In August 2021, Canadian Malting Barley Technical Centre (CMBTC) ran their first homebrew competition with their local homebrew club, Winnipeg Brew Bombers. The twist to the competition was that the entries had to use the malts provided by CMBTC.
“The idea for starting the competition arose from us discarding leftover malt; we were offering this malt to brewers in the city for free,” explained Sherwin Santiano, Malting & Brewing Technician at CMBTC. “One day, Aaron [Onio] and myself were discussing asking the Winnipeg Brew Bombers if they would like some and I at first jokingly suggested that we have a homebrew competition using our malts. Fast forward a couple of months this summer and 21 beers in, we hosted our first homebrew competition! We did it as a way to engage a club who we have a solid relationship with and get them interested in malt/barley which is something we are passionate about (it doesn’t hurt to also get a supply of free beer haha but I will let you decide which one swayed us more).“
The CMBTC has had a good relationship with Winnipeg Brew Bombers. “For the past couple of years, we have been hosting one of their monthly meetings so this is our way of expanding onto the meeting. We initially introduced the competition at the end of our virtual meeting that we hosted through Zoom. It also helped logistically working through the Winnipeg Brew Bombers to organize the beers and help distribute the malt.” A local homebrew supply store as roped in to help out as well. “We also worked with the local homebrew shop Grain To Glass who also contributed to the prize pool to also give back to the homebrew community here in Manitoba.”
The competition criteria was that the entries’ grain bill needed to consist 50% of the CMBTC generated malt blend catch. No restrictions on entry styles, and judging was based solely on the judges’ personal enjoyment. In the presentation they made at one of the Winnipeg Brew Bombers homebrew club meeting, they introduced home-malting, which inspired a couple of entires. “Two of the participants followed up and actually incorporated it into their beers!”
Out of the 21 entries received, Stephanie Barten’s “Sour Patch Kids Raspberry Sour” took the top prize. “It was incredibly clean, had great clarity, tasted very fruity and sweet and was balanced by a beautiful sourness,” shared Santiano. “We were very surprised that it contained some of our malt! The beer was one of the unique ones that stood out to us.”
When Barten found out she won, she was pretty ecstatic. “How did I feel? Well, I yelled ‘Holy s*** I won!’ and my husband thought I won the lottery. Still feels like I did. There are some really really great brewers in the club so I was very surprised I even made the top three.”
While she started brewing in 2016, she claims her beers only started becoming drinkable sometime in 2019. “The pandemic really helped me focus. I started brewing mostly mead back in 2018, but I will brew a beer every couple of months. I have entered beers into the small club competitions throughout the Winnipeg Brew Bombers season before but again, they were not always drinkable! Mead is my main focus; I have won a couple of awards with that.”
About her winning “Sour Patch Kids Raspberry Sour”, she used a yeast she loved. “It is no secret that I love Philly Yeast. I have used it in both beer and mead. I started brewing a little “Sour Candy Series” recreating my favourite sour candies. First was Sour Patch Kids, then I tried Sour Watermelon, then Cherry Blasters. That last one will not be a repeat. The Sour Patch Kids was a huge hit—my friends drained the keg within a week. I figured, go with what works for the competition. The recipe is a simple blonde ale using the Philly Yeast and finishing with some natural raspberry flavouring. Since Philly Yeast loves heat, I usually ferment it at about 26°C for beer.”
The winner of the competition won free malt (one bag of malt per month) for a year.
Cover photo courtesy of Sherwin Santiano.