Our homebrew club, the Foam Rangers, in conjunction with DeFalco’s Home Wine and Beer Supply, where we meet, has an occasional competition known as “Pros vs. Joes.”Just like it sounds, it pits a professional brewer against a homebrewer, on homebrew equipment.It’s a rare occasion when the pro wins, believe it or not.I don’t ascribe that to the homebrewer being inherently better than the professional, it’s far more likely a function of the professional having not brewed on such a small scale in a long time.Many breweries have invested in systems like the “Brew Magic™” that has heat controllers, pumps, etc. for when they do test brews, making regression to a pieced together system even more difficult, not to mention getting you out of your usual brewing routines.So in some ways, the homebrewer does have some advantages.
The style to be brewed is agreed upon by the two brewers, so they are aiming at a particular target, so that when it comes to voting, the “judges” aren’t comparing light lagers to imperial IPA’s. This last competition was between our Was Waz (the outgoing club president) Noel Hart, and the brewer at Houston’s 8th Wonder Brewery, Jason Sheehy and the style was Irish Stout. If you’re not sure what that is, think Guinness Stout, which to new beer drinkers can be something of a conundrum.It’s light in body, light in alcohol (4.3% ABV is cited regularly as its strength, making it comparable to Bud Light) yet it has a very robust flavor, with intense roastiness, a twinge of lactic sourness and relatively soft carbonation (especially in the draught cans) that gives it a silky mouthfeel.It always amuses me when neophyte beer lovers talk about how drunk they get on Guinness and how heavy it is! (Although Guinness does make a Foreign Export Stout that weighs in at 7.5% ABV which is both delicious and dangerous!)
The beers brewed are put on tap during our monthly brew-in and then are voted on during the rest of the afternoon.It’s not what you’d call a scientific (or even secret) ballot, as many customers simply choose the beer they like the best rather than which conforms most closely to the targeted style.In my opinion, the beers submitted for our approval were both nearly spot on in terms of style, so even for the experienced judges, there was a an element of “which do I like better” instead of "which is closest to style?” What tipped my choice to Noel’s beer (the “Joe”) was that Jason’s beer had a faint, but evident smoky phenol in the roast, which I considered to be inappropriate for the style. However, I was in the minority for this one and on this occasion, the Pro took home the bragging rights.However, he did not get to take home his beer… We kept that to serve at the shop until the next Pros vs. Joes event!
Bev Blackwood II is the Southwest Brewing News Contributing Editor for Texas and has been covering Texas beers for 17 years An award winning home brewer, Bev has also brewed professionally at St. Arnold Brewing Company and was part of the team that brought home Saint Arnold’s first Great American Beer Festival gold medal in 2007. A long time member of Houston’s premiere homebrew club, the Foam Rangers, Bev teaches their Beer Judge Certification Program course and has also taught at Rice University’s Glasscock School of Continuing Studies.
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