A bar in downtown Troy called The Ruck is holding their first annual Extreme Homebrewing Competition in June. It’s focused on six different brews:

  • Rye: grist has to contain 30% rye at least
  • “Funky”: a significant amount of non-grain adjuncts
  • A beer with both fruit and spice
  • Platiunum: a Bud Light Platinum kind of beer with high alcohol and low body (ironically, everyone will likely have the most difficult time with this beer)
  • Black IPA
  • Ahtanum: a single-hop beer using only Ahtanum hops

The competition allows teams of up to three brewers to make the six different beers, so I’ll be working with a couple homebrewing friends in the Capital Region, Bill and Angelos. Those guys have a lot of experience experimenting with all sorts of adjuncts, fruits, and spices, so they’re taking care of the two beers requiring them (the Imperial Honey Amber from a few years ago was absolutely top notch). I’ll be doing the rye beer, given my recent heavy experimentation with those kinds of beers. The other three beers we’ll be collaborating on and brewing together.

As I like to brew four batches successively to fill my four kegs, I’m in the process of putting together the brewing schedule for these next bunch of batches. I have two yeast strains in house that I’m going to use: a Belgian saison yeast, and my standard American yeast.

The first batch with the yeast I have will be a saison with honey and rose hips, and will be my one hundredth batch of homebrew. After that, I’m thinking of doing the other three beers as different rye-based experiments as potential entries for the competition. For the second batch using the saison yeast, I’m highly tempted to my witbier recipe, replace a bunch of the wheat with rye, add peppercorn (not sure which just yet), ferment a bit warmer, and switch to some spicier hops.

With the American yeast my first thought is to go with a rye pale ale and a rye IPA, as per normal. I haven’t had anything hoppy on tap in a while, and I’ve been pretty damn happy with most of the rye pale ales I’ve made. Part of me wants to try an American rye ale, which would be a very light, dry, spicy session beer.

Those are preliminary thoughts. I’m hoping to get the saison brewed sometime this week, then I can start trying to finalize all my other recipes.

This weekend was quite the beer filled event. Every year the fraternity undergrads hold an alumni weekend gathering (where they basically feed us a fancy dinner, get us drunk, and ask for donations). After finishing a ridiculous 3 week stretch at work, I decided to take Friday and Monday off to extend what is always a phenomenal weekend. Oh… it was worth it. 🙂

The weekend began for me on Thursday night at Quimby’s, a local bar that I frequent because it’s got a great relaxed atmosphere, great regulars, a rotation of pretty good beers, and an awesome bartender. Of note that night was the Flying Dog Raging Bitch, which turns out to be a Belgian tripel with an American IPA twist to it. The grapefruit hop flavor worked brilliantly with the Belgian yeast flavors. This was an excellent beer, and a great way to start the weekend.

Friday evening I pulled into Troy at my old grad school apartment, grabbed my old roommate Dave, and headed to Mahar’s in Albany. Mahar’s being the best beer bar I’ve ever been to, where I first gained my love of craft beer. Given how much I drank this weekend, it’s hard to remember if there was anything overly notable that night (Bill, help me out here…).

The Alumni Weekend event on Saturday is a formal cocktails/dinner/drinking/meeting kind of event that started at 1, with a mass group of thirsty folks in suits huddled around the bar when it opened at 2. 🙂 The event is catered on campus at the Hefner Alumni House, and because it’s catered we have no control over the alcohol. This means that they have a tendency to underestimate just how much beer a group of 40+ brothers and their dates can drink when trying to relive the college days. This time they seemed to have enough.

After dinner we all grabbed drinking clothes and headed to downtown Troy to The Ruck. There was a nice pleasant surprise that we found out about a week in advance: apparently they were having a Stone Brewing event that night. Double Bastard on tap! Yes! Another bonus from that event was that the Stone representative there knew one of our brothers from New York City. Needless to say that led to free tastings of some delicious stuff. 🙂 I think we bailed for pizza around 1 or 2 and then crashed.

Sunday morning was all about Manory’s diner, as it always is, but then back to Mahar’s for their 21st anniversary. That trip was especially noteworthy because they had the Harpoon Oyster Stout on tap, and Bill Dean (their main bartender and good friend of ours) had smoked oysters with him. Let’s just say that the smoked oyster taste took a fantastic beer and made it more… fantastical? Yeah, that’s a word as of right now. 🙂

We ended the weekend drinking homebrew (my Imperial IPA and Irish Stout, his Porter and Imperial Honey Amber) and playing video games at Bill Swallow’s place. This was the kind of weekend I needed.