Mash Heads and AleSmith

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Hello, friends! It’s been a while. Just over a year, actually! Believe me when I say that it was not for lack of trying. From the start, my goal was to brew with others as we travel across the country. Although many people have offered to host me for a brew day, they have never been near our travels. I have had a few prospects, but it never worked out for one reason or another. There are a lot of logistics involved which I just did not anticipate. I even (painfully) removed the keg system and all brewing paraphernalia from the RV while we were near our storage trailer in Michigan!

Fast forward to this year and I have hopefully come up with a solution. If you have been following our adventures on www.roadschoolnotoldschool.com then you know we have headed west once again for the winter. When we finally arrived back in sunny California this month, I started looking for a way to get back into brewing. One intriguing idea was to look for local homebrew clubs, hoping that I may visit them and learn a thing or two. Perhaps, I thought, if I write about several clubs, they may even learn from each other as well.

It just so happened that Mash Heads of San Diego (est. 2011) had a meeting coming up. I reached out to them and was warmly welcomed to attend. Bonus: they were meeting at AleSmith Brewing Company (think Speedway Stout) and were even getting a private tour of the facility! I eagerly joined them.

First off, let me tell you that AleSmith is much larger than anticipated. They are even on a street which is named after the brewery! Or was the brewery named after the street? When I asked the gentleman behind the counter about the club meeting, I was directed to a private meeting room. Big time stuff!

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Everyone I talked to in the club seemed very friendly and inviting. They were all very passionate about our shared hobby and were talking like old friends. Not long after the the designated start time for the meeting, an AleSmith employee came to provide our tour.

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The brewery itself was, as I said, quite large. It was also probably the cleanest brewery I have seen yet. The tour guide was very knowledgeable and answered everyone’s questions with ease, even though the audience was full of brewers with some pretty technical questions. As the tour progressed, I noticed that the brewery was laden with references to MLB great Tony Gwynn. I asked about the brewery’s relationship with the baseball player, and was told that would be answered when we got to the museum. Wait, MUSEUM?!

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Yup, inside the brewery was a museum dedicated to Tony Gwynn! The short story is that Mr. Gwynn wanted to have a beer made especially for him, and was directed to AleSmith to make his dream come true. After a few attempts to make a beer exactly to his liking, San Diego Pale Ale .394 was born. Shortly after its release in 2014, Gwynn passed away. This untimely event brought his family and the brewery into a lasting relationship. One of Gwynn’s wishes was for his memorabilia to remain in San Diego, where its residents and visitors could enjoy them for free. Thus the museum was created! It is curated by the Gwynn family themselves. There is a whole lot more to this story and some really cool things to see, but I will leave that for you to discover when you visit!

After the tour, we reconvened in the meeting room and club business was addressed. It became quickly apparent that, although the club has under 50 members, those members are highly skilled in their craft. There was much discussion about recent awards received by members. They also had some open discussion in which they talked about problems they had had with recent brews, and they collectively discussed possible causes and solutions. One thing I really liked about their discussions was that they spoke about upcoming events, such as homebrew competitions and festivals. Part of that discussion included helping to arrange for members to attend and/or submit entries. This to me really showcased that they are truly passionate about homebrewing and want to make every effort to enhance the abilities and enjoyment of their fellow brewers. They also had some really nice nametags, which were apparently made by a member, and I thought that was a nice touch.

Overall, I was quite impressed with Mash Heads. If I lived in the area, I would not hesitate to join. They really seem to have a good assortment of brewers and have lots of room to grow. If you are a brewer and ever find yourself in the San Diego area, I hope you will try to attend a meeting. Just email sdmashheads@gmail.com to let them know you will be visiting. There is a whole lot of knowledge to be gained from this group!

Cheers!

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You Thirsty, Bro?

Just before heading out of Texas, I had a little time to go scope out a brewery.  We were staying just outside of Dallas, and I started looking online to find something interesting.  It must have been my lucky day, because I found Thirsty Bro Brewing Company in Royse City.  According to the website, they were not even open yet, so I gave them a call.

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I was able to speak with Terry, the founder/brewer at Thirsty Bro.  I explained what I was doing, and asked if he would be brewing anytime soon so that maybe I could join and help.  It just so happened he was planning to brew the next day!

