1st Annual Prairie Beer Awards (Canadian)

Enjoying a Dry-hopped Sour at
Low life Barrel House

Last week I had the opportunity to participate in the first annual Prairie Beer Awards (PBA) competition in Winnipeg, Manitoba from 11-15 May 2022. This is a commercial beer competition covering two provinces in Canada – Manitoba, and Saskatchewan. The organizer used the BJCP guidelines and supplemented with a couple of other unique categories. The awards ceremony is scheduled for June 4th.

Kudos go out to Dave Cole for bringing this all together. The sponsors stepped up huge and the local breweries in Winnipeg were all in! I arrived on Wednesday night after an uneventful flight. Dave brought out the big guns for “Beer Church” that night … so many crazy, unique beers–almost everyone brought something special to share.

I brought three to share in my Beer Briefcase (the ones on the right side) … The other three bottles were mead for the Mead Exam.

Selection of Beers in the Beer Briefcase

This competition had three Master-level judges and three or four National-level judges, from across the provinces … there were folks from British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, Quebec, and Nova Scotia for sure. A couple of the judges were professional brewers from different provinces. They also had a representative from Red Shed malting. It was a great turn-out!

Wednesday night’s Beer Church included a 1994 Lindeman’s Gueuze Lambic! It was still funky and full of different flavors … I’m still trying to decide if I liked it! haha.

I was super busy during this competition. I judged several categories: 1) All Belgian-style beers, 2) Ciders, 3) Meads, and 4) Other Brewery Beverages to name a few. I also proctored two different exams: 1) The Beer Tasting Exam and 2) The Mead Tasting Exam. Finally, I took the BJCP Written Exam trying to move up to Master.

I took the written exam at the end of the event — I think I would rather have taken it at the first so I could relax more during the weekend.

The competition was very well organized, and we were able to visit breweries on Friday and Saturday. We got to ride around in a couple of old school buses checking out all the different places.

The first brewery I visited, I didn’t even have to go anywhere! The competition was held at Torque Brewing. The folks at Torque were very nice and super accommodating. They had an excellent selection of beers on tap! Worth a visit in Winnipeg. I didn’t see it until after the competition was over (I couldn’t see the names of the breweries or the beers to keep the objectivity in place), but the walk-in cooler in this brewery was huge! They had so much room in the back … a great looking brewhouse.

Torque Brewing Brews List: May 2022

Friday was a full day of Cider and Mead judging. We got started a little late (flight delays were a slight problem). This part of the competition included the province of Alberta. I had the pleasure of judging with a very knowledgeable lady, Kathy Yan Li. Great insight!

After sampling a beer at Torque, we headed over to one of the original Brew locations in Winnipeg, Barn Hammer. We were able to squeak in a visit to Sookram’s Brewing Company as well, before heading back for the Beer Tasting Exam. It was a nice way to close out the evening before we headed back to the hotel for more Beer Church!

Riding in the Back of the Bus!

On Saturday, I proctored the Mead Tasting Exam and took my written test. We then visited five different breweries (on the Blue Bus this time)! Now to test the memory banks and see if I can remember the breweries in the right order. Lol. We had to hustle to catch up with the bus, so our first stop was at Low Life Barrel House. This place was setting the bar pretty high to begin with.

They had a nice selection of barrel-aged beers … unfortunately, I could only sample two before it was time to continue the tour! The next place we stopped was Brazen Hall, a brewhouse in the Viking Style. Pretty cool place… since we were on a whirlwind tour, I picked the Dark Horse – Hazy Black IPA to sample. A very nice beer — I wanted to try the others, but, alas, I had to continue my travels!

Brazen Hall Dark House – Hazy Black IPA

Our next stop was at a Brewery still under construction: Devil May Care. It was a cool opportunity to see the work they are doing to bring their brewery into the downtown area of Winnipeg. The owners were very nice and we sampled a couple here and there and then headed out for our next stop! (I really enjoyed the Creme Brulee Stout)

The next place we stopped was Nonsuch Brewing. What an awesome location! The owner, Mark, graciously shared some of his nicest Belgian-style beers. I love the fact that the website is focused on the beers … how a brewery should be! But, if you visit the Brewery, you’ll see it is an upscale lounge/restaurant. It is a lovely building and the beers are excellent. I was able to sample this Red-wine Barrel-aged Belgian-style Pale Ale right from the barrel. What a treat. Next time I’m in town, I think I may go here for dinner.

