Learn To Homebrew Day 2015

I have been homebrewing for about four years now. While I have had other hobbies longer, homebrewing is probably the most interesting one I have ever had. Think about it- do you like cooking? Do you like making things? Do you like to drink? I don’t know too many people that cannot say yes to at least one of these questions.

The more people I talk to about it, the more I realize that homebrewing is much easier than people think it is. Sure, it can get difficult as you start to experiment with bigger batches, different ingredients, and new technology. But when it boils down, (all the puns intended), you are basically just following a recipe.

Saturday, November 7 is Learn To Homebrew Day. It was established by the American Homebrewers Association in 1999 to give homebrewers a chance to show non-brewers the ropes, and maybe get some new people into the hobby. Last year, a total of 6518 gallons of beer was brewed, at least according to the AHA report.

Like any other hobby, homebrewing has clubs. Connecticut has several, and I recently started going to a few meetings and events from Brew Haven, which is the New Haven area’s local club. Brew Haven will be hosting a Learn To Homebrew event this Saturday at the Outer Space in Hamden. Both extract and all-grain batches will be brewed so you can learn about the differences between both methods. Local homebrewers will also be on hand to answer questions. I myself might even make an appearance. Oh, and there will be plenty of beer to drink. Stop by between 12 and 4 PM- you just might learn something.

 

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Grow Your Own: NOFA Offers Organic Hop Growing Workshop

Making beer is awesome, but making beer with home-grown ingredients is even better. With so many breweries popping up in Connecticut, the task of gathering local resources to make beer can be daunting. Thankfully, it looks like farmers are getting more involved with helping brewers get the hops and barley that they need here in Connecticut. CT NOFA, which is the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Connecticut, is a grassroots organization that advocates for organic food, farming, and land care across the state. Despite the name, NOFA does a lot of work throughout various Connecticut communities to educate all people, not just farmers. On December 11, they will be having a mixer at Two Roads Brewing Company in Stratford. The event will include an organic hop growing workshop, led by John Suscovich of Camps Road Farm in Kent.

I started growing my own hops two years ago, and it has been incredibly fortuitous, not to mention much easier than I imagined. I plan to increase my plants next year, and would like to look into more organic gardening methods, so I’m especially looking forward for a chance to pick some brains (and drink some beer!). The mixer will also discuss NOFA’s new Technical Assistance program, which, for a farming and gardening n00b such as myself, sounds like a great thing.

Camps Road Farm grows all the hops for Kent Falls Brewing, which broke ground over the summer. Out of all the new breweries opening up in Connecticut, I think I am most excited for Kent Falls. In addition to using local hops, they will also use local malts, which is something I have not seen before. Kent Falls has also embraced sustainability practices, through solar hot water heating, reusing spent grain, and proper wastewater handling- all of which you can read about here.

All the details on the mixer are below. I am planning on attending, so be sure to join me if you’re interested. Click the flyer to register.

Craft Outdoors: Harvest Fest @ the New Canaan Nature Center

unnamedAutumn is one of the best seasons for beer, and beer-related events. Although there is a chill in the air, it’s still great weather for spending time in the outdoors. The New Canaan Nature Center will be hosting the Beer, Bites, and Wine Harvest Festival on Saturday, October 4. The outdoor sanctuary is over 40 acres, with plenty of gardens and hiking trails. The harvest festival is from 7PM-10PM; I am thinking it would be a good idea to arrive early to get a hike in before the festivities begin. Connecticut breweries Half Full and Two Roads will be the main beer pourers, while a variety of other breweries, bottle shops, and more will be bringing in brews as well.

The Jazzholes will be providing music to go along with the libations. Tickets are $65 in advance, and $80 at the door, so it’s recommended to pick them up ahead of time. You can get them online here. Tickets include beer, wine, food, and all the entertainment and admission into the nature center.

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Run To The Brews: Craft Brew Races Hit New England

Having a cold beer after doing some physical activity is pretty satisfying.

The Craft Brew Races are taking that satisfaction across New England this summer, offering a run with a beer festival that showcases local brews and other craft beers from around the area. The races will be stopping in New Haven this Saturday. I have never run a 5K before, and generally maintain the attitude that I only run if I am being chased. However, I’ve been training with the Couch to 5K app on my phone, as well as my own Outkast to 5k (where I made a playlist of Outkast songs with beats to go along with my intervals of running or walking- GENIUS). Working out makes the taste of beer that much more delicious, and it’s helping me get in shape, too. Luckily, if you are not 100% prepared to run a whole 5k, the Craft Beer Race calls itself a “relaxed” 5k, which encourages walkers as well.

