Ready, Set, Ferment: Internal Homebrew Competition

The word homebrew means something different to everyone. For some it’s the bucket of grocery store apple juice and bread yeast in the dorm room closet to make cider for your friends. To others, it is an artistic expression of flavour and a chance to get creative. To a select few, you’re too far to be saved and like u/throwawaypaycheck1 on r/holdmywort.

At any rate, homebrewing is part of the roots of Escarpment Labs and is something that brings the staff together. This is more than apparent when searching for spare equipment in the loft of our 8 Smith production facility and tripping over one of the many dozens of dusty cases of Richard’s homebrew. While brewing is a core fundamental part of the company, the current events and a fortunate bump to the work-load, the internal homebrewing has slowed to just trialling lab media and the few homebrew’s for R&D or experimentation.

Luckily, someone (Nate) had noticed this, and came up with an idea to encourage and reignite the passion for brewing. And so he brought forth the proposition to have an internal brewing competition.

The Challenge: Brew your best dark beer

The Carrot: For every person who joins, EYL will put $50 into a pot. The top 3 will have a distribution of 60%, 25%, and 15% of the pot to put towards any charity or foundation of their choice.

Now, while many of us at EYL have some background in brewing, whether it was professionally, enthusiast homebrewing, or bucket-ciders in the dorm closet; a surprising few of the staff had next to no experience with the hobby. Part of the proposition of the challenge is for staff to team up to be able to learn from each other and help (with obvious restrictions of staying within each department). With 17 people participating in 10 different teams, and just shy of a grand on the line, the metaphorical gates were opened and the brewers were let loose.

Over 2 months, each team used one of 2 Brewzilla systems to brew their beer with a variety of malts we had stockpiled earlier in the season. By Christmas all 10 beers were sitting in kegs, carbonated and ready to be served.

Once the holidays were done, and the craze had settled, the beers were bottled into 2L growlers and then identified “blindly” with a number (as blindly as you can get with 10 unique beers). Each facility received 1 growler of each beer. To try and mitigate any potential spread of disease, one member of each facility was designated as the pourer. Each member would line up and come to the pouring station one at a time, where the pouring would re-sanitize gloves, rinse out the taster glass, top it up and then re-sanitize again. 

With each beer, tasters were asked to rate their preference on a scale of 1 to 5 (1 being "I do not like”, 5 being “Can’t stop, won’t stop [drinking]”) and a short comments section. The scores were then averaged to find the winner and the two runners up.

After all the tasting was all done, the winner was announced.

The Results:

1st: Team Boringbier’s (Patrick) Dry Stout @ 4.18

2nd: Team Katzenbrau’s (Chris and V) Dunkelweizen @ 4.17

3rd: Team Beef Patty’s (Sarah and Luisa) Oatmeal Stout @ 3.8

* The recipes for the top 3 can be found below.


Let’s not beat around the bush here. Both of the top two were (and in my heart, still are) professional brewers. The dry stout was phenomenally balanced between the dark roasted malts and the dry crisp finish, which was juxtaposed by the deliciously fruity, full bodied and toasty Dunkelweizen (which I had taken home the leftovers and crushed that weekend). Running up in 3rd was the Lab team of Sarah and Luisa, no big surprise on that either. While I myself am not a huge fan of full bodied stouts, Sarah did a stellar job with her first self-brewed beer (Luisa swears it was all Sarah).

Honourable mentions go out to the Co-op team which attempted their first kettle sour, and despite not meeting the “Dark Beer” requirement scored decently even with the -1 point penalty. Many others attempted firsts, one had attempted a Black Gose using squid ink and proceeded to clog 2 keg dip tubes and a beverage disconnect, another attempted adding spices to beer for the first time, and even our very own Homebrew Lead, Jonah, used Special B for the first time.

Our winners also chose some important local organizations to donate to. Team Boringbier (Pat) donated his winnings to the 1492 Landback Lane Legal Fund. Team Kratzenbrau (Chris and V) and Team Beef Patty (Sarah and Luisa) pooled their winnings to donate to the Hamilton Centre for Civic Inclusion

But with all honesty, I have to admit that it was a good time. While there were a few hiccups along the way (I’m looking at you, whoever put their blowoff onto the out keg post and dumped wort on the floor over the weekend), the event brought a lot of joy of the homebrewing back to a few of us at Escarpment Labs. Brewing something for others to enjoy and experience can be a very rewarding task, and I hope I can speak for the majority that we can be pretty proud of our products.