Our final stop was at Oxus Brewing. Kevin and Sean are great guys and they are making some really tasty beer! A nice wrap up to a great trip. I’m already looking forward to the next competition in Regina! I highly recommend a visit to all the breweries mentioned above if you get a chance in Winnipeg. They all offer excellent beers with great atmosphere.

My travels home were an adventure. After a cancelled flight, delayed flight, another overnight stay, lost wallet, and lost bag I made it home! Haha. Good to be back and looking forward to the next beer adventure!

Beer Mentor

New Zealand: The Beers!

My last (really) belated post … New Zealand Beers! haha. I know, I know … it’s been a couple of years since I was there, but I have some nice photos to spark my memory. I flew into Auckland as my beginning location … and promptly visited The Shakespeare.

Although it was an excellent start to a pretty good beer journey, the focus of this trip was biking, birding, hiking, and major sight seeing, so the beer was added in where it fit and when we were close to civilization … otherwise it was kind of like this — fast, furious, and out of focus! lol

Not a lot of opportunities on the North Island — we were only there for a week — mostly around the National Park at Tongariro … but the South Island … wow. Of course, the first week (or so) on the South Island was a lot of small planes, boating, hiking, and birding.

By the time we made it to Wanaka, we had a chance to catch our breath and enjoy a good beer. Fortunately, this place had several options — we went with Speight’s Ale House — great patio with a view over the lake and an excellent selection of beers!

The IPA, made with New Zealand hops, was very satisfying. I was able to purchase a few more beers to enjoy during our stay and transition travels to Hokitika.

When we left Wanaka, we cruised across the lower Southern Alps and ended up on the West Coast … we staged out of the town of Hokitika — great place! We saw a couple of glaciers, put in some miles on the West Coast Wilderness Trail … and toured a brewery!

Monteith’s is a brewery in Greymouth … the original craft brewery (I think) in New Zealand — now owned by the Heineken Group. The tour was fun and informative and the beers were pretty good — worth a stop when in Greymouth … refreshing!

As we continued our trip back over the Southern Alps, I was able to sample a variety of other beverages when we arrived in Hanmer Springs.

We enjoyed these different brews around the interior of the South Island … as we made our way back to Christchurch to start our Alps to Ocean bike tour, we stopped at a small brewery near Geraldine — Valley Brewing Company.

They had some pretty tasty beers and excellent food … talk about your out of the way spot!

Finally, during our Alps to Ocean six day bike ride, I had a chance to sample a variety of beers (again) …

Our final stop was in Oamaru … at Scott’s Brewing Company. The location was beautiful — the beers were good … they matched their beers with their pizzas. Very nice patio.

Stating the obvious — the location made many of the beers special … and not necessarily the other way around! There were four or five outstanding beers … the rest were good to very good — but I wouldn’t complain. Solid beer trip!

Beer Mentor …

60. Sierra Nevada Brewing, Chico, CA (#78)

This entry will catch me up on my Growler List visits … I’ve now made it to 78 out of 125. Whew. What a concerted effort! But I am determined to complete as much of the list as I can — all in the name of good beer drinking!

#60 on the Growler List is the Sierra Nevada Brewing Company in Chico, CA. I visited this place a few days after visiting Deschutes in Bend, OR in 2019. I loved both places — the difference in the vibe (to me) is that Deschutes is employee-owned (similar to New Belgium) and Sierra Nevada is family-owned … although the people loved working there (Sierra Nevada), you still felt like it was just their job–but what a great job! lol. Fantastic people and awesome beer.

They have a selection of different tours — we took the in-depth one … they showed you around everywhere, answered all my esoteric questions, and generally had a great time doing it. If you can make it to Chico, it’s well worth the stop and visit. Highly recommend!

Beer Mentor

The Growler List: 125 Places to Have a Beer Before You Die.

As I stated in a previous post, All About Beer magazine published a list of 125 places to drink beer before you died … Kind of a bucket list without calling it a bucket list. They published it in 2008 — however, the magazine went out of business a few years ago. So I decided to publish the list here for reference.

