Posts Tagged With: brewing history

The Wookie and the Sasquatch

Homebrewing, 2002

When I first started homebrewing back in 2002, I used to bring my homebrew into Boundary Bay to get feed back from the then Head Brewer Skip Madsen.  Skip is a large hairy guy and is known by many as “The Wookie.”  Skip was very encouraging with his feedback and would send me home with some yeast for my next batch.  In 2005 I started working at Boundary Bay as a Cellarman and Assistant Brewer in 2006.  Sadly, Skip wasn’t there anymore as he’d left to start the Waterstreet Brewery in Port Townsend and now American Brewing Company in Edmonds.

I found two new teachers in Head Brewer Aaron Jacob Smith and Assistant Brewer Steve Ellison.  Working in the brewery at Boundary Bay is kind of like an apprenticeship where I have to do the same thing many many times before being taught the next thing.  I started washing kegs, but by the end of my first week I was doing transfers and filling kegs.  Next I was washing and sanitizing tanks, harvesting yeast, bottling beer samples…bit by bit learning all the aspects of brewing.  It took about a year and a half of dedicated effort for me to work my way onto the brewdeck, fulfilling my dream of becoming a professional brewer.

the past and present brewers of Boundary Bay Brewery (Anthony pictured at left, Skip pictured center, back)

As soon as I started working at Boundary Bay I’ve made many efforts over the years to increase my brewing knowledge.  I’ve attended seminars and classes, read many books, applied for scholarships, brewed a lot of beer and tasted a few along the way.  After 6 or 7 years of applying, I have recently been awarded the Glen Hay Falconer Scholarship to the American Brewers Guild Intensive Brewing Science and Engineering Course (link to ABG}.  This is a monumental achievement for me.  I know that in the future I will look back at this class as a pivotal point in my career.  I share this victory with my co-workers Aaron and Steve who have taught me so much already.

It can be frustrating applying year after year, I have a folder with all my applications and denial letters.  You don’t know if you were in the top five or bottom fifty, you just know that you weren’t selected.  Some years I took it kinda hard, doubting if I was on the right path.  Other years I made fresh determinations to be the best brewer I can and continue to apply.  I entered contests and drawings, everything I could think of to get a chance to attend classes on brewing.  I have a degree in Environmental Science from Huxley College at Western Washington University.  With the Brewing Science course I hope to be able to create a new niche for myself in the brewery, maintaining the consistent quality of our beer as we expand production in the future.  I am determined to share what I learn through this course with my co-workers, other local breweries and local homebrewers.

I teach beginner homebrewing classes and beer tasting classes at the Bellingham Technical College, the next class is a Winter Beer tastingon January 21st.  Matt Hansen, a BTC culinary alumni and Boundary Bay kitchen manager, will be preparing foods paired with the beers. I will also be teaching a beginner homebrewing class in April and British Beer tasting class in May, next quarter.  I started doing these classes because I meet so many people who say they want to start homebrewing but don’t know how to take that first step.  I tried doing a hands on class the first time but it was logistically very challenging.  The class is set up now as a demonstration/ lecture/ Q&A class.  I have a friend, Robbie Lowry help keep an eye on the stove while we brew a batch of extract beer in the class.  I bring hops and malts, discuss ingredients, the brewing process, I get people practicing bottling with some water…I just try to give them enough confidence that yes, they can do this themselves in their own kitchen.

The beer tasting classes have been fun, but they are much better now that I have Matt doing the food.  He prepares food right there in the class room while we are tasting and discussing the beers.  I started doing the tasting classes because I meet so many people who don’t know what distinguishes different beer styles and/or don’t know what they like or don’t like in a beer.  The great thing about tasting several beers side by side is that you can compare and contrast them to see what you like and why.  Do you like the hoppier beers like an IPA or the malty sweet Scotch ale?  Doing this kind of tasting helps people know what they want to buy or order in the future.  Otherwise if you have a beer one week and a different beer the next it’s hard to compare the two and know which you liked best.

