Homebrew Heroics Contest Essays

brewsupsdLast week, I posted the winners of our Homebrew Heroics contest. Here are the runners up and a few “editors choice”  entries. Thanks to everyone who entered. 

Homebrew Heroics Contest Entry by Matthew Weide


My heroics are centered on suiting up with weapons and counter measures to defend myself against a dastardly brew day! Of course, the most dangerous brew in the world to make is a bochet mead! Bochet meads have many recipes, but one constant is the caramelizing of honey. There are several different methods, but the one I use is an open flame method. I essentially just heat the honey in a pot over a propane burner until it reaches the desired amount of caramel and roast notes. However, after going through many bochet “disaster stories” I have perfected a method of arming myself against this most worthy of foe, a bochet!

For this bochet I was going to turn up the heat, going very dark, and I needed to prepare. First, I need to ensure there are no bees. Bees LOVE to come out when you are boiling honey. Living in Minnesota it was easy to make this mead during the winter when no bees are around. Once I addressed aerial combatants, I needed to put on my armor. The armor needed to brew a bochet is as follows: Thick boots, a full length jacket (that you don’t mind ruining), gloves, hat and most importantly eye protection. This combatant will often warn off attackers by spewing large puffs of black smoke. However, the real threat is when the bubbles pop. Oh sure, they look harmless enough popping here and there. However, these bubbles of misery can attack at any time, and when they find skin they will leave a welt.

Once I have danced the deadly dance of constant stirring while trying to avoid melted honey blisters, it is time to attack and turn off the heat. Unfortunately, once the heat is off this bochet has one last trick up its sleeve. Water needs to be added to the scalding honey. Adding too much honey will turn this in to a gloppy mess as the honey cools down too quickly and turns to candy. A small amount, about 1 gallon of water, needs to be added slowly. During this process the heated honey gets one last shot at shooting steam or pellets of honey at its adversary. By good preparation, I was able to avoid any injury.

Once this water has been added, I add more honey and stir continuously. This ensures a homogenized mix and increases the honey aroma and flavor by adding unheated honey. From there any additional water can be added and then let the bochet sit outside until it is cool enough to pitch the yeast. We have now taken honey to an angry snarling, spitting combatant to a demure caramelized bochet mead. This particular bochet won third place in the open mead category at the Hoppy Halloween Challenge. I think the judges liked the mead, but I don’t think they understood the HEROICS that were involved in such an endeavor!




Homebrew Heroics Contest Entry by Josh Secaur


I was asked to do a demo at a local brewery with some other homebrewers, just to show new people the process. Was asked by a guy who occasionally did stovetop extract if he could tag along and see the all-grain process. We brewed a Coconut Stout, which was a new recipe for me. The brew day went as well as can be expected for brewing in unfamiliar territory. The new brewer was so excited about the beer, we decided to enter it into a local comp, with him listed at the Co-Brewer. It ended up winning a gold medal. So he asked if we could enter it in NHC. When we did, it won it’s category in the St. Paul regional, earning a big Blue Ribbon. Onwards to the Nationals, where it narrowly missed a medal, scoring a 42.


A year later, Mike has a full three vessel system, and brews 10 gallon batches of all grain beers. That one brew day where he was curious to see what the difference was between extract and all grain took an occasional extract brewer, and launched a hardcore homebrewer. A world with more homebrewers is definitely a better place, and maybe I contributed to that.



Homebrew Heroics Contest Entry by  Lyne Noella


Years ago, I learned to golf, and, to my surprise, I received an unexpected gift for my effort: many fun hours on the golf course with my dad. My passion for homebrewing has also brought me an unexpected gift, again from a parent. For as long as I can remember, my mom drank a can of Coors Light every night before dinner. Within the past year, my mom took a big step and changed her beer of choice . . . to Miller Lite. We keep the Miller Lite in our fridge so she can enjoy it when we have family meals at our place. My infection for homebrewing has grown to such a point that I am now brewing every seven to 10 days. Over the past month, my mother, who is in her 80’s, has begun asking for my homebrew instead of the Miller Lite! Sorry, Miller, here’s another win for craft brewing.