You should note that this list is with my modifications — there are a few places on the original list that were 1) closed, 2) defunct festivals, 3) or what I considered “experiential activities”–in other words: subjective. I have bolded those entries and recommend you come up with your own experiences. I’ve also bolded those places that I know have closed (or are defunct)–of those I haven’t visited, don’t know if they are open or not. The entries I have visited have the year visited in parentheses.

The Growler List: 125 Places to Have a Beer Before You Die (My Modification)
1Great American Beer Festival, Denver, CO (2002, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2016)
2The Grand Place, Brussells, Belgium (2010, 2012)
3U Fleku, Prague, Czech Republic (2012)
4Great British Beer Festival, Earls Court, London, England
5Oktoberfest, Munich, Germany (1998, 2012)
6Augustiner Keller, Munich, Germany (2012)
7Abbaye de Notre-Dame d’Orval, Orval, Belgium (2009) (2012)
8The Gravity Bar, Guinness St. James Gate Brewery, Dublin, Ireland
9Monk’s Café, Philadelphia, PA
10The Great Canadian Beer Festival, Victoria, BC (2017)
11Hofbrauhaus, Munich, Germany (1997, 1998, 2001, 2012)
12The Brickskeller (now Bier Baron), Washington, DC (2011)
13Rick’s Café, Negril, Jamaica
14The Market Porter, Stoney Street, London, England (2010)
15Cat’s Eye Pub, Inner Harbor, Baltimore, MD (2011)
16Mod: Camden Yards drinking Clipper City on Tap (2007, 2008)
17Mondial de la Bière, Montreal, Quebec
18Horizon’s Café, CN Tower, Toronto, Ontario (2016)
19Mod: Beer Tent, Glengarry Highland Games, Maxville, Ontario (2003)
20Beer Club Popeye, Tokyo, Japan
21The Publick House, Brookline, MA
22Mod: Hahnenfest (Queidersbach, Germany [1995-1999])
23Henry’s 12th Street Tavern, Portland, OR (2018)
24The Hopleaf, Chicago, IL (2013)
25World Beer Festival, Durham/Raleigh, NC (2011)
26Mod: Mardi Gras Festival, Shreveport, LA (1999, 2000)
27Piazza San Marco, Venice, Italy
28Zum Uerige, Dusseldorf, Germany (2012)
29Toronado, San Francisco, CA (2017)
30The Olde Mitre Tavern, Ely Court, Hatton Garden, London, England (2010)
31Mod: Cowboys/Redskins Game, FedEx Field, DC (2009)
32Rogue Brewery, Newport, OR (2017)
33The Wynkoop Brewery, Denver, CO (2011)
34Spuyten Duyvil, Brooklyn, NY
35Great Lakes Brewing, Cleveland, OH
36McMenamins Kennedy School Hotel, Portland, OR (2018)
37Atelier am Dom, Cologne, Germany (2012)
38Anchor Brewing Tasting Room, San Francisco, CA (2017)
39The Flying Saucer, NC, SC, TN, AR and TX (2010)
40Arend’s Nest, Amsterdam, Holland
41Mod: Mercury’s, Stone Town, Zanzibar) (2012/2013) (Original entry closed)
42Mod: Great Divide Barrel Bar (Denver) (2016) (Sandlot was always closed)
43Clark Street Ale House, Chicago, IL (2013)
44Mod: Tailgating at a Frankfurt Galaxy Game (1997, 1998)
45Selin’s Grove Brewing, Selinsgrove, PA (2009)
46The Great Lost Bear, Portland, ME
47The Map Room, Chicago, IL (2013)
48The Blue Tusk, Syracuse, NY (2010)
49Woolwich Arms, Guelph, ON
50Beach Bar at the Atlantis Hotel, Paradise Island, Bahamas
51The White Horse Pub, Parsons Green, London, England (2010)
52Redbones Restaurant, Somerville, MA
53Lord Nelson Brewery Hotel, Sydney, Australia [2019]