Homebrewing, with son Sawyer, 2011

The Glen Hay Falconer Foundation has an annual event, The Sasquatch Brewfest which will be held Saturday May 12th, 2012 in Eugene, Oregon.  So I went from learning from the Wookie, to the Sasquatch.  I will be going down with some beer and I hope that many people from Washington, especially Whatcom and Skagit Counties will attend as well.  There is a brewam golf tournament that pairs professional brewers with amateurs, if you’re a golfer please come down and participate. This is the 10th anniversary of the Glen Hay Falconer Scholarship and they’ll be inviting all the previous winners to attend the festival.  As this year’s winner, I will be representing Boundary Bay and Bellingham, Washington in a central position.   I hope that I can bring more people and beer from Washington to this event, so please put that date on your calender, check out the website, train your liver and come down to the Sasquatch Brewfest.

Cheers!   -Anthony Stone, Assistant Brewer at Boundary Bay Brewery
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Brewing For Best of the Bay

2002

I first started homebrewing in late 2002. My first few batches of beer were less than stellar and I might have given up if not for the patient support of Robert Arzoo at North Corner Brewing Supply. When he suggested that I enter a beer in a local homebrew competition called Best of the Bay in 2003, I thought that I surely wouldn’t win anything but it would be good to get some feedback from more experienced brewers. I entered my fourth batch of beer which was an imperial stout that had erupted all over the house, I called it Mt.Vesuvius Imperial Stout and it was voted best beer in the porter/stout category.

Mt. Vesuvius aftermath

After repainting the walls and recovering from the mess, I was surprised at how good that beer turned out. This experience gave me a lot of confidence in my ability to make good beer and ultimately led me to pursue my career in brewing at Boundary Bay.

There wasn’t a club for homebrewers in Bellingham at the time in 2003, and Best of the Bay hasn’t happened since. When I saw that the Bellingham Homebrewers Guild (BHG) was being formed and that some of the members had taken the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) tests to be beer judges, I thought it was time to revive Best of the Bay.  I wanted our local brewers both old and new to have the same kind of confidence building experience I had in 2003.

entries for 2011 Best of the Bay

I started out in Feburary by contacting Jesse Nickerson who was organizing the club at the time. We met and discussed what kind of event we wanted Best of the Bay 2011 to be. We set a date and registered with the national BJCP program and with the National Homebrewers Association. Jesse and I then formed a steering committee and met every two weeks for months planning the event. Ian Harper handled all of the website/internet stuff and as he was elected President of the BHG he helped co-ordinate with the club. Justin Bajema became our judge director and spent many hours contacting, organizing, and running the judging sessions. Alex Cleanthous painted the bung awards and was always willing to handle the loose ends. Robert Arzoo was a great mentor sharing his experience with running the Best of the Bay in the past. Chris McClanahan handled our promotion and gathered prizes donated by many sponsors including Boundary Bay Brewery, Chuckanut Brewing, Lagunitas Brewing, North Corner Brewing Supply, Northern Brewer, Avenue Bread, Artisan Alloys and others.

2011 Best of the Bay judges

Our event became two separate events as we held the judging on a Friday and Saturday; then Sunday we had an awards ceremony/ homebrew rally in the Boundary Bay beer garden. It was a tremendous success all around. We had 196 beers get registered with a final 184 official entries from throughout the state and even some sent from California. Winners received prizes and a Gold/Silver/ or Bronze bung. The best of show got a $50 gift card from Northern Brewer plus a free entry into the National Homebrew Competition which will be held in Seattle in 2012.  Our event in the garden was saturated with great beer and people. We had homebrew to taste, judges on hand to taste the beer and give feedback and homebrew set-ups to look at. Robert also made a series of hop teas so that you could taste hop flavors individually.

