it was something to do. This new fascination with beer eventually morphed into wanting to try to make our own, so we jumped right in.

Earl: Really getting into local beer, and craft beer in general, was a huge part of us getting started. I think another big part was finding something that we could do that involved hanging out and (often) drinking that was a bit more productive. I mean, you can only play so much Rock Band. We also wanted more control over what we produced, especially as we really like hoppy and more complex beers.

Drew: There is also something very satisfying about making a good beer and being able to share it with others. I’ll admit, our first drinkable batch only seemed good compared to how awful the previous ones had been, but friends and family choked it down and provided support regardless. They actually ask for seconds now, which is a good sign that it isn’t just us who thinks our beer is improving.

Earl: As for the blog, it came about for a few different reasons. First, we weren’t great at taking notes early on, so a blog would provide a nice archive of our brews and experiences. Second, as I touched on above, it would also provide a creative outlet for us. We have often discussed wanting to write something together, and even started a novel at one point, but a blog fit better into our lives and schedules.

Drew:  I still think our book about were-squirrels was an excellent idea!

Earl: It was were-gerbils! We were going for vampire fiction satire. Anyway, back to the genesis of the blog – another key factor was that we thought if anything ever came from our brewing and we got involved with the industry in some capacity, it would be neat if our development to that point was all tracked on the blog, and people had followed along with us and been part of that development. We both have a connection to a webcomic called Penny Arcade, which is something two guys started because they enjoyed doing it, and has now become a huge commercial success. A big part of our connection with this site and these guys is that we were able to follow them from early on; it just seems like we understand them and can relate to them, and we hope that people who read Darkside Brewing can build a similar connection.

Drew: Agreed on all fronts. Both brewing and blogging are excellent creative outlets, and with a day job that can drive me nuts sometimes that’s important. Also, it’s great to do both as a team. My grammar and spelling definitely benefit from Earl reviewing what I right (Earl note: I didn’t correct ‘right’ to ‘write’ so that you can see what he’s talking about, but it’s not normally that bad), and I help keep him slightly grounded when it comes to recipe development. I don’t think the world is ready for a beer with five different base malts and over 200 IBUs.

Earl: I’m sure those beers exist! We’re probably not quite ready for them, though. One thing I find really interesting is how the blog has evolved to include local beer reviews. Our first review, of the Propeller/Hart and Thistle Imperial ESB Collaboration Ale, just kind of happened because we were really blown away by that particular beer and wanted to share our thoughts and excitement. The response to that review was really positive, and helped us to build a bit more of a following. This prompted our next review, of Garrison’s Spruce Beer, which is still the most viewed post on our blog. With these reviews, it seemed like we were able to tap into the collective excitement in the community surrounding these releases. A lot of people would comment on new beers via Twitter or Facebook, but no one seemed to be putting out detailed tasting notes (at least locally), so we kind of filled that vacuum. Not to say that our reviews are any kind of authority, of course, but we try to provide an element of perspective to help people decide if these new brews may or may not be something they enjoy.

ACBB:  Are you members of any homebrewing clubs?

Drew:  We regularly lurk around the Brewnosers forum, but we haven’t made it to any meetings yet. They seem like a really great group though, so we do hope to get more involved.

Earl: Definitely. They really know their stuff, and even though we’re kind of fringe members, they’ve always provided really great input and advice for any questions we’ve posed.

ACBB: What are the best resources you have access to for homebrewing knowledge?

Drew: John Palmer, both through his book and website, was our primary source of knowledge in the beginning, and he proved to be a great resource for beginners. I’d also like to give a shoutout to Ron at Noble Grape in Burnside; he’s been a great sounding-board for our recipe ideas and his knowledge of all-grain homebrewing has really helped us.

Earl: The Brewnosers forums have also been a great resource. We’ve asked about a few things directly, but have also learned a lot just from reading the various posts. In terms of recipe creation, Beersmith software is pretty great. There are some nuances we still don’t really get, but it provides a really nice guideline for whichever style you’re looking to make. Beyond the software itself, I like the Beersmith blog posts a lot. They give general overviews of different styles, so essentially the framework for a given recipe, but still leave some latitude for you to tweak it to your particular taste. Of course, other beer blogs are a great resource, as well. Meek Brewing Co. and Hoptomology are two that I like to check out pretty regularly.

ACBB:  Describe your homebrewing setup.

Drew: All of our brewing takes place in the kitchen of my condo using equipment we’ve bought or pieced together ourselves. We made the mash tun out of a round cooler with a false bottom and a ball valve to regulate flow, but it’s still a work in progress, as we’re not always getting the efficiency we’d like out of it.  Our brew kettle is a 30 litre aluminum pot I picked up from Big Eric’s in Halifax, which is a great place for getting such things. Unfortunately we have to use my stove as our heat source, so that can make for really long boil times. Conversely, we picked up a really sweet copper chiller from Noble Grape that cools the wort in no time.

Earl: And a kegerator! Spurned by failed attempts at bottle carbonation early on, Drew invested in a kegerator for his condo, which is basically a small fridge with a single tap. It can hold two 19 L kegs, which is handy. There are those who prefer natural carbonation over forced carbonation, and I get the appeal, but at this point in time, I really enjoy the consistency that comes from the latter. Also, I think it’s important to acknowledge Drew’s self control in not drinking all of our beer, which is conveniently on tap in his laundry room.

Drew: I’d like to thank Earl and the rest of the guys for getting me the kegging equipment for my birthday last year. It really made the whole kegerator thing work!  Another batch lost due to lack of carbonation would have probably ended the entire endeavor.

ACBB:  What are your favourite types of posts?

Drew:  I really liked Earl’s post on beer travel, but unfortunately we don’t get to travel to awesome places (like the Czech Republic) to drink beer all that often. I like writing about our homebrewing, as it’s always a learning experience and it’s nice to document what we’ve done, both for ourselves and for others.

Earl: I’ve come to really enjoy the local beer reviews. We follow closely the releases from the local breweries, so there’s an element of anticipation to try these as soon as they become available. Sitting down with a new brew, comparing tasting notes, and then putting together a review is something we both really enjoy. This is magnified by the excitement about these releases in the local community, as I touched on above. I also like the home brewing notes and random posts like the apology letter and Deadliest Brew, that don’t get the same response as the reviews, but I think allow us to express our personalities a bit more.

ACBB:  What beer related festivals are you planning on attending this year?

Drew: Well, we have two festivals currently on the radar: the Saint John Beerfest in mid-April and the (Halifax) Seaport Beerfest in August. We’ve attended the latter regularly over the past few years, but this will be our first trip to Saint John. We’re really looking forward to it, both for the beer and for the opportunity to meet some of the people up that way. We will definitely be blogging about it in the near future.