54Falling Rock Tap House, Denver, CO (2011) [CLOSED – 2021]
55Sleeping Lady Brewery/Snow Goose Restaurant, Anchorage, AK
56In de Wildeman, Amsterdam, Holland
57Andechs Monastery, Andechs, Germany (2010, 2012)
58Charlie’s Bar, Copenhagen, Denmark
59Mod: Fruhlingsfest, Stuttgart, Germany (2010)
60Sierra Nevada Brewing, Chico, CA [2019]
61Krcma, Ceske Krumlov, Czech Republic (2012)
62Sapporo Beer Garden, Higashi-ku, Japan
63Grand Hotel, Mackinac Island, MI
64Sail and Anchor Brewpub, Fremantle, Australia
65F.X. Matt Brewery Tasting Room, Utica, NY
66Delerium Café, Brussels, Belgium (2010, 2012)
67Birreria l’Orso Eletricco, Rome, Italy
68Gösser Bierklinik, Vienna, Austria (2012)
69Bariloche Ski Resort, Rio Negro, Argentina
70d.b.a., New York, NY
71Brewer’s Art, Baltimore, MD (2009)
72Au General Lafayette, Paris, France
73Schlenkerla Brewery Tavern, Bamberg, Germany (2012)
74De Hopduvel, Antwerp, Belgium
75Mr. Sancho’s Beach, Cozumel, Mexico
76City Tavern, Philadelphia, PA
77Die Weisse, Salzburg, Austria (2012)
78Halve Maan Brewery, Bruges, Belgium (2012)
79Tinkoff, Moscow, Russia
80Le Bier Circus, Brussels, Belgium (2010, 2012)
81TY Harbor Brewery, Tokyo, Japan
82Irseer Klosterbrauerei, Irsee, Germany (2010, 2012)
83Stockholm Beer & Whiskey Festival, Stockholm, Sweden
84Goose Island Brewing, Chicago, IL (2013)
85Copacabana Beach, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (2014)
86Brewery Ommegang, Cooperstown, NY
87Deschutes Brewery & Publick House, Bend, OR [2019]
88Baumgartner’s Cheese Store & Tavern, Monroe, WI (2014)
89Icebergs Bar, Sydney, Australia [2019]
90Cantillon Brewery and Gueuze Museum, Belgium (2012)
91Dogfish Head Ale House, Rehoboth Beach, DE (2010)
92Belgo Centraal, London, England (2010)
93Mod: Big Beers, Belgians, and Barley Wines Festival (Breckenridge) (2015, 2016, 2017) (Other Festival Defunct …)
94Felix in The Peninsula Hotel, Hong Kong [2018]
95Brasserie Federal, Bahnhof Zurich, Switzerland
96Heineken Brewery, Amsterdam, Holland
97Clark’s Ale House, Syracuse, NY (2010)
98The Shakespeare, Aukland, New Zealand [2019]
99Mahar’s, Albany, NY
100Steamworks Brewing, Vancouver, BC (2015)
101Cooter Brown’s, New Orleans, LA
102McSorley’s Ale House, New York, NY
103Kelly’s Caribbean Bar, Grill & Brewery, Key West, FL (2007)
104Rose & Crown Pub, Epcot Center, Orlando, FL (2006)
105The Church Brew Works, Pittsburgh, PA
106Brick Store Pub, Decatur, GA (2011)
107Sunset Grille & Tap, Boston, MA
108The Ghost Bar at the Palms Hotel, Las Vegas, NV (2015)
109Norwich Inn/Jasper Murdock’s Brewery, Norwich, VT
110The Gingerman, Austin, TX (2010)
111Library Ale House, Santa Monica, CA
112t’BrugsBeertje, Bruges, Belgium
113beerbistro, Toronto, Canada (2016)
114The Dubliner, Washington, DC (2010)
115John Barleycorn, Chicago, IL (2013)
116Anchor Bar, Buffalo, NY
117Gritty McDuff’s, Portland, ME
118Top of the Hill Brewery & Restaurant, Chapel Hill, NC (2011)
119The Bell, Aldworth, Berkshire, England
120The Golf Tavern, Edinburgh, Scotland
121Old Ebbitt Grill, Washington, DC (2010)
1225 Seasons Brewing, Atlanta, GA (2011)
123Mod: In de Vrede, Westvleteren, Belgium) (2009, 2012) (Original Entry Closed)
124Stumbling Monk, Seattle. WA (2011)
125The Happy Gnome, St. Paul, MN (2014)

