Barley Mob-Chattanooga Brewing Company Pro-Am Porter

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So back in October, I had the opprotunity to brew one of my recipes at Chattanooga Brewing Company by virtue of winning their Pro-Am Brewing Competition that they hold twice a year with The Barley Mob, Chattanooga’s Homebrew Club. CBC is a great supporter of homebrewing and craft beer, and they open their brewhouse to a local homebrewer twice a year. For their fall Pro-Am, they asked for Porter recipes and I was both surprised and excited to have my brew chosen out of 13 entries.

Special thanks to Mark, Jonathan, Rivers, and the whole CBC crew for a great brew day. It was a blast to brew a production sized batch on their awesome brewhouse. My entry was a fairly traditional Robust Porter recipe with just a touch of Cascade hops to give it a nice chocolate and citrus blend:

Scott’s Barley Mob Porter

10 lbs 6 oz 2 Row Malt

1 lb Munich Malt

12 oz Crystal 40

4 oz English Chocolate Malt

6 oz Carafa III Special Dehusked Malt

1 oz East Kent Goldings @ 60 minutes

.4 oz Cascade @ 60 minutes

1 oz Fuggles @ 15 minutes

.2 oz Cascade @ 15 minutes

1 oz Willamette @ Flameout

.2 oz Cascade @ Flameout

34.6 IBU  33.8 SRM  1.063 OG  Mash @ 152

I believe this batch is history. There may be a keg or two remaining around town. There is a Wild Turkey barrel aged version that will be part of CBC’s Groundhog Day Tap Takeover extravaganza that begins next week. Get you some. When it’s gone, it’s gone.





How to win your next Pro-Am Competition


Admittedly, the title of this post is perhaps a bit misleading. Stick with me, though. Reading this is not going to guarantee a win, but it might help your chances in your next Pro-Am.

Many craft breweries hold Pro-Am competitions and give homebrewers the chance to brew full size versions of their recipes in a production brewery and to have their winning beer served on tap to the beer loving public. It’s a great opportunity to share your talents with a wider audience. Not to mention the street cred you’ll enjoy from your fellow brewers.

I was fortunate enough to have my Robust Porter recipe selected by Chattanooga Brewing Company at their Fall 2015 Pro-Am, which afforded me the opportunity to help judge their Spring Pro-AM, which was held on January 18. I have previously judged beers at a few BJCP homebrew competitions, but this was my first time judging a Pro-Am competition. The approach is similar, but there are some additional concerns that come into play that you should be mindful of. I’m sure there are Pro-Ams whose criteria and judging are structured differently, so don’t take my advice as absolute, rather consider the factors at play beyond brewing good beer.

That said, Brew Good Beer 

It probably goes without saying, but let’s not overlook the obvious. If you participate in BJCP homebrewing competitions, you know that a winning brew should be well executed with no discernable faults. Off flavors, aromas, and infections are deal killers. While strict adherance to style guidelines is usually less of a factor in a Pro-Am, the fundamentals of good brewing still apply.

Ingredient Availability

Believe it or not, your local brewery may not necessarily be able to procure all the ingredients available to you as a homebrewer. Keep that in mind when planning your recipe. Choose ingredients that are readily available or that have available substitutes. Experimental or exotic hops might pose a problem. Also beware of ingredients that will be cost prohibitive when scaled up to a 10-15 barrel batch. Your saffron IPA may be very tasty, but the brewery may balk at buying a pound of for a one-off brew.

Think Seasonal

Your best Winter Warmer or Oktoberfest may not fare too well if for a summer release. Ask the brewery when they plan to brew and tap the winning recipe. If you are brewing a seasonal beer, make sure its appropriate for the time of year when it will be served.

Brewery Portfolio

Get to know the tap list of the brewery who is hosting the Pro-Am. Taste every beer on the wall. Be sure your entry either contrasts or somehow complements the brewery’s selections. Also check out the winning selections of the previous competition. There’s a good chance that, for the sake of variety, they may not choose the same style beer in back to back Pro-Ams.

Avoid the Sours

Unless the brewery already has a sour program, leave the bugs at home. Most breweries will be reluctant to introduce wild yeasts and bacteria into their brewhouse and many times they will specify that sour beers not be entered into competition at all.

Ask the Brewmaster

Lastly, get to know the brewery and the brewers there. If they care enough about homebrewing to host a Pro-Am, they are likely happy to answer your questions about ingredient availabililty, process, and their beer philosophy in general.

When you plan your next Pro-Am competition entry, remember this: They are likely not looking for just the “best” beer. They are looking for the beer that excites and inspires them and one that they want to share with their customers. Now all you have to do is brew it. Good luck!



