The Waterloo homebrewing community packed into the Jane Bond restaurant March 6. </p>
From wall to wall, home brewers talked shop and drank pints at Subzero, the second homebrew competition hosted by Short Finger Brewing Company, this time in partnership with Block 3 Brewing Company. Helping set the homebrew mood, Jane Bond’s bar supplemented their usual selection of beer with five craft beer collaborations from Short Finger and Block 3.
Seventy-nine different beers were submitted for judging by local brewers and certified beer judges, more than double the participation from the first event held in Fall 2015. They were separated into categories and evaluated according to the Beer Judge Certification Program style guidelines, which is a standard beer ranking system. The winners in each category were announced early in the event, with Jon Spee’s strong American wheatwine ale taking best in show.
To homebrew is to make beer at home, on a small scale. According to Rob Hern, owner of Short Finger Brewing Co. and competition organizer, Waterloo has a thriving and welcoming home brewing community that is continuing to grow. “I get emails and requests each week from people looking for tips to set up their systems or about the best way to get started,” he said. As to why he thinks more people are becoming interested in homebrewing, he credits the rising popularity of craft beers.
“There are a lot of great local beers available, but a constant complaint I hear from guys is that the hoppy beer they want isn’t fresh in the LCBO and so they decide to try to make it themselves. As people start to understand what quality beer is they start to realize, ‘Oh hey, I can actually make that myself,’ ” Hern said.
Many home brewers, as beer enthusiasts, enjoy the freedom that comes with choosing exactly what goes into their beers. Andrew Cooke, who won second place for American porters, said, “If we started making the beers ourselves, we could brew the type of beer we wanted to drink.”
Cooke said he enjoys the opportunity homebrew provides to incorporate different ingredients, such as a Mexican spiced beer or his personal favourite a roasted marshmallow English mild he brewed for a friend’s wedding.
While there are some risks associated with home brewing, Hern said that overall it is a safe hobby. There are burn risks from boiling liquid and “it is important to follow the correct ratios with [cleaners and sanitizers] so that they are not harmful,” Hern said. “Use common sense and proper safety gear.”
According to Seth Ratzlaff, who won best in show in the fall for Dunkels Weiss, beginning home brewing does not necessarily have an enormous cost. “It’s as prohibitive as you want it to be,” he said, estimating that a new brewer could get started for about $120.
The writer is on Imprint’s Board of Directors.