Wherever you end up drinking a beer — I hope it is a fantastic experience!

Beer Mentor

Australia: The Beers!

I know this blog entry is a little overdue — since my trip to Australia was 2019. haha. Oh well — What can I say … the beers in Australia were better than Thailand and Malaysia, for sure!

First, I visited three locations in Australia that were fantastic “beer-drinking” establishments … check it out on this link here. Those places alone made Australia a great stop.

As far as the beers themselves, there were a couple of outstanding ones … and then some ok ones. Typical for most places I’ve been.

However, let’s start before the beginning … we were flying from Kuala Lumpur to Cairns — this required a stop in Singapore — needed a little refreshment at the airport and was able to sample this IPA from Archipelago Brewery (Singapore Craft Brewery). A refreshing, excellent example of an IPA.

Next stop — Port Douglas. Right across from our “hotel” was this cool little pizza place — Rattle n’ Hum Bar and Grill. They had a very nice selection of beers on tap — plus the food was excellent! I had both the 4 Pines and the Wild Yak … decent beers.

The next day, we visited an excellent brewery in Port Douglas: Hemingway’s Brewery. Unfortunately, no tour — but a great stop! Awesome place right on the water. Sweet vibe, really good beers, and definitely worth a visit!

I picked up a couple more to try while in Port Douglas … The Kolsch was nice — The Furphy’s was ok!

Next stop was the Blue Mountains … we were a little bit boring here — same place twice for dinner (plus I added a couple of other beers I sampled on my own). The place we ate was called The Lookout – Echo Point. Of course, when you see the views, you see why we ate there. haha. The beer was ok to pretty good, the food (again) was excellent.

So, from my limited two-week experience, traipsing around the East Coast of Australia, I give the beers two thumbs up! Excellent selection, beautiful locales, and great food.


Beermentor’s Favorite Five!

These are my favorite five places to visit if you truly want that quintessential beer experience! I can honestly say that I’ve been around the world sampling, tasting, and visiting “beer” establishments — this is my refined list (since I haven’t gotten around to posting my top 100 … lol).

First, here are three criteria/reasons why these are my Favorite 5. First and foremost, it needs to be great beer. I’m not saying it needs to be your favorite or it has to fit in a particular category — nor does it have to be considered “Craft” or “trendy” or whatever. It needs to be great. Great tasting, technically well-done, without any faults or off-flavors. Second, the locale should enhance the pleasure of drinking the beer. There should be something about the place/history/experience that makes you think the beer wouldn’t taste any better than right where you are drinking it! Finally, it should be a place with some permanence/staying power — it shouldn’t be in danger of closing, it shouldn’t be a place you can’t visit without a special pass — it should be accessible to anyone and welcoming to all. This is a tough one — for instance, I was going to include “The Falling Rock Tap House” in Denver — it had been around for over 25 years, was a popular hangout for the After-Great American Beer Fest Crowd, and simply had fantastic beers. Unfortunately, it closed in June of 2021. Sad. Oh well — I will just have to be more careful with my Favorite Five!

One caveat — I’ve been to hundreds of places — but I haven’t been to all places — so my list is a little skewed by the fact that there may be a better place … I just haven’t been there yet. We’ll call this a “living list.”

Another caveat — I won’t list any Festivals here — Those, too, may not be there the next year — and sometimes it is difficult to obtain a ticket, etc. I’m trying to choose places that, while they may be difficult to visit, are accessible to anyone with some effort.

Ok, here we go! Working from #5 up #1 …

#5. Ye Old Mitre, London, England. A place that opened in 1546 and is still going strong probably will be around a while longer. Plus, it is owned by the Fuller Company (former owners of the Brewery, now they simply operate about 360+ pubs in the UK). With an excellent selection of beers on tap (folks in the UK call it “Real Ale”), a cool alleyway entrance and a comfortable atmosphere, it’s well worth a visit.

#4. Staffelberg-Klause, Bad Staffelberg, Germany. This one is as far away from the city as The Old Mitre is close to one. haha. The Staffelberg-Klause is a small Bier-garten in Germany — near the city of Bamberg. You may, or may not, be familiar with Bamberg as the city of smoked beers (Schlenkerla). Here’s a map image (with the link here) of where the Bier-garten is located.

It takes a little work to get there — you can’t drive; you have to hike! However, the scenery in the area is stunning. Not only that, there are several Baroque-style Churches in the area, over 100 breweries/brewpubs, and … did I mention stunning views? Here are a few pictures:

They have the typical German-selection of beers — Pils, Weizen, or Kellerbier. Either one will be refreshing and the food is good too!