Homebrew Heroics: How My Homebrew Created “Area 51” by Hyrum McGreenly


You never forget your first alien abduction. It was early 1947. I was a subsistence farmer and show-groundhog breeder on the outskirts of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. In addition to the usual sundry vegetables on the farm, I dedicated several acres to barley and hops for my own homebrewing purposes. I would later learn it was the combination of these two crops on my land that initially caught their attention. You see aliens like beer. They have their own recipes to be sure and a special bittering plant they cultivate on their home world, but the barley has been an issue for them. While they have their own fermentable starches, several decades ago they set out on a five year mission seeking out new life and new brewing ingredients. When they discovered barley on our Earth, they quickly found it to yield a better fermentable beverage. They still prefer their native bittering spices, which possess their own reactive compounds. At any rate, I tend to work with my ground hogs at night as they prefer not to see their shadow. One evening near midnight, with a homebrew in hand, I was taking a shortcut to the barn through my barley field when everything went silent. Even the crickets stopped. Suddenly, a brilliant blue light appeared overhead. Before I knew it I was aboard the alien spaceship, sitting in a pile of my barley that had been separated from the chaff as instantaneously as I had been transported to the ship. The aliens were surprised to find a human in their cargo hold. I was surprised I didn’t spill my beer. When the aliens saw my beer, they realized I was a fellow homebrewer and quickly showed me around the ship. It was an intergalactic craft-brewery craft. They tasted my brew. I tasted theirs. They explained the crop circles were initially just an attempt at harvesting some barley for their brew from the center of a field in the hopes it would go unnoticed. But when humans did take notice and seemingly were fascinated with their harvesting patterns, it quickly became an intergalactic art form, presumably for mutual human/alien amusement. We even took a spin around the solar system and brewed up a batch with my barley and their…herbs. We doughed in near Venus. Sparged near the rings of Saturn. By the time we got the wort to pitching temperature it was passed dawn in PA. We all had a little too much of our own brew, so the joint decision to drop me off at the nearest pre-dawn time zone seemed reasonable under the circumstances. I complained the transporter process is a bit disorienting, so they tried to land to drop me off but came in a little fast. Their emergency chute deployed and the pilot dragged the hull for a few feet. The damage was minimal so they jettisoned the chute and left a hull panel that was scraped off, then headed off for the stars. They promised to bring me back my part of the batch when fermentation as done. They handed me a sixer of their stash to enjoy in the meantime. My delight was quickly replaced with dismay when I realized I had no idea where I was. I walked for a bit looking for a road, only to be set upon by numerous military vehicles. Evidently, my dropoff had registered on Air Force radar. I was separated from my Out-of-this-World beer and we were both loaded on a truck. Once on the road, I saw the signs for Roswell, New Mexico. We drove non-stop to Edwards Air Force Base in Nevada were I was interrogated about my knowledge of the homebrew previously in my possession. The military folks seemed to know where I got it and I inferred they had been trying to unlock the secrets of the alien bittering herb for some time. They kept my homebrew for further analysis and in the years to come I would hear rumors that Edwards AFB, or Area 51 as its now known, would be dedicated entirely to the chemical analysis of the beer they confiscated from me. I was eventually released and returned to Punxsutawney, where the aliens would return to visit from time to time. I even expanded my barley acreage to allow for the “alien share” as I came to call it. So there you have it, the true story of what’s going on at Area 51.

Of course, revisionist history has muddled the truth of history and deprived homebrew of its rightful pedigree. The truth is out there.




Homebrew Heroics Contest Entry by Mark Alfaro


I Have been home brewing for 20 years now. In that time I have comforted many a soul with the fruits of my hobby and have provided refreshment for many receptions, wakes, graduation parties, and other life celebrations. When I started home brewing there were not a lot of choices for good craft brew. But even though today there are many good brews available commercially, I keep on brewing because it soothes my soul and I can share a piece of myself with others through my brews.



Homebrew Heroics Contest Entry by Aaron Ouellette


There is not one story that can sum my homebrew heroism, but rather lengths I go, as a father of 2 under 5, go to enjoy the hobby, and share the hobby with family, friends, and the masses. I brew about 12 batches a year, write a blog, have hundreds of interactions with brewers and homebrews on twitter, and attend club meetings and competitions.

My dedication starts with my brew nights. To fit brewing in with my hectic life, 90% of my brewing is at night. After dinner my children help me collect strike water, measure (and sample) grains for milling. I’ll mashing and then it’s time to tuck in the kids (not without a few stories) into bed. Often the boil not start until at least 10:30, and if it’s something with a hop stand, or long boil I could be still up cleaning my my gear at 1 or 2.

My passion continues with sharing about the hobby. I’m a active member of Brew free or Die. Sharing homebrew at our meetings, and participating in the club competitions, having won both the Cider comp, and the Dynamic duo in the past.

In the later, I was able to brew with an old high school friend. We’ve managed to reconnect over brewing, and now talk brewing, share homebrews, recipe suggestions, and provide the consistent honest feedback you can’t usually get outside of competition. A side benefit, is I get to enjoy his ever improving beer.

Lastly one of the most enjoyable aspects of the hobby for me is learning and sharing that knowledge with a broader audience. I absorb as much content as I can, either reading books, blogs, or listening to podcasts. Then I take that knowledge and leverage it in my brewing, and regurgitate it though my own blog, writing twice monthly, and providing my experiences and recipes back to the homebrewing community.



Homebrew Heroics Contest Entry by Norman Kwasinski


My friend Jon asked if I would help his brew a beer for friend of his wedding, I’m always up for brewing so why not.

We decided on an ESB and bought the ingredients but on brew day we were given a bit of a curveball when the friend drop off an enormous bag of fresh hop saying “Here use this”. Of course we had no idea witch hop they were, no clue on the Alpha acid. What was a brewer to do? I ate one… So going on theory that they were Willamette hops around 5% AA we had to decide how to use them.

That’s when I remembered reading a story about the German brewers thinking adding hops to the wort was giving a gift to the beer. We named the beer “13 Gifts” you see if you chuck in a couple of handful of hops start at 60 minutes and every 5 minutes after that until flame out that’s 13 hop additions.

Though I only had a few small samples before it was sent to the wedding, I still remember how delicious that beer was. So if you ever have a huge bag of fresh hops and are wondering how to use them….13 Gifts.


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