The race takes place in Edgewood Park at 12 PM, and for non-runners, the beer festival drinking begins at 12:30 PM.

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The post-race beer fest is free for runners, or if you’re simply someone enjoying the beer-drinking, you can get a ticket to the festival only for $45. Registration goes offsale online this evening, so be sure to grab them while you can!

If you live outside of CT or need an excuse for an end-of-summer road trip, the Craft Brew Races will be in Waterville Valley, NH on August 23 and Cape Cod on September 28.

CT Beer Week 2014- Best Bets

Last year’s CT Beer Week went so well, 2014 will bring not just one, but TWO weeks celebrating locally brewed beer. May 12-18 is the first week, and October 13-19 is the second.

The spring beer week has plenty of events going on across the state. The week kicks off with the 4th annual Rising Pint Brewfest, which takes place May 10 at Rentschler Field in East Hartford, CT.

Culminating the week is the 20th Annual CT Craft Brewers Fest at Jesse Camille’s Restaurant in Naugatuck.

There are a LOT of events going on during the week, which you can see a full list of here. My local picks during the week are below.

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Cask Republic in New Haven will kick off the week by devoting all their draft lines (there are 56 of them!) to Connecticut beers on Monday, May 12.

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The Outer Space in Hamden will have a CT tap takeover on Tuesday, May 13. Tuesdays are also Honky Tonk Tuesdays at the OS, so expect to hear some awesome bluegrass tunes while you’re enjoying the brews.

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Knuckleheads is one of my new favorite places to get a beer and dinner in CT. It’s in Wallingford, the menu is awesome (they have macaroni and cheese pulled pork sandwiches), the beer list is great, there’s live music in the back room a few nights a week, and there are random Misfits and Iron Maiden references on their staff’s shirts and flyers. Wednesday, May 14, they will be celebrating CT Beer Week by tapping some locally brewed beers.

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Coalhouse Pizza regularly has homebrewing competitions, so it’s clear that they love craft beer. They will have a different event each night next week. I am most excited for the Rare Beer Night on Thursday, May 15, and their beer brunch with mead-mimosas on Sunday, May 18!

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Southport Brewing Company has been around and brewing for awhile, and they will be celebrating CT Beer Week with a collaboration with Half Full Brewery. The Southport location will have it on draft Thursday, May 15.
This year is looking to be even bigger than last year, so definitely check out these events and others in your area, and keep the craft beer love flowing!

 

Heading Out West: 2014 Beer Bloggers Conference

I am generally the sort of person who does the maximum amount of overthinking when it comes to making plans, especially those involving travel. But on Friday I was reminded about the 2014 Beer Bloggers Conference, which takes place August 22-24 in San Diego, and today I registered for it.

It’s going to be a great weekend. The conference includes trips to the Karl Strauss Brewery and a party with Lagunitas the first night. A bunch of great panels will take place as well, on everything from maximizing a WordPress blog to social media, to beer blog videography. Speakers will include Ken Grossman of Sierra Nevada and Julia Herz of the Brewers Association.

If you are a beer blogger, it sounds like a no-brainer to attend. But even if you are involved in any kind of social media or non-beer-related blog, and just happen to be a beer lover, it sounds like a really beneficial weekend. The way I see it, it’s like CMJ for beer bloggers. Except the free beer is way better than PBR. and instead of nightly concerts, it’s hanging out with brewers and beer lovers and trying new brews.

Oh, and if you’re feeling really ambitious, there’s a conference in June in Dublin as well!

Sound interesting? Check out the full itinerary and details on registering here.

Big Brew NY Comes To Westchester

Some people ask, how many beer fests does this world really need? The answer, obviously, is infinite. With so many new breweries springing up every year, as well as delicious seasonal beers, it seems like there is always a reason to celebrate that sweet, sweet combination of barley and hops.

Big Brew NY comes to the Westchester County Center in White Plains, NY on Saturday, February 8 and will be rolling out a huge array of delicious and unique brews from a variety of breweries. and food. Did I mention there will be food? Beer-infused food.

