Thinking about brewing up a batch of your own beer? Then you’d better be up for hours of rinsing and washing.
“When you get into homebrewing … you need to sanitize, sanitize, sanitize – if you’re not sanitizing if you’re making beer in your bathtub not washing your equipment you’re going to end of with a funky beer,” said Saskatoon Headhunters Brew Club chair Greg Paterson. “Ask any brewer they’ll tell you 80 to 90 per cent of their day is spent cleaning out fermenters, boil kettles and bottles; if you’re sanitary you can make a great beer.”
This week, members of the Headhunters spend their nights sipping, swishing, smelling and judging 256 beer entries, ranging from ciders, meads and all types of beers. Entries come from across Canada, with the top winner landing a date with Rebellion Beer Company in Regina who has agreed to professionally brew the winning beer for one day.
With two to three judges per bottle, the judging room is anything but fun and games. It’s dead silent like a university exam room. Everything from the beer’s appearance, aroma, flavour and mouthfeel are rated, in keeping with the Beer Judge Certification Program guidelines.
Paterson has been a fulltime home-brewer for 14 years and he says he’s never made a bad batch. He started like most people, buying beer kits from the store. Then he started experimenting and, like a mad scientist with a library of home-brewing books behind him, he starting to taste and see what works and what doesn’t.
“My second batch of beer I ever made, somebody wanted a raspberry beer. So I bought a kit, grabbed frozen raspberries and it was delicious,” Paterson said, adding the experimental process of homebrewing is as easy as tossing something in you think might work.
“Crack some pepper into your beer throw some hot peppers as you bottle, the hard part is getting something that compliments what’s already in there.”
The beers that don’t work are used to water his lawn.
The Headhunters club in Saskatoon has been around since the 1980s and it’s a growing do-it-yourself hobby that’s trending upwards. Paterson said he never goes to the liquor store, after rigging his home up so he can pour his own beer from a tap in his kitchen.
Next time you’re having a pint at your favourite watering hole, don’t be surprised if you run into a home brewer.
“A beard or some facial hair is usually a good indication but if they’re staring into the beer glass and look at it in the light they have some sensory training. If they reek of malt and hops … or if you mention beer and they latch on until you’ve told them everything you know,” Paterson said.
Judging for the homebrew competition continues into the weekend at the Saskatoon Farmer’s Market. Winners will be announced on Saturday.
For more information on the Headhunters Brew Club, visit the website.