Stoudts Brewing Co. IPA Throwdown Homebrew Competition
There’s always something brewing here at the Markel household. Just about every other Sunday morning, our cars are cleared out of the garage so it can transform into Sunday Morning Brewing. Then out comes the grain mill to crush all those delicious smelling dried grains to prep them for the brewing process. The 5 gallon all-grain brewing system that Derek built himself is on wheels, just like the grain mill, and gets moved into place at the edge of the garage. Then the magic of turning water, grains, hops and yeast into delectable beer begins!
The neighbors are all quite curious about the weekend beer making ritual. If they are out and about at the time of brewing, they strike up a conversation. Sometimes they joke about Derek boiling lobsters or frying up a turkey. Mostly they ask, “what kind of beer are you working on today?” The conversations always end with them wanting to get a pint of “that” once it’s done fermenting and gets kegged. And, just like that a personal connection gets made because of beer. Beer is social. Beer is engaging. Beer unites people. It’s what we love most about our #BrewLife.
Every now and again, Derek will take his homebrew to competitions. Most recently we attended the first annual Stoudts’ Brewing Co. IPA Throwdown in Adamstown, PA on Nov. 11. Stoudts is celebrating their 30 year anniversary and there’s a calendar full of special events to celebrate the occasion – one of them being this festival of India Pale Ales made by local, amateur brewers (aka homebrewers).
While the main goal is to win an award for Derek’s original creations, the added bonus is the social connection that happens surrounding all things beer. This particular competition was located much further out from our homebase and the majority of the brewers and festival goers were complete strangers to us… but not for long! We love talking beer and we love exploring what other homebrewers are crafting. “What do you have on tap today?” is always the ice breaker. Faces light up with smiles and the conversation begins over sips and handshakes.
This wasn’t your typical homebrew competition. All beers that were eligible for the judging portion of the competition had to be India Pale Ales (IPAs for short) AND they had to have Cascade hops somewhere in the recipe. Brewers were allowed to use other hops in addition to Cascade. All other aspects of the beer ingredients and brewing process was up to the individual homebrewer. It was a no-holds-barred, get-as-creative-as-you-like or as-traditional-as-you-like event. Just like we like it!
DID YOU KNOW?
Cascade was first used in professional brewing in 1976 and is one of the most widely used variety of hop cones in the beer industry. However, Cascade usage has been declining in recent years. Known for it’s floral and grassy notes, some brewers are more enamored with newer varieties of hops being grown that impart various tropical fruit flavors in their IPAs and double IPAs.
It was interesting and refreshing to see that each homebrewer did indeed take very different approaches to the IPAs they brought to the competition. New England IPAs (also know as Northeast Style or NEIPA) with luscious tropical fruit flavors, hazy appearance, thick and creamy mouthfeel and low bitterness went up against West Coast IPAs in all their big bold bitterness with notes of pine and resin – completely traditional, clear appearance.
Then there were the classic English IPAs that are more malt-forward tasting of caramel, raisin and grains rounded out by approachable bitterness and dark red to brown color. A Milkshake style IPA also made an appearance – a spin-off of the NEIPA that uses lactose sugars to create a thick, sweet, somewhat milky beer. This particular Milkshake didn’t align with the usual fruited approach, that seems to be most popular with this style, but rather was cappuccino flavored. Smooth, silky and decadent, yet golden yellow in color. So good!
Homebrew Clubs Face Off
Another unique element of the event beyond the fact that it was style-specific (IPAs only) was that homebrew clubs were the focus of the competition. Two IPAs per club could be entered for the judging portion of the event. The clubs, however, could serve any beer style and as many different beers as they liked during the homebrew fest. Those beers were eligible for the People’s Choice vote at the end of the day. In total, there were over 40 unique brews to sample.
I loved seeing the energy build in the room as homebrewers stepped away from their club’s table to talk to other brewers from different clubs. Yeah. This was a competition. Something that might be cut throat in other industries. Competition can breed rivalry and “us against them” mentalities. It can build walls. But this day was also a gathering of like-minded individuals that love to make beer and drink beer. No walls. Just good fun. And, good conversation. Some serious. Others humorous. Lots of cheers and smiles all around.
Who were the clubs to compete? These fine folks. You should follow them on Facebook. (wink)
- Kutztown Brew Crew
- Lancaster Brewers Club
- All-Grain Gangsters
- BUZZ Homebrew Club
- Berks Homebrew Club
- Lebanon Area Fermenters
Carol Stoudt (Owner & Brewer at Stoudts Brewing Co.) and Norm Eaton (Stoudts Lead Brewer) joined in on the fun and brewed their own small batch IPA to serve at the competition.
“We decided to include a homebrew competition in our 30 year anniversary celebrations because we love the local craft beer community. Homebrewers embrace experimentation and sharing of knowledge. We wanted to honor homebrewers in a format to showcase their talents,” said Carol Stoudt. The brewery is looking to expand and build upon this homebrew fest event year after year.
HOMEBREW COMPETITION WINNERS
Mark Kissinger from Buzzed Homebrew Club won the 1st place honors for his ‘Cascade Forward’ IPA. He’ll get to brew the beer in the near future at Stoudts with head brewer Norm Eaton on their 30 barrel system. In addition, Mark received 6 tickets to the Stoudt’s Winter Cheers to 30 Years Anniversary Event where the winning beer will be featured. Pretty sweet, right?!
Second place went to Ron McDonel from Berks Homebrew club for ‘Zero F@cks’ NEIPA. Ron received $100 and 4 tickets to the Stoudt’s Winter Cheers to 30 Years Anniversary Event.
Derek Markel from All-Grain Gangster homebrew club and ItsABrewLife.com took 3rd place for ‘Still Evolving’ NEIPA. (Yay!) The prize was 2 tickets to the Stoudt’s Winter Cheers to 30 Years Anniversary Event and one case of a Stoudt’s Four-Play IPA.
Cheers to Beer!
Cheers to the winners and all participants of the Stoudts IPA Throwdown homebrew competition. Hope to see you all next year!