by Ian MacLeod
The Ottawa homebrewers (Members Of Barleyment) meet every spring in Merrickville, ON for our large, annual gathering affectionately called Big Strange Brew (or BSB for short). It is organized every year on the first Monday of June, and so you can imagine our delight when we heard of the scheduling plans for Canadian Homebrew Day. In late winter, when spring fever hits and BSB is on the brain, a competition is proposed so brewers can prepare. Past years have included: Kveik only, Fruit Beers, 7 days grain to glass, SMASH, and this year, affectionately called “Clone Wars”, every beer being a clone of a commercial offering.
A couple of weeks prior to the event, a committee meets to setup the large circus style tent in preparation. On the fateful weekend, die hard brewers start arriving Friday night, setting up our “Nonopus” (nine tap cold plate jockey box) along with dozens of other jockey boxes and tables brought by brewers and getting ready for the masses on Saturday. Participants bring camping trailers and tents and the festivities begin. The event is now more and more about amazing food too—fryers, smokers and barbecues are set up. In the past, a whole hog has been put on the spit for all to enjoy. Sharing is the name of the game. Bring enough for 100 people!
Saturday morning is when the magic starts. Brewing rigs are set up in a large garage and under the big tent, and often between 100 and 300 gallons of wort are produced under the supervision of the rest of the club, mostly poking and prodding brewers, discussing processes, ingredients and fermentation. Brewing generally winds down in the afternoon as the beer competition takes centre stage. Voting is electronic and secret with the winner announced in the late afternoon. Finally, as the sun starts to set, guitars and other various instruments come out, campfires are lit, and the night turns into a singalong. Nothing like a spring weekend, surrounded by hundreds of fellow homebrewers.
Congrats to Steve Little (cloned Stray Dog’s Quit Your Job) and Kevin Hamilton (cloned Labatt Blue brewed with Oslo Kviek!) on their wins in the competition this year. Thank you again to Laurier Dumas for the use of his rural property, garage, and coordination of the tent erection. Thank you to everyone that brought delicious food and amazing beer to share.