We plan on making this an annual event and hopefully it will get bigger and better each year. For next year, in particular, we need more beer judges. So if you are interested, join the Bellingham Homebrewers Guild and take the BJCP test this year. Thank you to everyone who supported us behind the scenes. I may have forgot to mention some of you specifically and I’m sorry if I did. I especially have to give a huge thank you to Ed Bennett and Janet Lightner of Boundary Bay Brewery. We could not have pulled off this event without their generous support. I also want to thank Ilana for catering the food for the judges and Brian for grilling all our burgers. See you at Best of the Bay 2012. Cheers! Anthony Stone

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April was a busy month for Beer and I.  I recently taught a beginners homebrewing class at the Bellingham Technical College (BTC).  I also taught a Beers of the British Isles tasting class, which was a lot of fun. For this class the idea was to have classic beers from England, Scotland and Ireland, then compare them with American examples of the same styles. This not only shows how and why craft beer took off in America, but how these classic beer styles have evoloved into new styles of their own.  At the World Beer Cup for example there are separate sub-categories for English IPA and American IPA.  I hung up some flags and maps, put on some Irish and Scottish music and we had a great time.  Another plus, for the first time we had a chef preparing food pairings right there in the room.  Matt Hansen is the kitchen Manager at Boundary Bay and is an BTC Culinary alumni.  His pairings were both great tasting and clever.  For example he paired a Indian curry with the India Pale Ales.  Hopefully Matt and I can join forces together for my next beer tasting class, which, probably won’t be until the Winter quarter.  I’m taking the Summer and Fall quarters off from teaching any classes.  I’m open to ideas until then so if you have a suggestion, post it on this blog.  April was topped off with the annual April Brews Day beer festival, which is a fundraiser for the Max Higbee Center.  I made two special beers for this event: Ginger-Peach Blonde Ale, and Vanilla Bourbon Oak Aged Imperial Stout.  The stout turned out really good, but I think last years was better, I will definitely do it again next year.  The Ginger-Peach is always evolving and I think I’ll need to get more peach into it next year.  If you tried either of these and want to give me some feedback for next year, please post it on the blog here.  Thanks to everyone who attended the April Brews Day and who came to my classes.  Without the support of beer lovers in Bellingham, there would be no craft beer here.
Slainte, -Anthony Stone

Matt Hansen, culinary genius

The pairings were:
  • IPA with Curried Apple Soup
  • ESB with Frisee aux Lardons
  • Porter with Mushroom and Goat Cheese Tart
  • Stout with Irish Soda Bread
  • Wee Heavy Scotch with Peanut Butter Ganache Pretzels
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I Still Play With Toys

I’m going to expose what a geek I am with this one.

I was a science major in college, I was a band nerd in high school, and as an adult I still play with trains.

Last year I found a box at my parent’s house with me and my father’s old train cars.  I had some space in my basement so I thought I’d try to set up a train layout.  I had no idea what I was doing so I attended some meetings of the local model train club at the Bellingham Railway Museum.  Some of the guys were going to Boundary Bay Brewery after the meeting so I joined them for a pint and some serious train talk.

Atlas Golden Spike Club Car 2010

They got pretty excited of the pictures of the old train station and round house that are hanging in the men’s bathroom here at the brewery.  I learned from the group that Atlas has a Golden Spike Club that makes a special car each year that is only available to the club members and this year it was going to be a Bellingham Bay Brewery 3-B boxcar.

I had to get one of these for Boundary Bay Brewery.  With some help from our social media guru Amy and the generosity of Atlas we got some of these train cars which are based on an actual historical photo of this car in front of the Bellingham Bay Brewery.  We traded one with the railroad museum for some track, an engine, and a caboose.  Now you’ll find our mini-train above the bar in our tap room.

the Bellingham Bay Brewery with the 3B traincar in front of it

Dale the museum historian brought us some photos of the old 3-B brewery, located around current Ohio street, and some pictures of Railroad ave. where Boundary Bay is now.  I’ve been fascinated with our local history ever since my Bellingham history class in third grade at Silver Beach Elementary.  It’s really fun for me to see pictures of Railroad avenue with trains on it, now the location of Boundary Bay Brewery, with our train on the bar with a historic replica of the 3-B train car.  It will be even more exciting next time we brew 3-B and have it on tap at the bar.

Bellingham Bay Brewery

In the meantime I’ll be working on my Beer/ Zombie apocalypse themed train layout six feet from my keggerator.  I’m looking for ideas of how to build HO scale (1:87)  hop and barley farms..