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The next morning I was up bright and early to head to Royse City.  When I arrived, I met Terry.  Unfortunately, we weren’t going to be able to brew after all.  The city had been promising to upgrade the water supply for months, and they decided to do it today of all days!  Oh well, I got a sneak peek at the place, anyway.

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Terry gave me the grand tour.  He showed me the back room where all the magic happens. He is currently brewing on a BrewMagic system while wading through all the red tape to start brewing on his super-awesome big boy system.  It was nice seeing it all shiny and new!  He even explained his plans to expand when the time comes.

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Terry was kind enough to let me try what he currently had on tap.  My favorite of the three was the Licking Dog Porter, which is a great smoked porter with a twist… a surprisingly delicious licorice addition.   This place is going to do great things. The people of Royse City are in for a treat!

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Pretty maids all in a row!

Terry was a great host and I wish I had found him sooner.  He offered to let me come back to brew once the water system was operational.  Unfortunately I was scheduled to head out of town before that could happen…  Bummer!  I will certainly swing by here if I ever find myself in the area again, if only just for a drink.  I strongly urge you to do the same!

The bar is currently having a series of soft openings, with the grand opening planned for St. Patrick’s Day.

Did you miss me?

Hello, friends!  It’s been too long.  As promised, I thought I would drop in and talk to you about some brewery action in Texas!  I was able to visit a few breweries while there.  Two of them stood out to me;  Intrinsic Smokehouse & Brewery in Garland, and Thirsty Bros Brewery in Royse City.  Thirsty Bros certainly deserves it’s own post, so for now we’ll just focus on Intrinsic.

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Before I arrived at Intrinsic, I called to see if they would have time to talk to me.  I was welcome with open arms.  The first thing I noted was the poster in the front window showing support for law enforcement.  This alone would draw me in as a customer.  When I entered, I met with Travis, the bartender, who was more than happy to walk me around and answer any questions I had about the brewery.  They had a really cool open air set-up.  The entirety of the brewery operation was right there as you enter the building!

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After Travis gave me the grand tour, I bellied up to the bar to see what they had to offer.  I ordered a flight and was pretty impressed!  While enjoying some tasty libations, I chatted up the couple sitting next to me, a fellow military veteran and his wife.  If you are reading this, cheers!

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They also have a BBQ kitchen.  Unfortunately I had not planned well and went right after lunch, but man, did it look and smell good!

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After I had finished my flight, I learned about a really neat thing they were doing.  Two of the employees, including Travis, had designed a stout and helped brew it.  They were having a friendly competition to see which was better.  You could buy a 5 oz pour of each and compare them side by side.  After sampling each of them, your preference was marked on a chalkboard.  It just so happened that the one I chose was the one designed by Travis.

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I simply could not walk out the door without getting on the grain mill bicycle thingy.  There was a motor attached to the mill, but I was told that before the motor was installed, they actually used the bicycle to mill the grains.  Who knows, maybe the motor will quit and there will be a job opening.  I might just submit a resume…

Wine Is For Sissies

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Well, our time in Texas has finally come to an end.  Unfortunately I wasn’t able to connect with anyone to do some brewing.  Partly because most of our time here was spent recovering from my surgery (hernia surgery = no brewing or drinking).  Eventually, we were able to try some awesome Texas beers.  I gotta tell ya, the offerings here make me want to stay longer.  There were only a couple of things I tried which I did not enjoy, but that was mostly due to trying styles which I know I do not like (you never know, they could be the diamond in the rough). Among my favorites were:

  • Presidio La Bahia, a Black Hefeweizen by Goliad Brewing Company in Goliad, TX
  • Rodeo Clown, a Double IPA by Karbach Brewing Company in Houston, TX
  • Buried Hatchet, an American Stout by Southern Star Brewing Company in Conroe, TX
  • Rocket Fuel, a Vietnamese Coffee Porter by 8th Wonder Brewery in Houston, TX
  • Root Beer by Saint Arnold Brewing Company in Houston, TX

Feel free to view the entirety of what I tried here: Roadbrewing Dotcom on Untappd

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There is so much more to experience, but the time has come for us to leave.  I did have the opportunity to visit a couple of breweries while we were here, including one which has not even open yet!  Keep an eye out for those posts soon.  For now, we are preparing for our journey westward. I hope that the next destination can keep up with Texas!

