5 Tips For Homebrewers Entering The Sonoma County Home Brewer’s Competition

We collected some of the best tips from top local breweries to help homebrewers prepare for the 2015 1st Annual Sonoma County Home Brewers Competition. Here are some tips for creating a winning brew.

1. Beer Hygiene

No Rinse SanitizerIt is imperative that you always be neat and clean.  Don’t use bleaches on your equipment because it can cause a chemical reaction with the maltose molecules and end in a nasty flavor.  Even a slight drop of bleach can destroy an entire batch of a perfect brew.  There are so many cleaners and sanitizers available in the market, but you can purchase an inexpensive  vodka which does the job just fine as a sanitizer.  You can also use vodka in your airlock instead of water.  Keep some vodka handy in a spray mist bottle so you can also use it on your equipment on the fly.

To keep your bottles clean use a large cooler that can hold as many as 48 beer bottles.  Fill it with 6 – 7 gallons of water with the plug near a drain or sink.  Add some no-rinse sanitizer.  Sink your bottles neck up until they fill with water to the point they stop floating. You may need to add more water and sanitizer to get larger sized bottles submerged. Leave them there until you are ready for bottling process.  Pull the plug to discard the water.

Russian River Brewing Company LogoVinnie Cilurzo, Owner/Brewer for Russian River Brewing Company  “At the end of the day sanitation is everything, without good sanitation a brewer cannot make good beer, clean, clean clean.  For the advance brewer, don’t overlook how much hop bitterness you will pick up from late kettle and whirlpool hop additions as the wort potentially sits for a while before being cooled down.”

Petaluma Hills Brewery 2JJ Jay is the master brewer for Petaluma Hills Brewery.  My advice is: “A solid recipe, reasonable brewing procedures, and clean and sanitary space and equipment will produce an awesome beer every time!”

Bonus tip on bottling from Bob Peak at The Beverage People Santa Rosa: When using a bottle filler without a spring in the tip, put a wooden spoon under your bottling bucket with the handle sticking out over the edge of the counter. Loop the hose over it, hanging the filler in the “off” position while capping a few bottles or getting a new case.


“I Drink Beer For A Living”: An Interview with Petaluma’s Ken Weaver

President & Publisher Chris Rice "All About Beer"
President & Publisher Chris Rice “All About Beer”

Ken Weaver was recently named editor at ‘All About Beer’ Magazine. All About Beer president & publisher Chris Rice said “Ken has his finger on the pulse of today’s beer releases,” and Weaver admits he’s tasted many versions of the sudsy beverage.

Before he earned an MFA in creative writing from the University of Maryland, Weaver earned an undergraduate degree in physics from Carnegie-Mellon and then a master’s in physics from Cornell University. It’s at Cornell where Ken met his wife, a Nicasio native, Anneliese Schmidt.

According to their website:

Ken-Weaver-BIOWeaver, who is based in Petaluma, CA, previously served as editor in chief of RateBeer Weekly. He also serves as a regular contributor to FSR Magazine, focusing on improving beer’s presence in the full-service restaurant industry; columnist and reviewer for the Rare Beer Club; and publisher of his beer release newsletter 3 Beer Island. His first book, The Northern California Craft Beer Guide, was named a finalist for an NCIBA Book of the Year Award. In 2013, Weaver earned first-place honors in the North American Guild of Beer Writers’ (earned a total of 3 awards from the NAGB) contest in the Best Beer and Food Writing category.

Petaluma Craft GuildPetaluma (and Sonoma County) is fast becoming a player in the craft brew industry with companies like Lagunitas, Petaluma Hills, 101 North, Hen House, and Dempseys.  Petaluma also has its own wine and spirits association called the Petaluma Craft Guild.  They are brewers, distillers & vintners of Petaluma who come together to promote the craft spirit of the city. Each year Petaluma is host to the Petaluma River Craft Beer Festival (mark your calendars for this year its on September 12, 2015).  Also Petaluma will host its 1st annual Sonoma County Home Brewer’s Competition (so keep your eyes open for potential new talent coming our way) and that will be held on May 23rd at the Veterans Memorial Building. So naturally after we learned that Ken became editor of a national beer magazine, we had to learn more. We thought you would like to as well so here is what Ken had to say: