Sunday, October 9, 2011

Keg & Barrel's Outlaw Homebrew Competition

Literally, in Mississippi, it is illegal to: 1) homebrew and 2) sell or serve beer with a ABW of over 5%.  So for the second year, the homebrew competition held at the Keg & Barrel in Hattiesburg is technically illegal and all organizers, brewers, judges, and attendees are outlaws IN THE EYES OF THE MISSISSIPPI LAW!

Spoiler alert: we did not get arrested.  Much to the dismay of the Beer Buddha.  Maybe next year, Jeremy!

We did, however, have an awesome time.

David Graves and his Brew Cart! (check him out at thebrewcart.com)

Brewers' Village!


Tom and I drove up on Saturday morning and got to the Keg & Barrel at around 10am, per John Neal's request.  We kicked back with Jeremy and met some of the folks from Lazy Magnolia Brewery and Raise Your Pints, a grassroots non-profit lobbying group to overturn the drastic and archaic beer laws in the state. After some wandering around and meeting folks, the awesome judging RV of judginess arrived and we judges were permitted to go on board and chillax until it was time to do our round of tasting (I was assigned to IPAs and stouts, which were at the end of the judging schedule).

Waiting for the Judging RV to arrive and the beer judging to begin subsequently

Outside the Judging RV

Inside the RV!

Jeremy "BeerBuddha" Labadie
We weren't really supposed to go out to the brewers' area until after our judging was over, so I wandered and got a pint inside the Keg & Barrel (Anchor Liberty Ale) and got a pulled pork sandwich with which to fortify myself for the upcoming judging. Both were delicious.

So, the judging was taking longer than originally anticipated, and although we really tried to rush through my category of 19 different IPAs, the organizers took me off stouts so a different group could judge them simultaneously to the end of the IPA tasting.
Wheats

Blurry IPAs.  SO MANY.

The Tasting and Judgement (tm Original Version Iron Chef) was an awful lot of fun.  I was tasting with Jeremy "BeerBuddha" Labadie as well as David "Soup" Campbell (who is on the board of Raise Your Pints) and it was just great, great, terrific fun.  I learned so much and I even think that I contributed in a positive way! The first one I sampled, I was so scared that I didn't know what I was doing. I got more confident as we moved forward though, and I think the three of us got really good at parsing flavor characteristics. All in all, I would say that we tasted about 5 decent IPAs out of the 19 submitted.

So after the IPAs were finally finished with, the stouts finished up around the same time, and the organizers REALLY wanted to get this done ASAP.  So we all tasted beers in the "miscellaneous" category, even Tom, heh. I tasted one beer that was honestly one of the best IPAs I'd had all day.  I was confused why it wasn't in the IPA category, but I rated it quite high and moved along till we had no more miscellaneous beers left.  Later, I was sitting with a fellow judge, beer journalist Dan Murphy of Mobile Alabama, and his wife and brother.  Dan's brother (Sean) mentioned they'd decided to enter his Cascadian Black IPA in the miscellaneous category, and I immediately realized that it was the beer that I loved so much even in the craziness of the end of the judging!  I babbled about how much I loved it, and Sean said that meant more to him than winning.  Not that he actually had to take that consolation, because he totally won the Miscellaneous beer category.

Once judging was over, things started to get a little fuzzy.  I horned in on a TV interview that Jeremy was doing (I doubt I'll be in the final cut of that, since I didn't have a mike on, HA), I had several illicit beers from sources that will remain unnamed (because I can't remember, not because I am withholding their identities from some sense of loyalty against an unjust system type of thing.)  I wished I had business cards.  I enjoyed breaking into the boy's club of beer brewing, business, writing, and tasting.  I think the boy's club could use more of us beer drinking ladies, to be honest. Several of my fellow judges (seriously, stop me if I go too far and start using terms like "brethren") had really great kickass beer drinking wives/partners, and I wondered what it was that separates beer enthusiast from beer expert.  And I wondered if it was gender, to some extent.  I am certainly not making any calls of sexism- everyone there couldn't have been nicer to me and I never felt looked down on or treated differently - but it's just something that was hard (for me) not to think about, being the only hen in the rooster-house.