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Oh, Saint Arnold! You know that’s not true!

Goodwood Brewing 

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As luck would have it, long before this blog was conceived, I brewed a collaborative beer with my used-to-be-local homebrew club, Brewers of Central Kentucky (BOCK). I entered that beer, a bourbon barrel aged Wee Heavy, into the Kentucky State Fair and was awarded first place in my category.  Part of the prize was the opportunity to brew that beer on a commercial scale at Goodwood Brewing in Louisville, KY.  Now that I am traveling, what better way to kick this thing off with a brew day at a real brewery?!

My wonderful wife arranged for us to stay in the staff parking lot at Louisville Slugger Field, home of the Louisville Bats (thanks Nathan Renfrow).  From here it was just a short bike ride to the brewery.

I arrived bright and early and was introduced to the head brewer, Tim Salyers.  Both of us were working on just a few hours sleep due to the Chicago Cubs winning the World Series after a 10 inning game 7 the night before.  After some much needed coffee, we were determined to get the job done.

Working with Tim was great.  He was more than happy to answer all my many questions.  And, as it happens, he used to be a full-time rv’er just like us!  We even had a small-world moment when we discovered that we had purchased our RV’s from the same dealership in Michigan!

I even had the pleasure of meeting COO/brewmaster Joel Halbleib, who had scheduled our brew day.  He was there brewing up a test batch.

Together, we discussed the high original gravity (OG) of the beer, which was targeted at 1.095.  They had never brewed anything with such a high gravity and they weren’t sure the mash tun would be able to do it.  They were correct.  The first wort collected was substantially lower in gravity than expected.   What could have been a pretty big hurdle was easily overcome by the professionals with a little honey addition.

There were two of these. I had a sudden craving for all the biscuits!

It wasn’t long before we were boiling and I got to add the hops.  It turned out to be a very long boil, which was another part of the solution to achieve such a high gravity.

What isn’t captured in this photo is me racking my head on the above I-beam, nearly knocking my hat into the kettle…

In the end,  we were able to come close to our target.  As with homebrewing, the ability to be flexible made the brew day very enjoyable.

If you are ever in the Louisville area, I strongly recommend you stop by here.  I can’t speak for you taproom, as it wasn’t open when I was there, but I have had some of their beer in the past. Most of it has been worthwhile.  What I can tell you for sure is the staff here is top notch and they care dearly about the beer they produce.  I can’t wait to come back when my beer is ready to pour.  Maybe I’ll see you there!

Welcome to Roadbrewing!

Most of us are familiar with homebrewing.  But what does one do when he doesn’t live in a house, but in an RV traveling this beautiful country of ours?  That was the dilemma I was facing when our family decided to take off on this adventure.  It wasn’t really feasible to bring all of my brewing equipment with me, nor would I have a very good way of controlling temperature.  Let’s not even mention the smells of fermentation in such a small space… whoops!  How could I take my family on this great journey without sacrificing my passion for brewing? Enter ROADBREWING!

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Shortly after our RV was in our driveway, I removed the “outdoor kitchen” and replaced it with a beer dispensing system.  I discovered that my Torpedo Kegs fit perfectly in the space, with about 1/4″ to spare in height!  I built a jockey box with the faucets from what was my keezer / kegerator.  After just a few slight modifications I was ready to dispense some sweet libations.

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I started talking to other homebrewers and bumping elbows with professional brewers at festivals.  I learned that brewers around the country might welcome a traveling brewer to brew with them.  After all, we’re a proud bunch, aren’t we?  What better way to show off our equipment than to invite others to use it?  If I’m going to be having all this fun, why not share the experiences?  We might just all learn something.

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We have since sold our house and hit the open road!  Now the fun begins!  Keep your browser facing this direction to see where this crazy ex-beer-iment takes us.  I’m sure I’ll be meeting all sorts of interesting characters, and brewing with all sorts of wild contraptions.  Who knows, maybe I’ll be knocking on your door!!!