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The VIP admission is $80 but well-worth it. It includes a killer menu that includes beer-battered (the BEST kind of battered) lamb arancini, IPA pickled carrot salad, and oatmeal stout glazed apple fritters. It’s also worth it for the extra hour of tasting specialty beers not available under the General Admission ticket. We all know how crazy the lines can get at beer fests, so the extra early hour gives you a chance to actually learn about what beers you’re drinking. The VIP-only beers include Allagash Hugh Malone, Ballast Point Habanero Sculpin, Flying Dog Raging Bitch Firkin, and Left Hand’s Pro Am Java Lava. Some weird stuff, some delicious stuff, and most importantly, stuff you might not get a chance to try on the regular.

Other breweries that will be in attendance that I’m most looking forward to are Scotland’s Brew Dog (no doubt growing from their Esquire TV show Brew Dogs), Maine Beer Co., and Peekskill Brewing, but there are plenty others that I’ve never even heard of, living in Connecticut.

I also really like the showing in ciders and gluten-free beers. Applewood Winery, Ace, Badass, Julian, and more will be bringing some unique ciders, and New Planet, Steadfast will have several varieties of gluten-free beers.

Get advance tickets, both VIP and General Admission, by clicking here. You can also see a full list of all the breweries that will be represented and their fermented offerings. See you next Saturday!

Get Real, Get Ready For The CT Real Ale Festival

It’s time to get real. Real ale that is- the annual Connecticut Real Ale Festival is coming to BAR on Sunday, January 26. I’m pretty excited because this is the first year I’ve been able to get the day off work and attend. And for my first time going, it looks like it’s going to be a great lineup of breweries. But before I get into that, a little background on real ale might be needed.

To be honest, I didn’t know what real ale was until a few years ago. “Real Ale” is cask-conditioned beer. The term “real ale” was coined by CAMRA (the Campaign For Real Ale), which is an organization based in England that promotes cask ale and cider, as well as the pubs that sell them. Cask conditioned beer is unfiltered, and served right from the cask it was fermented in. So there isn’t any extra nitrogen or carbon dioxide added.

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It truly as as real as you can get- it’s the beer you make and only that. It’s also generally served at cellar temperature, around 54-57 degrees F, so don’t count on an ice cold brew. The warmer temperature allows for the more subtle flavors of your favorite cask beer to come out. The beer is pumped into your pint glass through a beer engine, which is probably one of the most badass pieces of beer equipment there is. I mean…it’s an ENGINE. For BEER.

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Looking to find out more of the specifics of real ale? Check out CAMRA’s website here. You can even become a member and they send you some excellent literature, although it’s generally about events taking place in the UK.

The Connecticut Real Ale Festival takes place on Sunday, January 26 from 12-5 PM at BAR on Crown Street in New Haven. You can find out where to get tickets, RSVP, and see a list of what breweries will be in attendance here. I am especially excited for Firefly, Oskar Blues, and Schmaltz brewing companies, all of which are new to the festival this year.

Plus, all of this even sort of ties into the beer and music combo that I’m constantly stressing in this blog. BAR is a place that does a great job of combining the love of craft beer and music (also PIZZA!). Their free weekly shows each Wednesday have brought some amazing touring acts in, such as Scott Kelly of Neurosis, Mates Of State, Widowspeak, California X, and more. So whether you can make it down to the Real Ale Fest or not, Bar is definitely a great place to hang for lovers of good music and good beer.

New Haven Brewshop Gets ‘Lucky’ With Kickstarter

The downtown New Haven Luck and Levity Brewshop opened its doors a little over a year ago. Since then, the shop has been growing into a much-needed haven for lovers of all things fermented. Recently, the shop successfully completed a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds that would take the shop to the next level- a community workshop space for food and beermaking.

Crowd-sourcing is a fairly new resource for raising money, and for Luck and Levity, it was just the source they needed. They raised over $20,000 between September 25 and November 5, exceeding their goal.

To celebrate a new year and new things to come, the shop will be having a Gala on Friday, November 22nd. Anyone who donated $15 or more to the Kickstarter campaign is on the guest list, and for everyone else, admission is $30 for a night of celebration with beer from local CT beermakers Thimble Island Brewing Company, food from the Caseus Cheese Truck and Sweet Mary’s Cupcakes. There will also be Tarot readings, to answer the question of what beer you’re destined to brew next (the answer is actually all of them, but you should probably come by anyway). Check out more details in the flyer below, and see you on Friday evening at L&L on Court Street.