Vague larger gender issues thinkings aside - I had an awesome time.  And the vague thinkings didn't actually detract from my good time, they were interesting and enjoyable because I like thinking about stuff like that.  While drinking.  It's when I do my best work!  Oh, wait.

In conclusion: I was honored and thrilled to be around people who love beer and are passionate about beer and brewing. The fact that beer lovers and home brewers in Mississippi have so many legal hurdles to overcome has created a very enthusiastic, knowledgeable, and impassioned group here that are working hard to make a change and forging deep bonds in the community doing so.  The fact that they welcomed a lady beer blogger that isn't from around these parts with such warmth and friendliness speaks to the enduring camaraderie of the beer culture in the South, especially in Mississippi on that gorgeous October Saturday where we were all breaking the law for the love of beer.

19 comments:

  1. You should meet Carol Rice. She is the wife and homebrewing partner of Richard Rice. She is holding the beer school associated with the Crescent City Homebrewers which I believe is a class working towards BJCP certification. So, no sex related barring there.

    You and Tom should really try to make it to the next CCH meeting. You may be able to catch up with the Rices at Octoberfest, and almost certainly at Winterfest.

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  2. P.S., as far as I can tell, what keep women out of the professionals ranks is purely ownership. GABF is judged largely by brewery owners. They are mostly men. I could be wrong, but I think it's that simple. On the homebrew level, it's purely participation. There's no "she can't brew" thoughts around CCH.

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  3. I don't see sex-related barring - that's far too active and nefarious-sounding term for the subtleties of gender issues in specific communities I'm attempting to explore. I'm just interested in the why and the how, I have zero interest or desire (or grounds, to be frank) to cast blame or cry sexism on any beer community I've ever been a part of.

    I just think it's an interesting conversation, is all.

    When/where's Octoberfest this year?

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  4. I'm not saying that anyone is specifically thinking/saying "she can't brew." Also, I actually have zero idea how many women were participating as homebrewers at the Outlaw festival- I didn't get to talk to many of the contestants. My perception of gender dynamics is squarely based in the fact that I was the only woman judge in that trailer.

    This is not some sort of feminist attack, but I find it interesting that the number of women participants in brewing and homebrewing is so low, and you can point to that as the simple solution. I like to think about: "why is the participation so low?" rather than say, "well, there aren't many women in the brewing world, so that's why participation is so low." You know what I mean? Gender issues (as well as racial issues) are subtle and difficult to unpack in this day and age where the traditional roles in general are being challenged.

    I think just asking the question leads to some cool conversations for everyone to participate in.

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  5. PS- we will totally make every effort to get to Octoberfest and the next CCH meeting.

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  6. Re: the judging - I am actually shocked that the judges were all celebrity types. For homebrew, typically, you are judged following BJCP guidelines, preferably by BJCP certified judges. For the pro brewers, it seems that the judges are your peers and the grading is less strict.

    Octoberfest will be at River Town in Kenner, starting this weekend.
    http://deutscheshaus.org/

    There is supposed to be some sort of homebrew demonstration set up.

    Winterfest will be at the current Deutsches Haus in Metairie off of Ridgemont.
    http://maps.google.com/?ll=29.973812,-90.141889&spn=0.007575,0.00898&hnear=Metairie,+Jefferson,+Louisiana&t=m&z=17&vpsrc=6&iwloc=lyrftr:m,1623123579913735736,29.974528,-90.142726

    I believe all beer served will be homebrew.

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  7. Well, given that the entire homebrew process in MI is illegal, it makes sense that the strict BJCP guidelines weren't followed in this case. I know that John Neal and Sam Sorrells worked hard to bring a BJCP mentality to the process.

    I think they are in a position that they need as much publicity as possible to help their cause in overturning these crazy laws, so that's why they went for more a group of local beer media "celebrity" types and local beer bigwigs.

    The situation there is just... insane. Illegal to homebrew. Mindblowing!