Stay tuned for more. Our spring competition will be a twist on a long time classic: The Yeast of Fortune.


BoringBier Dry Stout

Batch Size: 19L

Original Gravity: 1.043

Final Gravity: 1.010

ABV (predicted):  4.3%

IBU: 36 (Tinseth)

Colour: 86.5 EBC

Fermentables (3.358 kg):

  • 2.2kg / 65.5% Maris Otter (Crisp)
  • 454g / 13.5% Flaked Barley (Briess)
  • 454g/ 13.5% Roasted Barley (Thomas Fawcett)
  • 250g/ 7.5% Acidulated Malt (Weyermann)

Mash profile:

Single infusion at 65 °C - 60 min

pH: ~ 5.4

Water profile:

Ca2+

Mg2+

Na2+

Cl1-

SO42-

HCO4-

60

19

46

80

51

273

                                      *measurements in ppm
                                      **estimation based on Guelph’s median values

Water Additions:

  • Mash - 2.5mL - Lactic Acid 88%
  • Sparge - 5.7mL - Lactic Acid 88%
  • Boil - 60min - 1 campden tablet
  • Boil - 15min - 1 whirlfloc tablet
  • Post-fermentation - Lactic Acid 88% - To taste (very descriptive Pat, making this real easy)

Hops:
60min - 56g - East Kent Goldings (4.5% AA, 36 IBU)

Yeast:

English Ale II - Escarpment Labs - Direct pitch (>180 billion cells)

Fermentation Profile:
Primary 14 days at 20 °C ambient in a corney keg. Transferred to serving keg, force carbonated and packaged into growlers.

Drei Katzen Dunkelweizen

Batch Size: 22L

Original Gravity: 1.055

Final Gravity: 1.014

ABV (predicted): 5.4%

IBU: 16 (Tinseth)

Colour: 15.5 SRM

Fermentables (4.875 kg):

  • 3kg / 61.5% Wheat malt (Weyermann)
  • 1.5kg / 30.8% Bohemian Pilsner (Weyermann)
  • 150g / 3.1% Caramunich I (Weyermann)
  • 150g / 3.1% Special B (Dingemans)
  • 75g / 1.5% Black malt (Bairds)

Mash profile:

44 °C - Ferulic Acid rest - 15min

67 °C - Saccharification rest - 30min

pH: ~ 5.3

Water profile: (Hamilton Tap Water)

Ca2+

Mg2+

Na2+

Cl1-

SO42-

HCO4-

65

9

14

58

59

104

                                      *measurements in ppm
                                      **estimation based on Guelph’s median values
Water Additions:

  • Mash - 1 g - Calcium Chloride
  • Mash - 1 g - Gypsum
  • Mash - 6 mL - Lactic acid 88%
  • Sparge - 0.85 g - Calcium Chloride
  • Sparge - 0.85 g. - Gypsum

Hops:
60 min - 14g - Columbus (CTZ) (10% AA, 16 IBU)

Yeast:
Weizen I - Escarpment Labs- direct pitch (~140 billion cells)

Fermentation Profile:
14 day Primary at 20 °C and packaged into bottles with priming sugar.

Team Beef Patty’s Oatmeal Stout

Batch Size: 23L

Original Gravity: 1.060

Final Gravity: 1.016

ABV (predicted): 

IBU: 35

Colour: 73.5 EBC

Fermentables (total 5.9 kg):

  • 3kg / 50.9% Maris Otter (Crisp)
  • 1kg / 17% Munich II (Weyermann)
  • 900g / 15.3% Vienna (Weyermann)
  • 500g / 8.5% Flaked Oats (Briess)
  • 300g / 5.1% Chocolate Malt (Thomas Fawcett)
  • 200g / 3.4% Roast Barley (Thomas Fawcett)

Mash profile:

  • 65 °C - Saccharification rest - 60min

[Water Profile was not given for this recipe :( ]  

Hops:

  • 60 min - 28g - Chinook (12%, 32 IBU)
  • 2 min - 25g - Cascade (5.5%, 1 IBU)
  • 2 min - 20g - Columbus (13%, 2 IBU)

Yeast:

English Ale II - Escarpment Labs - Direct pitch (>180billion cells)

Fermentation Profile:
Fermented at 19 °C for 2 weeks in corney keg. Cold crashed and then transferred to a serving keg, forced carbonated and bottled into growlers.


Keep your eye on the blog for more recipes - coming soon!