#3. In de Vrede Cafe, Vleteren, Belgium. Next up, a trip to have some of the most elusive beer in the world! Westvleteren 12! In fairness, a very (very) close approximation that is more readily available worldwide is the St Bernardus Abt 12. Also … a wonderful beer! But I digress. Back to “In de Vrede.” Translated, in de Vrede means “in Peace.” Or quiet, solitude; any number of phrases that you would associate with the Monks. The cafe is across from the brewery, but still out in the countryside. Closest city would be Poperinge (the Hop Capitol of Belgium).

The food is wonderful and you can drink all three of the Westvleteren Beers here … a bonus is the opportunity to purchase some as well! The area and the cafe all deserve your consideration for a visit … finally, it’s a pretty short drive to anywhere, all things considered. There are so many things to see, and do, in the area. Visit the Hop Museum, an active Hop Farm, other breweries … explore!

#2. Orval, Belgium.

To me, this is a very special place — Orval is, hands down, my favorite beer. I’ve visited the “Valley of Gold” at least three times. Each time is special. The first time there was late November. We stayed at a small hotel nearby in Florenville. You could have any beer you wanted, as long as it was Orval. A big one, too!

The next day, we lucked out and were able to join a tour group of French Students at the Brewery —

The third time I visited, I was with my best friend and my brothers … an awesome trip. By this time, in 2012, they had improved the whole “Orval Experience” with a wonderful museum … the tour of the grounds was tranquil. I even tasted the Spring Water used to make the beer!

We had the tour and retired just up the road to the local restaurant to reflect on the experience and to enjoy a wonderful glass of Orval. Consider it a must for yourself!

The only reason it’s not my #1 is you can’t drink the beer on the premises — However, you can buy a small case at the gift shop!

#1. BräustĂĽberl Weihenstephan, Freising, Germany. Here’s the place on the top of my list … a trip to the oldest brewery in the world — established in 1040 AD! Not only do they have the brewery here, they also have a University devoted to the study of beer. If you make your way into the BräustĂĽberl, you can drink your fill of the wonderful beers they have available. Plus enjoy some traditional Bavarian cuisine–I do recommend a reservation!

Well … there you go!! My favorite five! I hope you have the opportunity to visit one or two of these places and see if they make it into your top 5 as well!



87. Deschutes Brewery and Public House, Bend, OR (#77)

I had decided (previously) to quit trying to accomplish All About Beer Magazine’s “Growler List: 125 best places in the world to have a beer” a couple of years ago [Now more than ever since the magazine no longer exists — an excellent article on that here]. However, being a Type A personality who enjoys task accomplishment, I just couldn’t put my incomplete list away. Haha. So, although there are even more challenges now in completing the list, I’m still slowly working through it.

As mentioned in a couple of previous posts, I have made some of my own substitutions for locations/activities that are either: 1) closed, 2) defunct, or 3) “experiential in nature.” So, by my reckoning, when I visited Deschutes Brewery in 2019, it was my 77th place on the list.

Since the Growler List was published in 2008, the original idea was that you would visit the Public House in Bend, Oregon. This is the original brewpub opened in 1988. What an awesome locale! As a family and employee-owned business, you can really feel the passion when you visit the place (and the funky vibe–see photo below of the men’s room mirror). The food is excellent, they typically have Pub-exclusive rotating taps (see pictures below), and plenty of room to enjoy yourself!

Deschutes have done a great job of growing their brewery and they built a beautiful state-of-the-art facility in 2012. We scheduled a tour and took the opportunity for an in-depth look.

It’s just an absolutely beautiful facility, the tour is very fun–you end up in the tasting room at the end (obvious). Great tour guides, great ideas, and well worth a visit–definitely deserved a place in the top 125!


My Home Brewery: Ziggy Brau!

After 20+ years of using a hodgepodge of brewing equipment — albeit it worked (mostly) well — I decided to invest in a new “brewery” for myself this year. Actually, I had a design in place for my brewery since 2002+ … here are a few drawings I’ve done through the years representing what I wanted. The first two images were my original design … some time later I did the next two drawings. The final drawing was a recent design for my brewery based upon all Blichmann equipment. I was trying to incorporate it with my existing Blichmann equipment — that’s the reason I didn’t just go with a Breweasy system.

After doing some research and looking to see how my brewing process, plus my location, matched with an integrated brew system, I decided to go with the Brewtools B40 — their smallest (40L) integrated system. It looked like the right match for my location/process. Having cleared customs here in Canada it came nicely packaged to the house.