Photos or it didn’t happen…

Like a tree falling in the woods, brew day doesn’t actually happen if you dont take photos and blog about it. So I’m not quite sure what to make of the Munich Dunkel that was brewed yesterday. Here I am posting about it without any actual photographic evidence of what transpired.

The batch went very smoothly and some good conversation with a brew buddy put snapping photos way on down the priority list.

Yesterday’s batch was number 20 for 2015. I hope to sneak in a couple more before the end of the year. Next up: Barleywine.

For Want of a Pump

I recently replaced my immersion wort chiller with a plate chiller and after using it for several brew days, it’s time for another upgrade. The Duda Diesel plate chiller works well enough by draining the boil kettle and running the wort through with good old-fashioned gravity, but it was quickly apparent that the addition of a pump would make the process even better.

There were two main issues that popped up when using the gravity feed. First off, sanitizing before using it and cleaning it afterward was kind of a pain. I used a funnel and some tubing to flush the chiller with sanitizer while my wort was boiling. After the wort was chilled, I used the leftover hot water in the hot liquor tank and some powdered brewery wash to back flush the chiller and then followed that up with clean water to rinse. It worked, but it wasn’t much fun.

The other issue was chill time. During the summer here in Tennessee, the water from the tap in the garage usually exceeds 80 degrees. Couple that with low water pressure from our 85-year-old plumbing and my chill time, while quicker than using the immersion chiller, took a little longer than I wanted. Because I was running the wort through the plate chiller in one pass, the wort left waiting in the kettle was sitting there at near boiling temperatures. At temperatures above around 160 degrees F the production of Dimethyl Sulfide, which can cause off flavors, can be a problem, so I wanted a way to chill the entire batch to below 160 degrees as quickly as possible. Enter the Chugger Pumps.


As luck would have it, my good friend at the Fry Institute for Better Brewing had this pair of unused Chugger pumps that he was willing to part with. My brew stand is a three-tier, gravity fed system, so I only need one pump for now. I hope to eventually build a single tier, three pot stand which will use both pumps.

By adding the pump to the equation, the chilling process goes something like this:

  • With 10-15 minutes remaining in the boil, pump hot wort through the plate chiller to sanitize it. Hot wort is returned to the kettle (more on that in my next post.)
  • When boil is complete chilling water is turned on as wort continues to circulate from the kettle, through the chiller, and back into the kettle until the temperature of the entire batch drops below 160 degrees. Last brew day, it took about 10 minutes to get a 5 gallon batch down to about 140 degrees.
  • Once wort is below 160, wort flow is moved over to the fermenter and the entire batch is chilled in one pass through the chiller. This drops the wort down to the same temperature as the chilling water. In the summer months, this is still above pitching temperature, so I move the fermenter to a temperature controlled refrigerator and wait to pitch the yeast until the wort cools to the appropriate pitching temperature.

Then on to the cleanup:

  • Clean kettle with hot water and powdered brewery wash. Drain.
  • Backflush plate chiller with hot water and powdered brewery wash (from kettle.)
  • Rinse plate chiller with remaining hot water from HLT

That whole process may sound a bit complicated, but with cam-locks or quick release fittings, it is actually much easier that the gravity method that I had been using. In my next post I’ll cover some of the fittings that were necessary with the addition of the pump and maybe see the contraption in action.

Brew Day-Yooper’s House Pale Ale

I got an early start today and had good time brewing up a five gallon batch of Da Yooper’s House Pale Ale. After making a few adjustments to my system, I was looking for a relatively uncomplicated recipe to dial my numbers back in and was looking for a change of pace from the Irish Red, Dry Irish Stout, and Gaelic Ale that I currently have on tap. I ended up settling on this American Pale Ale recipe I found on the Homebrew Talk forum. There are currently over 50 pages of enthusiastic reviews on that particular thread, so I’m looking forward to tasting this one.

I’m pleased to report that I did not have a stuck mash this time, so I’m cautiously optimistic that the mash tun modifications I posted about recently may have done the trick. Until I have a few more consistently successful batches, though, the jury is still out.

I’m also really happy with the performance of the plate chiller. This is the third batch with the chiller, but the first with the new digital thermometer and cam lock fittings. I actually slightly under shot my pitching temperature, thanks to the 55 degree water temperature from the garage tap. The digital thermometer is pretty fast, but there is a slight lag between adjustments of the flow out of the boil kettle and the resulting temperature change at the chiller outlet. A little more practice should make it pretty easy to hit my pitching temperatures in the future, though.

Of course, there’s some room for improvement. My volume from the mash tun to the boil kettle and from the boil kettle to the fermenter were off ever so slightly as were my pre-boil and final gravity. A little fiddling with my BeerSmith equipment profile should do the trick, though.