It started with a lunch.
“We’ve been really involved with the community groups for the last few years now, ” explained Justin Fong, Sales and Marketing manager for Quidi Vidi Brewery based out of St John’s, NL. “I reached out to the Newfermentors probably four years ago now and met [Bill Burton], the head organizer at the time. We sat down for lunch and just talked about an idea for a fun collaboration. There are a few homebrew contests with breweries where there’s only one winner, but we had an idea to go for four winners for a four pack, have a bottle share, and make it more like a social event. And they were totally on board. This would be our third year doing it now.”
Participants had to submit 12 bottles of any beer style of their choosing, with some restrictions to the ingredients used, which would be presented at the bottle share. Quidi Vidi Brewery would pick the four winning brews, and make arrangements for the homebrewers to brew on their system.
Despite the pandemic, the brewery received 34 entries this year. “We’ve been pretty lucky in Newfoundland. Things are at half capacity, but generally open. There’s been one repeat winner from last year actually. And then 3 new guys who I knew from bottle shares of previous years.” In the first year, Quidi Vidi made a total of 160 hectolitre for the collaboration brews, but bumped it up to 320 hectolitres for the second and third years.
Ralph Pike is the two-time winner for the QVxNF collaboration brews. While he had tried a few homebrew beer kits since he became of legal drinking age almost two decades ago, it wasn’t until 2016 when he joined the Newfermenters that he started homebrewing more. “A former co-worker and homebrew Boyd Pardy [introduced] me to the world of hops and all-grain brewing in 2015 before I became a member of the Newfermenters.”
Last year, his sour lager won him a spot in the QVxNF four pack. This year, he brewed a coffee ESB using coffee beans from a local roaster. “I’ve made a couple sour beers that won in previous competitions. This time around I wanted to step outside my comfort zone and make an old-world style of beer. I was inspired by what I was into drinking at the time which was a couple of great local examples made by Boomstick Brewing Co. and Baccalieu Trail Brewing Co. A friend and fellow Newfermenters member, Curtis Bickham, actually made the suggestion that I should try to make this one as well. It wasn’t until I started reading about the characteristics of this style in the BJCP guidelines that I got the idea to complement it with a coffee addition. I worked with my local coffee roaster on how to prepare the coffee and what variety of coffee worked best with this ESB. They were really helpful and for this reason I named the beer ‘Darkstar’ after Darkstar Coffee Roasters.”
With regards to those who are thinking of participating next year, Pike says to just do it. “Step out of your comfort zone and put yourself out there. It’s a great learning experience with honest feedback from industry professionals which will help you become better at your hobby. The interaction with other homebrewers is also second to none. I still refer back to my score sheet comments from my first competitions.”
“I’m really proud to see that here in Newfoundland, we have an awesome network between homebrewers and craft breweries. One group supports and inspires the other group which helps keep this hobby and craft really interesting. I’m really proud to be a part of that.”