Posts Tagged With: Winter Beer Tasting class

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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