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  8. It was great meeting you Saturday and I'm glad you enjoyed your visit in Mississippi. Tom stopped by to try our beer, and I hope you were able to as well near the end.

    We have a wonderful woman on our team - Angela Blackburn, but unfortunately she was unable to make this event. If you are able to make it, she will be in attendance with us at Jacktoberfest in Jackson, MS on Oct 21 and we are also hosting the Be Bold Beer Run in Downtown Jackson on Oct 22. Angela would be more than willing to talk with you over a beer! If you want more info, feel free to contact me. Hope you can make it.

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  9. That makes sense sort of. It's illegal so we want as many people as possible to participate and publicize it. Joking aside, I do get it.

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  10. Travis, HA! I know, right?!!?!

    Chip- thanks for the heads up on the upcoming MI beer events - maybe we can make a trip to check them both out!

    FTR, one of my favorite people on the planet is Melanie Knepp at NOLA Brewing- so I know kickass brewing ladies exist! I do hope to meet Carol and Angela and others soon.

    Yay, thanks for the awesome discussion!

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  11. Hi Nora! Great review of the event, and I couldn't help but find myself nodding along with your sentiments on the lack of women in beer. I'm sure that in the south, being somewhat new to craft beer in general, the stereotype is even greater than elsewhere. However, I agree that it is not sexism by any means: I believe that men not only don't look down on us at all but that they actually would prefer more participation by females. There were quite a few men who seemed genuinely impressed when I was explaining how we came up with the recipe, what types of malts we used, when we had the hop additions, etc, and even had one comment of "wow, you're not just a woman who loves beer but a woman who really knows her shit about beer!". I think that what kept myself and other women like us off of "the bus" is purely a lack of title… there just aren't that many of us working in an official capacity. It has almost made me want to start my own beer blog, though it seemed that I'd just kind of echo what Dan would be saying since we have such similar beer experiences (for obvious reasons).

    Anyway, all that to say that I'm with you, and I hope that in as little as the next five years, we'll see the beer attitude of gulf coast women change as drastically as it has for the gulf coast in general over the past five. I was encouraged as I was pouring our black IPA, as about 3/4 of the women I'd go to pour it for would try to stop me initially based on the color alone then agree to a small sip and end up requesting more. Hopefully most of it is still just a lack of knowledge and experience, and that is certainly the easiest barrier to overcome.

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  12. @Amy: you should blog if only to share a woman's perspective on things. I'm sure it would mean a lot to other women.

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  13. Perhaps I will. I'm definitely still toying with the idea.

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  14. Well, Amy, if you don't feel like you want to start a blog, you are definitely invited to be a guest blogger on my blog! Seriously, just email me a blog entry and I'd be happy to post it.

    This goes for all women who would like to share their experiences of beer drinking!

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  15. Hi Nora
    It was great to meet you this weekend and Im glad you were able to come out! I thought you did a great job reping for woman and craft beer in general. I too would have liked to have seen more of a balance in the judges trailer this weekend. I agree with Amy that it doesn’t seem like any form of overt sexism but maybe lingering affects of some archaic social and economic modes. This is both odd and sad to me since most of the woman I hang out with absolutely love beer and would love to be involved in these types of events. I think that most of the people working in the brewing industry are men and that is starting to change down here. I think that further change in the industry would definitely help representation. However for it to be lasting and meaningful I think that it needs to be coupled with change in society over all. I also think that participation on the outside would also help. By that I mean involvement in blogging, home brewing, criticism, discussion, learning and teaching. There are already many woman involved out there, but there should be more. My advice, don’t be shy and own your achievements. I think that most of the community would be very receptive to seeing more women involved. Keep up the good work.
    Cheers!

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  16. Great write-up. For the record, other females were invited to judge but couldn't make it for various reasons. Leslie from Lazy Mag ("with child") and Polly from the Avenue Pub (couldn't get free) for sure and I think one or two more.

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  18. So, just to follow up on this, I did actually decide to go through with the blog idea after pondering it a while. Check it out at http://www.thebeerbelle.com/! :)

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