I had a great time at Brewin Up a Cure yesterday. This may be the first year for the event, but Vineyard and Brewery at Hershey know how to throw a party and they did a great job putting this together.
Amy and I arrived towards the end of the allotted setup time. Since I was only bringing bottled beer, it didn’t take long to get ready. I figured I’d give the guys with the keezers and all manner of other keg setups their space before I came in with a couple milk crates and a picnic cooler. There was an hour between setup and the official start of the event, which gave all the brewers, who were going to be locked in at their tables during serving time a chance to walk around, talk shop and get their own samples.
It was good to get this opportunity, it was also useful for me because I realized that several other people brought chocolate stouts. I had a lot of people coming to the table later, excited to see my Cocoa Cream Stout and I gave them all a heads up on where to find the other similar offerings. I had three of those people come back to tell me that mine was their favorite, which was great, but I was just happy to let them know.
We were setup at table number one, which is why I had the opportunity to see a lot of people at the beginning of their tasting session. The tables snaked around in “U” shape, so a good number of people started at the opposite end, too. My table was next to a food truck, which was there for the whole event. This was good early on, as I recommended pairing the Table Cat the truck’s tacos, which looked and smelled delicious. Later in the afternoon, the line for food got a bit long and there were people waiting in front of the table for long periods. This wasn’t ideal, but it wasn’t a big problem.
For the judged contest, someone came around with trays of cups and got samples to take back to the judges. I wasn’t sure how they were going to do the judging and I liked this idea. With plastic cups of the beer coming in on a tray, the judges not only didn’t know who’s it was, they didn’t know if it was kegged or bottled and the people who had kegs didn’t have try to bottle their beer. It worked for everyone.
Aside from the judges, there was also a people’s choice award. Attendees were given three tickets to vote for their favorite beers. Everyone got a bag to collect tickets for each of their beers. The collection of these bags was my only problem with the event. I’m not sure if the time was posted ahead of time, but there was no announcement that voting was ending, they just came around and took the bags. I know there were people still working their way through samples, waiting to vote at the end, that didn’t get a chance. An announcement that voting was ending in ten minutes would have been appreciated.
Collecting the votes early allowed them to announce all of the winners at the end of the event and all of the score sheets were ready, which was great. I will post my scores along with the tasting notes for the two beers that I entered later this week. This was not a BJCP event, so they scored based on their own system, but it is very clear and the judges gave some good insight.
It was great to get to talk to the people who attended this event. The range of different levels of beer knowledge and interest was really fascinating. The Vineyard at Hershey has a big following of wine drinkers, some of whom came for this and they were very open to trying different beers, but they were definitely coming to them from a different perspective. There were also the people who love beer but don’t homebrew who know a lot about the beers they drink, but again, come from a different perspective than brewers. Then, of course there were the homebrewers.
Even in this group, the diversity of experience levels, methods and goals was very wide. I talked to someone just starting out who brought a decent batch of beer brewed from an extract kit. I talked to other people who have been brewing since before I ever tasted beer. Beyond just years of experience, there were people who strived to make beers that they couldn’t find on the market and those who want to clone their favorite commercial beers. This is the great thing about this hobby. You can brew an extract batch in a few hours or you can decoction mash from dawn to dusk. You can brew in an old stock pot in your kitchen or you can build your own custom three tier brewing rack. You can buy kits or you can make your own recipes, grow your own ingredients and harvest wild yeast.
Speaking of growing ingredients, my favorite beer of the day was a Ginger Wit beer. The ginger was homegrown and added during the boil for a nice flavor, as well as during fermentation for an amazing, spicy aroma. I wish I got to talk to this brewer more, they’ve definitely inspired me to experiment more with ginger. I make a soft drink ginger beer, which I love but I may need to work it into some more beer recipes now. Another inspiring beer was a delicious roggenbier. I’ve been planning a hefeweizen for this Summer, but with hefeweizen yeast giving a similar character, I may be switching out my wheat for rye.
I got very positive feedback for my own beer, as well. Other homebrewers and the wine drinkers I mentioned seemed to appreciate Table Cat. The combination of the saison yeast and Nelson Sauvin hops give it white wine like finish and the low alcohol got the attention of a lot of brewers. Maggie Moo’s Cocoa Cream Stout went over well, despite the unexpected heat, which I was nervous about. I got three votes for Table Cat and four for the stout in the people’s choice awards. I didn’t expect this to put me in the winner’s circle, but I wish I knew how many votes the winners did receive.
This was a great event and I can’t wait to attend again next year. Come back tomorrow for my tasting notes as well as the judge’s score for Maggie Moo’s Cocoa Cream Stout. Then again on Wednesday for Table Cat. Also, if anyone found this blog from the cards I handed out at the event, leave a comment and let me know.