Categories: Beer, Brewing, Brewing equipment, Collecting, Random, trains | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

From Homebrewer to Professional

When Boundary Bay Brewery opened in 1995 I was a junior at Sehome High School. It wasn’t till years later when I was in College that I started going to Boundary for beer. Craft beer was still establishing itself and I was just getting into beers other than Pabst. I would say that my first beer sampler here probably taught me more about beer than anything else before becoming a brewer. The great thing about beer samplers is that they allow you to try different beers side by side so that you can see how different malts and hops create totally different flavors.  It also helped me identify what I like and/or don’t like about certain beer styles.

When I first started homebrewing Skip Madsen was the head brewer here and he was a great mentor to me in my brewing career. Before becoming one of Boundary’s brewers, I used to bring Skip my homebrew and he’d give me feedback and some more yeast to go home and brew with. By the time I started working at Boundary Bay Brewery in 2005, he had already moved on to Water Street in Port Townsend.  This last week Boundary Bay celebrated 15 years of “saving the ales” and I realized that I’ve been here for the last third of that.

I have been witness to many changes at Boundary Bay over the last five years. Since I started working in the Brewery we’ve grown to the second largest and then the largest brew pub in the country for a few years running…which has required some changes in the brewing process here.  The first thing I would mention is the Munzinger Bung Extractor built in 1934, but only brought here a few years ago. This replaced the previous system of sitting on the keg and popping the bungs out one at a time with a chisel and hammer while wearing one of Skip’s old hockey goalie gloves. I used to fill kegs one at a time as well, but now have the “Octo-filler” that Adam Lent built. Now I can now fill eight kegs at a time. This is good because our production level here has grown steadily over the years. I’ve heard tales about back in the day when they used to only brew a few times a week. We now brew pretty much every day. Some days we do two batches, so we’re averaging 7-10 brews a week.

In the summer, in particular, it is always a juggling act to make sure that we never run out of anything. Locally, we sell lots of Scotch ale, but overall IPA is by far our biggest selling beer. Of the 7-10 batches brewed a week IPA is going to account for at least four of those. There has definitely been a shift in which beers we sell more of now than 10 years ago. We have also developed some new beers over the years. Some like the Triple, we brewed last year, remain (sadly) a one time brew. Others, like the Imperial Red and the Single Hop Series, have become annual seasonals. There have been changes in equipment like our new mash tun, which is way more efficient than our old one. Despite the changes with equipment over time, the focus remains to keep the beer consistent and delicious.

Looking back, I have also seen tremendous growth in the Bellingham and national beer culture as well as the evolution of craft beer in our country. There are some great interviews I’ve read from the pioneers of craft brewing that I find really inspiring. These guys were inventive, original, & often rebellious, fighting against archaic beer laws and big breweries with deep pockets. Also, we as a culture didn’t know as much about different beer styles or what a good beer is. It was revolutionary to get anything besides an ice-light, dry-draft, all-tasting-the-same lager. Now I think that the craft beer industry as well as the public’s palate have developed to the point where it’s not enough to just make something different, it’s got to be good. Especially when you look at all the choices we have now compared to ten years ago. I’ve really enjoyed working in the craft beer industry. The people who drink the beer and the people I make it with are awesome.

At our 15th anniversary party, I had a chance to meet up with Boundary’s brewers new and old.  It was really cool to hang out and have a beer with all the brewers that have climbed in and out of that kettle over the years. Cheers to Howard, Dave, Skip, Aaron, Steve, and I guess me. I’m proud to be part of the brewing tradition here; following in these guys boot prints.

Boundary Bay Brewers new and old: Anthony Stone, Steve Ellison, Aaron Jacob Smith, Skip Madsen, Dave Morales, Howard Koon and Nick Crandall

It’s very rewarding to me to be able to see our tap room full of people from all walks of society relaxing and enjoying a beer and a meal together. Pub is really short for “public house” and that’s how I think of Boundary Bay. The owner and manager do a lot to support local charities and give back to the community and when I see people hanging out here I can’t help but feel that Boundary Bay is part of the glue that holds this town so close together. Congratulations to Ed and everyone at Boundary for 15 great years and a huge thank you to everyone supports us and keep me making beer.

Cheers!


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