Behind the Scenes: Red Hare & Valles Brewing Airborne Devil
This weekend, something pretty awesome that I never imagined is going to happen — a beer I brewed is going to be available to buy. I am a little nervous and very excited about this. I hope it all turns out as I dream about but I certainly am happy with the ride it’s been so far.
It all started when I joined a homebrew contest hosted by The Beer Growler and sponsored by Red Hare Brewing Company. The details of the contest were pretty simple:
Individuals and Teams will battle to win the admiration and taste buds of the voting crowd. Once the crowd picks their top 10 brews, those individuals and teams will go on to the final round of judging. Red Hare’s Head Brewer and the Head Brewers from other Georgia breweries will choose a Final Winner.
There were a few details that made choosing a recipe a little difficult since there were hop restrictions but I had one that seemed to meet the requirements. It was a Belgian Blonde Ale recipe. I thought it was pretty decent when I first brewed it so I decided to enter it into the competition. I collected all of the ingredients and set up my homebrew equipment in the garage. Now that it is months later, I cannot remember everything that went wrong that day but to name a few: cracked mash tun, leaking replacement mash tun, broken hydrometer and hydrometer test tube. I was so disappointed that I decided to brew it again a week later. The second brew day went significantly better so I was relieved I would have at least one decent batch to submit. After both batches were done fermenting, I bottled them both and allowed them to carbonate and condition. Then, I tasted them side by side.
I decided the second batch had the better taste and color and it would be the beer I would submit.
Contest day was awesome. I brought my 5 gallons of bottled beer to Avondale Estates, GA to The Beer Growler location and set up my tent and table. This is where the fun started. Having my beer sampled by strangers and getting instant feedback from the “customer” was awesome. At that point, I did not care if I won because that experience was so cool that I felt like I won something. Then, the results of the contest were announced. I was shocked to hear my name and beer, Airborne Devil, won. I easily spent the next weeks smiling every time I thought about it.
Brew day was just as great. Prior to the day, I talked with the head brewer at Red Hare, Bobby, and discussed the recipe and details for brewing. That day, I woke up early for my commute to “work” as a “volunteer” for a day at Red Hare. I would get to see behind the curtain and find out how the big boys do this and this time it will be MY recipe. Bobby and I started the day by ensuring we knew the important points in the brew day and what our goals were for temperatures, gravities and other measurements and started milling the grains. This is when I realized professional brewing is not much different from hobby brewing in that there is a lot of manual labor to get the job done. Once we had the grains milled, we started the mash. All of this went as expected and we moved on to the sparge and transferred the wort to the boil kettle to start the boil and clean the mash tun.
This is also not much different from my hobby brew days as well. Trying to do multiple things at once to make the day more efficient. Once the boil was done it was time to cool the wort and transfer it to the fermenter where it would spend the next few weeks.
Now comes what I hope to be the best part, you (at least in The Beer Growler areas) can taste – and hopefully like – it. I really enjoyed this whole process from start to finish. From the broken equipment on brew days and a dilemma I had in getting bottle labels printed to the great experience at the contest, awesome brew day and taste test at the brewery. I cannot wait for the experience to continue on Saturday, Aug. 24 when the contest creation is tapped at The Beer Growler locations in Georgia. I would love to know your thoughts if you get to try some.