Brewtools B40 Pro Brewing System

My wife and I agreed that it should be set up in our basement shop — it is an electric kettle system. My major goal with this system, besides to brew great beers, was to reduce the amount of heavy lifting involved. I found lifting 40-50 lbs of near-boiling water was probably not in my best interest.

Before I could get my brewery up and running, I had to have a little work done. I had a 240V isolated circuit installed to plug into directly — 30A worked nicely — no popped fuses! Next, I searched around for a rolling table to use with it–one low enough to see into the kettle. After much searching the folks over at Okanagan Stainless were kind enough to build me a fantastic Stainless Steel table — perfect for my need! They do such awesome work!

Here’s a look at the table. You can see the swing-arm installed–I’ll show how that works in a follow-on photo.

As a side diversion (lol), I tried to 3d print a block-and-tackle pulley system to use with my swing-arm (see photo). Although it worked, I needed something a little smaller.

With my table and power ready, the final piece of the puzzle was venting the steam out of the “Brewery.” Fortunately, I had two extraneous vent pipes leading out of the house from the old furnace — I decided to attempt to use one of those in the process. I drew up my design and bought the pieces/parts to see if I could make it work.

We set up the system (here you can see the initial layout) and tried boiling some water to see if it would work — come to find out, the exhaust pipe was a cardboard tube. haha. That wasn’t going to work! So I replaced that with a standard exhaust pipe — still not a good seal — too much leaking. I needed another solution — back to the Okanagan Stainless guys! They built me a stainless steel exhaust system to use … here are a few photos of the installed product.

With everything in place, I was ready to test out the system! I ran through about 3 test batches (water only) to understand the best way to attach all the valves. I purchased a few extra valves, the steam hat, and the wort chiller to have a complete solution. Here’s how the system looks set up when I’m brewing a batch of beer …

Overall, I love my system — however, I’m having issues with my brewhouse efficiency — I’m hovering at around 60% for mash conversion — that’s after 4 full batches. Fortunately, the beers still finished in style and are tasting great, but I want an efficiency closer to 80%. Still more research to do. In one of my follow-on posts I’ll talk through my process (I just brewed a Trappist-style Dark Strong Ale) — maybe someone will have some ideas.

I already have a few “upgrades/enhancements” planned for the brewery to make it even easier and more efficient to use. Oh, here’s an updated picture of my steam exhaust … I wanted to show the finished product there as well!

Stand by for more from Ziggy Brau!


The Year of the Belgian-Styles

Ok, Just in case you were wondering, I’m still around. lol. I apologize for the long time between posts — I have absolutely no excuse — however, I have still been exploring the World of Beer during this time. This year, 2021, I’ve determined to focus on Belgian-style beers, with an emphasis on two categories: a) Trappist-style, and b) Lambics.

For this post I will stick to discussing the Trappist-styles, leaving Lambics for a follow-on.

The two ways I’ve been focusing on Trappist-styles are a) drinking them (haha) and, b) brewing them. I’ve already brewed a “Single/blond,” a Dubbel, a Tripel, and will be brewing a Dark Strong Ale tomorrow.

The Single/Blond Ale was a strange brew … it was hard to characterize it … the yeast I used had been cultured from an Achouffe strain (WLP550) [of course, that’s like saying I came from Europe even though my family has been in the USA since the 1700s] — so not a Trappist yeast. Originally, I wanted to clone the Poperinge Hommelbier … I put together my recipe and brewed it up — it is (characteristically) like the Trappist Single but the ABV is too high for that style … but too low for the Strong Ale category … Oh well! It tastes great. I love that yeast! I brewed it on the day my Grandson was born — so I named it after him (Keoni Blond) …

Before I brewed that one, I brewed “Sainte Dubbel” … this was my attempt at a Westmalle-clone. I used the WLP 530 yeast … definitely the right strain. I did have an uncontrolled temperature spike the first night, but everything came back under control … the flavor is very similar to the Westmalle Dubbel … however, it lacks that subtle oxidation character … it needs a little more time in the bottle, I think.

The next beer I brewed was the Drei Punkte … my Trappist Tripel … I went for another Westmalle-clone … maybe leaning a little towards the Chimay. I’m still trying to dial in my new brewing system … more about that in another post … so I didn’t hit my targets, but this is a nice Tripel. I used the WLP 550 yeast (I captured some from the Blond-brew). It is a very nice yeast … great flavor profile in both of these beers.

