As a terrible homebrewer, beer blogger and resident of Brisbane, the opportunity to go to the second Queensland Homebrewing Conference was too good to pass up. Looking at booking a few months in advance, I felt the ticket price was steep initially but as the day wore on, I got exceptional value for money.
Thanks to a cab driver who knew the area better than me, I found my way to South Bank TAFE and registered at a quarter to nine on a beautiful Brisbane winter’s day that I was going to spend in a dark auditorium. I was a bit apprehensive at first, largely because I didn’t know anyone, but that was allayed almost immediately when a father and son team started chatting to me. Beer people are friendly people after all!
The crowd was largely what you might expect for an event of this kind. Enthusiastic and clear-eyed, there was a mix of old hands, club members in their bowling shirts, beer nerds who could’ve used a shower (that was probably only one guy) and young craft beer wankers like me. David Kitchen from Brewer’s Choice opened proceedings with a few jokes and we got underway.
Ben Krause – Bridge Road Brewers
Ben looked like he was about to drop dead from his hangover. Nonetheless, he had a great set of anecdotes and was upfront about the mistakes/experimentation he’s made as a brewer, including barrels exploding on sea voyages, using oak chips and spirits in beer and elderflower saisons. Keep an eye out for the Bridge Road-Nøgne collab Aurora Australis, due for arrival into Australia in September.
Protip: Saisons ferment at surprisingly high (26º+ C) temperatures. Sounds ideal for Brisbane summer.
Wade Curtis – 4 Hearts Brewing
Wade is a part-time brewer at Bacchus as well as the only person in the world trying to get craft beer into Ipswich pubs. Good luck. He specialises in low to midstrength ABV beers, which sound challenging in their own right to produce successfully. He even gave away his recipe for Clusterfuck, the 4 Hearts GABS beer, which he admitted he probably wasn’t going to brew agian.
Protip: Low ABV beers tend to be sweet, so they need lots of bittering hops to balance them out.
Yes, that’s a thing. Instead of morning tea, I was sipping on Green Beacon‘s Kolsch and IPA before 11AM. Added bonus: the beer was free and plentiful. I now appreciate the ticket price was really a bargain.
Ian Watson – Fortitude Brewing
Ian has the smooth baritone of authority that commanded the attention of everyone in the room. His talk was actually homebrewing related: apparently, most faults in homebrew come from oxidation of the beer, which primarily occurs in the post-fermentation packaging phase when the beer gets sloshed around. He gave a few tips – a bit over my novice head – on how to avoid this and added to the world’s greenhouse warming woes by releasing a ton of carbon dioxide.
Protip: Before putting beer in your bottle, fill the bottle with CO2 to keep the oxygen out.
Following a short panel discussion with the day’s speakers, the lunch spread was surprisingly good. I was expecting sandwiches, so getting steak and chicken was a bonus. Also, there was more beer. QHC held a contest between seven homebrewing clubs. Each club was given the same ingredients to make a beer and the seven were tasted by conference patrons and voted on. I tried six (the remainder was reputedly not very good) but I got pretty pissed and started to lose my discerning palette. I voted for the winner in the end. I capped it with some Fortitude beers while sitting in on a conversation with one of the brewers from All Inn Brewing, who apparently does all his beer design in his head.
Josh Uljans – Moon Dog Brewery
Full of beer and hopefully not needing to relieve myself for another hour, Josh Uljans took the stage and spoke passionately about Moon Dog’s approach to beer. Josh spoke about “dry truffling” beers, living in his brewery for fourteen months (which is wedged between a brothel and a CUB plant) and making big and weird beers. I must admit to not having had one of their beers but if someone knows where to get them in Brisbane, please comment.
Protip: “You can put anything in a beer as long as it’s delicious.”
Csilla Swain – Spiegelau
The Spiegelau session is probably worthy of a post in it’s own right. It was completely mind-blowing and I feel like a complete charlatan for not knowing the amazing difference a quality glass makes. I am a convert. Go to a session if you can find one or read about it at beer bar band. We had slightly different beers – Burleigh’s Hef for a wheat beer, Cascade’s Stout (surprisingly good), Feral’s Hop Hog for an IPA, Knappstein’s Reserve Lager – but the impact was the same.
Protip: If you want to taste the beer, don’t tip your glass when pouring from a bottle.
The Spiegelau session ran over into afternoon beers, so I missed Holgate’s Ian Morgan talking about hops, which was a shame as he had quote of the day, “I first moved here from Seattle in 1999. People kept handing me VB and telling me how bad American beer is.” Well played. I consoled myself by using the break to polish off the fine offerings in my new German glassware.
Micah Rees – Core Brewing Concepts
I was surprised to find the sales rep for a homebrewing equipment distributor to be the one who had trouble with public speaking. Poor Micah was struggling with being in front of an audience (which was the smallest of the day) and I didn’t get much to take away from it, so I’m going to throw in another Spiegelau photo.
Protip (from me): Prepare your talk presentation a bit more than a few hours in advance. Also, bring a slideshow.
At the end of a long day, a homebrewing club took home an award and I didn’t win a single lucky door prize. I did manage to snag a copy of The Critics’ Choice Australia’s Best Beers when David started throwing them into the audience. I say “snag” but really I dropped it because I was a bit pissed and hand-eye coordination isn’t my thing.
I caught up with a few of the acquaintances I made through the day at the post-conference beers and downed a couple of late All Inn Brewing IPAs before calling it a day. I got home, had dinner and passed out, only to endure a couple hours hungover at midnight before getting some real sleep. This homebrewing stuff is exhausting but rewarding.