BYO Recap 2014
I've sat down to write a BYO blog a bunch of times over the past few months but there's been so much going on that everything feels outdated before I can make it to the end! There's nothing more tired than a blogger who makes excuses for slacking off - but here I am...making excuses, passing the buck, pointing the finger at the popularity of craft beer and homebrewing. I can't help it — it's true!
Ok, well, it's true but I also have no excuse. I should have just written more blogs as there's so much happening in beer and homebrewing these days. More than 2,800 breweries are operating in the US right now, and a new brewery seems to open up every day. Even our little state of Vermont, where BYO headquarters is located, now boasts more than 40(!) breweries — more than even I have been able to visit at this point.
(Except The Alchemist...had to see The Alchemist.)
Naturally all of that beer buzz has carried over into homebrewing, too, and we've been watching with awe over the past few years as homebrewing gets bigger and more and more people give it a try. The National Homebrewers Convention is starting to seem a lot like GABF size-wise, and more great products and ingredients have come on the market. Best of all (in my opinion) homebrewers are tackling styles we weren't even talking about three or four years ago. At BYO, all the hype has translated into some very big magazines. Back when I started at BYO about eight years ago we thought a December issue was pretty big at around 80 pages; this year we're up to 120. My how times have changed! I say this not just to toot our own horn (ok, toot toot just a little) but to say thank you and cheers to all BYO readers old and new; it's been a real thrill seeing our humble hobby spread in popularity.
Now on to the nitty gritty — what have we been doing with our time besides making magazines?
Well, for starters the BYO staff took a great "staycation" a few months ago to see the breweries of northern Vermont that are getting lots of attention: The Alchemist and Hill Farmstead Brewery being the big stops. I won't say much other than a) take the pilgrimage yourself because the beers definitely live up to the hype b) if you're going to Hill Farmstead this time of year, bring a hat and gloves because the line is long, and c) it's good to be a beer journalist right now (see photo below); we had Heady Toppers right off the canning line before they sealed the lids — meow. Heady Topper in everyone's stockings this year, fingers crossed!
(A can of the freshest Heady Topper ever, right off the canning line. The Alchemist's John Kimmich in the background.)
Also this year I had an "ah ha!" moment (or more like an "uh duh" moment). After years of covering what's happening with homebrew clubs in BYO, it had never occurred to me that there wasn't a local homebrew club in Manchester Vt. Why was I waiting for one to form? I am the editor of a homebrewing magazine, I should take cues from the pages of my own magazine! (I will admit, I am a lot like Alice in Wonderland, though — I frequently give myself very good advice, but I very seldom follow it). So Kiev Rattee (BYO's Assistant Publisher and Advertising Director) and I put the word out there, and lo and behold there are roughly 20 or so homebrewers in our little community. Who knew! And even better, they all seem to be really great brewers! We named ourselves M.A.M.B.A. (Manchester and the Mountains Brewing Association). We've had a lot of fun over the last few months tasting homebrews, talking beer — and we even pressed our own cider thanks to equipment provided by club member Grant Braddish. Look for the building plans for Grant's apple "scratter" in the Jan-Feb 2015 issue if you're interested in pressing your own cider — it makes quick work of a bushel of apples! And check out this video of the scratter in action: http://byo.com/videos/item/3186-apple-scratter-at-work
(Our new M.A.M.B.A. homebrewing club standing around at the cider pressing meeting looking like a homebrewing club.)
In the meantime, it's been work work work on our big fall issues. We've had some truly terrific stories run this fall. I particularly love Dave Louw's piece on Anchor Brewing Co. in the December issue. When I was 21 (17 years ago), I took my first solo trip to San Francisco to meet up with friends from culinary school and I remember when I got to my hotel that first night I splurged on some room service that included a pint of Anchor Steam. Of course it was fantastic, and I still remember how grown up I felt at the time — having a delicious classy beer, looking out my hotel window at San Francisco, and taking a big trip across the country. While I was working on the Anchor story in magazine production last month I went out for a burger at a local pub that carries Anchor bottles and ordered an Anchor Steam to get in the spirit of the December issue. I've been back to SFO many times since that first trip, but an Anchor Steam still tastes like a pretty big deal to me whenever I have it, and having one always brings me back to that pint I had in 1997. I'm so happy that now I can brew it myself! If you're going to give the clone a try, keep it simple. Dave says in his story, "Translating Anchor's brewing approach to homebewing is quite straightforward. Time and again Anchor has stuck with simple recipe formulation even when more ingredients became available. As you approach each beer think through the simplest set of ingredients and process to yield the result and you'll be pretty close." Sounds like a philosophy I can handle — my next batch of office homebrew is decided.
Cheers also go to BYO friends Denny Conn and Drew Beecham on their new book "Experimental Homebrewing." Like many homebrewers, I've been following their blog for a while now and it's great to see their work come together into a really nice looking hard copy. Check out an excerpt from their book, available everywhere now, in the December 2014 issue of BYO.
(Me and Denny Conn on Club Night at the 2014 National Homebrewers Convention in Grand Rapids, Michigan.)
Bonus: Check out this recipe for beer brining your Thanksgiving turkey from Sean Paxton, The Homebrew Chef. Drink your homebrew this holiday season and eat it too! http://www.homebrewchef.com/BeerBrinedTurkey.htmlLast modified on