A couple of bottles seem low in carbonation, but the rest are a nice, big thick head. This is obviously a low carbonation one … haha.

Besides brewing these Trappist-styles, I’ve been able to find bottles from Chimay, Westmalle, Rochefort, and Orval. Also, the St Bernardus Abt 12 and few other Abbey beers. As my beers mature, I’ve been doing some side-by-side comparisons. Additionally, I’ve captured the dregs from a few Orval bottles (my favorite beer). I’m using these in two different ways. First, I captured some of the wort from the Keoni Blond and pitched the Orval yeast into secondary … definitely getting that Brett character … needs to mature a little more, but a really tasty beer. Also, my next beer (after my Quadrupel) will be my attempt at an Orval clone (hence the Label for “Liquid Valor.”) I haven’t designed my Quad label yet.

Here’s a shout out to Stan Hieronymous — his book “brew like a MONK” is a great reference guide when I’m trying to build my recipes, choose yeast, additional ingredients and what processes to follow. Thanks, Stan!


Beer Mentor

3 Places in 3 Days … 3/125 Places to Drink Beer Before you Die!

Still following All About Beer Magazine’s “Growler List” 125 best places in the world to have a beer.

I found myself in Sydney, Australia and Auckland, New Zealand … as such I was able to hit 3 of the places in 3 days on the list!

It’s kind of funny … the order I visited these places is their numerical order on the list! They were #53, Lord Nelson’s Brewery and Hotel, #89, Iceberg’s on Bondi Beach, and #98, The Shakespeare Brewery. Let’s start in order.

#53: Lord Nelson’s

This is the oldest pub brewery in Australia along with the oldest licensed hotel. It is in the heart of the historic district and a great location to visit. They have an excellent selection of their own beers–and the bonus was you could do a tasting flight!

I thought the Three Sheets was an excellent Pale Ale.I also recommend the Anileation … the Stout. I had high hopes for the Nelson’s Blood, a porter, but it was just a little off. Everything else was really good.

To include the food.

This was an excellent stop; great atmosphere, very nice beer, and good food … what more do you want in your combination? Definitely deserves a spot on the 125.

#89 – Iceberg’s on Bondi Beach.

Ok, check out this location first and you’ll see why it is on the list.

The building closest to the ocean over there is Icebergs.Here’s a panoramic shot of the beach with Icebergs again on the right.Walking up to Icebergs you get a great view of the pool and the ocean.Looking back to the beach you can see the folks in the water … surfing. This beach is the birthplace of surfing in Australia.

We found a great seat at the bar inside and ordered some lunch and a couple of beers. The beer menu was not extensive, but so what.

This Little Creatures Pale Ale hit the spot and the service was excellent. Very nice folks and the food was very tasty.

I can see why this place is on the list … well worth a stop …

(Here’s a detour for you … we also took the ferry over to Manly Wharf (check my post about MTB’ing on my other blog). The ferry was $15 AUD there and back. It provided excellent views of the opera house on the way there.

After the ride, I enjoyed a nice Corona (haha).

Then we went back to the Wharf and had an excellent meal at the Bavarian Restaurant while watching the sunset. Here’s a couple of shots … I would say that this location rivaled Lord Nelson’s for setting, ambiance, and beer. You never know where the best beer place is gonna pop up!

Ok, finally, #98 — The Shakespeare Brewery and Hotel.

We landed in Auckland, checked into our hotel, and walked over to this place. The Boutique Hotel has been there over 120 years … the bar … i don’t know.

The brewery is the oldest brew pub in New Zealand. They are making really good beers AND they serve them in flights … bonus!

Perusing the menu, I noticed I could also have The Gentleman, a Stout, in the bottle. It was a lovely beer and made the end of our visit to this iconic location memorable.

I can definitely recommend this place too and agree with it being on the list if simply for the fact it is the first brew pub in NZ.

Although moving along what some might consider slowly (I’ve been working on this list for 10 years now), I feel like visiting on average 7+ places a year is pretty good! I’ve completed visits to 74 of the 125 (see my modifications) … only 51 to go … at 7 a year that means I should be finished in the next 7 years! A worthy goal.


Beer Mentor