March 7, 2015

Lessons Learned from a Homebrew Competition, Episode 2 (with 3 Recipes)

Once again I attended the Brewerie’s Annual Homebrew Fest, the Brewer's Cup. And once again I had an interesting experience serving soda at a beer event.  Even though I did this two years ago I feel I've come out with a few more lessons to learn for any homebrew event.

1. Serving from real faucets makes things so much easier.
This past year I picked up some fabulous Stainless Steel Perlick faucets for serving from my kegerator.  I had them mounted on some wooden slats that clipped to the beverage tub so I didn't need a drip tray.  These are by far the best thing I have done for dispensing soda.  The picnic taps I used two years ago got sticky, they were difficult to keep in place, and didn't adequately show what I had available to taste.  The Perlicks kept things cleaner, more organized, and the oversize bottle cap tap handles let people know what's on tap.  Though, people who see them and are familiar with draft dispensing equipment are always amazed I would spend that much "just for serving soda".  I think a lot of people don't realize the big difference there is between serving beer and serving soda.  Soda is lower pH (more acidic) and thus would eat through chrome plated brass faucets much more quickly.  So stainless steel is a must.  Soda is also higher in sugar content and stickier, so having a forward sealing design with less space for residual liquid to accumulate seemed like a better idea.  I've never let beverage sit in my faucets very long, so I don't know how long it would take for the standard faucets to gunk up, but since the stainless Perlicks were only marginally more expensive than standard stainless faucets, the choice was simple, really. 

2. If you're selling something, have a clearly marked price.
I took some copies of my book to sell in case anyone was interested in further recipes.  I didn't mind people asking how much I would sell for, and I did sell more than I expected, but I might have sold them all had I clearly marked them as for sale.  I also left my gold sharpie for autographing at home accidentally, so that didn't help.

3. When there's 60+ beers available for tasting, people will get pretty drunk.
I don't know if it was because this year was an evening event and last time was an afternoon event, but people seemed to imbibe a little more liberally than I remember last time.  I had a couple that were shouting at each other at my table and she was telling me not to give him any thing more to drink.  I was a bit perplexed since mine had no alcohol, so I didn't really heed her advice.  I served him some cherry pie soda and she started throwing popcorn into his glass and they started shouting obscenities at each other.  They had a friend there with them, that squeezed in between them to hand me his glass and was either oblivious to their raucous behavior or trying to deter it.  As he held out his glass he asked for one of my flavors and said quite matter of factly, "I'm not with them."  I'd seen him with them the first (more sober) time they came around to my table, so I knew better, but I give him a lot of props for being able to deal with it.  One girl had taken off her jacket and was in a tank top, despite the sub-freezing temperatures outside (granted there were a lot of people there and we were inside, but I still thought it was a bit chilly). I saw her swaying a bit with glazed eyes talking to a guy there, I thought she was going to fall over onto him.  Some people that came to my table near the end of the night I had a hard time understanding their slurred speech. One person saw the tall green bottles and excitedly asked if I was serving wine, I don't think she quite understood what I was saying when I explained what it really was.  I don't often hang out with heavy drinkers, so this was not normal for me.

4. Don't assume the inebriated to reason as well as the sober.
So this is a lesson that is a combination of #2 and #3.  Because I had my books out and not clearly priced, a couple of copies walked off when I wasn't looking.  Ouch, there goes $40.  I saw a girl carrying them out the door, but couldn't catch her in time and wouldn't know what to say exactly if I could.  It was more or less my own fault by not clearly labeling them as "for sale" instead of as freebies.  I saw a couple of people walking around with copies of Zymurgy magazine, and I figured probably someone was giving those away.  My books were apparently mistaken for the same.  I also had business cards out, so if you've come to this blog from my card and happened to pick up a couple of "free" copies of my book, I'd be more than happy to autograph them for you for the small price of $20 each. (That's $5 off the list price, so you know you're getting a deal!)  You've (hopefully) got my card, so you know how to contact me.

5. Keep it simple
Having learned from last time not to make too much, I planned accordingly this time.  One keg of Cherry Pie, one keg of Sarsaparilla, and one keg worth of Orange Creamsicle in bottles.  It was a lot easier to lug all of that in this time around rather than last time when I brought double that amount.  I still only went through a portion of that, but I have a lot less left over than last time.  I also paid better attention to the note on the entry information that said ice was provided, so I didn't have that to lug in this time either.  Simply cutting back on what I brought made it a lot less stressful and easier to handle.  I'm also glad that even though I was serving from faucets, I didn't need to lug around a draft box like I had wished I had had last time.  The event wasn't long enough for the kegs to get too warm and they served pretty cold without a problem.

As promised to the attendees, here are the recipes that I served at the event:

Cherry Pie Soda
Nearly identical to the Blueberry Pie Soda Recipe I posted last year, this recipe uses cherry juice, caramel malt, butter flavor, and vanilla extract to make you think you're eating a real cherry pie.
For a 4 gallon batch, I used:
32oz R.W. Knudsen Just Tart Cherry juice
1 cup Caramunich III caramel malt
7 cups sugar
4 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 tsp butter flavor
top up to 4 gallons with water

Crush and steep the malt in about 2 cups of water. Strain and set aside. Heat the sugar with 1/2 cup or so of water to dissolve or invert if you wish. Combine the sugar, liquid from the malt, juice and flavorings for your syrup. There's a pretty heavy volume of water, so it is a thin syrup. This recipe works well to add the water and then carbonate in a keg for the best carbonation, but it does still work as a syrup + seltzer version as well.

Sarsaparilla root is not as strong as sassafras, but it is a common ingredient for root beer.  The flavor of this one lands somewhere between a root beer and a cream soda.  I yeast carbonated this on in the keg to showcase something more akin to homebrew for this event.
For a 4 gallon batch, I used:
1/2 oz Sarsaparilla Root
1/2 oz Wintergreen Leaves
4 lbs light brown sugar  (dark brown sugar can also be used for a fuller flavor)
1/2 tsp Red Star Pasteur Champagne Yeast
4 grams Fermaid K Yeast Nutrient
4 gallons water

Begin with as much water as is practical to strain, add the sarsaparilla and wintergreen and bring to a boil.  Remove from heat and allow to steep for about an hour. Strain the liquid through a coffee filter to remove as many of the solids as possible.  Add that to the keg.  Heat the brown sugar in a small amount of water to dissolve, then add to the keg.  Allow to cool below 100°F before adding yeast.  Hydrate the yeast in a small amount of room temperature water (with a bit of sugar added) and add to the keg when cooled.  Top up to 4 gallons and add the yeast nutrient.  Close up the keg (pressurize with enough CO2 to ensure a seal if necessary).  Allow to ferment at about 80° for 24-36 hours or to appropriate carbonation level.  My OG was 1.044 and I ended with 1.040.  Refrigerate immediately and serve when chilled

Orange Creamsicle
Orange juice and vanilla combine to make a classic creamy orange flavor.
For a 5 gallon batch, I used:
10 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups orange juice concentrate
5 tsp pure vanilla extract
5 drops Natural Orange Oil Flavoring
1 Tbsp lemon juice
top up to 5 gallons with carbonated water

Invert the sugar by combine with the lemon juice and 4 cups of water and heat to 240°F.  Remove from heat and add 2 additional cups of water to cool the mixture, then add the orange juice concentrate, vanilla and orange oil.  Stir until thoroughly combined and use as a syrup to add to carbonated water.  If adding to a keg, fill to 5 gallons and carbonate.  If mixing in smaller amounts, syrup to water ratio is between 1:5 and 1:6 depending on what suites your taste.

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